Big in Chile

RHONA is Chile’s largest man­u­fac­tur­er of trans­form­ers. With a smart pow­er trans­former for con­nect­ing a wind farm to the grid, the com­pa­ny is now mov­ing up into the inter­na­tion­al league

I. The gamble

When RHONA learned that the Nor­we­gian state-owned com­pa­ny Statkraft required a 100/133 MVA pow­er trans­former, Car­lo Savoy and Julio Queza­da, Indus­tri­al Man­ag­er and Engi­neer­ing Man­ag­er respec­tive­ly, were enthu­si­as­tic. RHONA has 60 years of his­to­ry in the con­struc­tion of trans­form­ers and, in addi­tion to stan­dard net­work trans­form­ers for Chile’s high-volt­age net­works, it also equips the fish­ing, min­ing and log­ging indus­tries with dis­tri­b­u­tion, medi­um pow­er and pow­er trans­form­ers, but to date the max­i­mum pow­er man­u­fac­tured was 90 MVA.

A trans­former of the pow­er class that Statkraft want­ed had nev­er been built in all of Chile: an inter­est­ing chal­lenge. On the oth­er hand, RHONA has about 300 expe­ri­enced employ­ees, many of them with more than 20 years of expe­ri­ence in trans­former con­struc­tion. And its plant in Viña del Mar, a coastal par­adise in cen­tral Chile, could well reach the nec­es­sary capac­i­ty. “After a thor­ough analy­sis, our answer was: yes, we can and we want to do it; let’s win the ten­der!” says Queza­da.

II. The project

The Nor­we­gian com­pa­ny Statkraft plays at the interna­tional pin­na­cle when it comes to ambi­tious hydro­elec­tric and wind pow­er projects. In Chile, the group is cur­rent­ly build­ing three wind farms in the south of the con­ti­nent between the Pacif­ic Ocean and the Andes. This will bring a total gen­er­a­tion capac­i­ty of more than 100 megawatts from renew­able sources to the grid. One of the parks is being built near Litueche, an hour and a half dri­ve south of the cap­i­tal, San­ti­a­go de Chile. To do this, Statkraft required RHONA to sup­ply a state-of-the-art pow­er trans­former that would not only oper­ate reli­ably, but would also con­stant­ly demon­strate this by using mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems.

III. The competition

How­ev­er, con­tracts in the ener­gy sec­tor in Chile are not sim­ply entered into between two com­pa­nies; rather the nation­al ener­gy author­i­ty car­ries out a glob­al bid­ding process. Queza­da says: “In Chile we have a very open econ­o­my; there are basi­cal­ly no tar­iffs or any oth­er trade bar­ri­ers for for­eign com­pa­nies. That is why Chilean com­pa­nies have to be lead­ers — in both qual­i­ty and price.” Queza­da called his long­time sup­pli­er and part­ner MR to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion. On the oth­er end of the line was Fil­ipe Madeira, MR Sales Direc­tor in São Paulo. He was quick to get down to busi­ness and he want­ed RHONA to come out on top.

The team at RHONA devel­oped a smart trans­former. ©RHONA

Madeira recalls: “We offered to help RHONA not only with the on-load tap-chang­er, but also with the engi­neer­ing of the mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, includ­ing the sen­sors and relat­ed soft­ware.” Queza­da com­ments: “Basi­cal­ly, it was clear that we would choose an MR on-load tap-chang­er again. Regard­ing sen­sor and mon­i­tor­ing technol­ogy, we also looked at oth­er sup­pli­ers, but in the end it seemed bet­ter to plan from a sin­gle source because the sys­tems are coor­di­nat­ed.” And there are also sur­pris­ing details: “MR’s ETOS® sys­tem soft­ware is based on the open source oper­at­ing sys­tem Lin­ux. There is no license fee and this allows the cus­tomer to per­form mon­i­tor­ing very eas­i­ly via brows­er. We liked that.”

IV. The decision

The plans and doc­u­ments had been sub­mit­ted, award day was approach­ing, and one com­peti­tor was still in the run­ning. In the end, RHONA con­vinced by both the price and the tech­nolo­gies pro­vid­ed. And it also earned points for its prox­im­i­ty to the wind farm, as the ten­der notice attached great impor­tance to speed of ser­vice. The deci­sion was made. “We won,” recalls Queza­da. “Of course, we were very hap­py. But the next moment we thought: Now we have a good prob­lem … we have to build it”, says Car­lo Savoy.

V. The device

“It” (the device) would end up weigh­ing 140 tons, have an effi­cien­cy of 99.65 % and oper­ate at less than 61 deci­bels, and it would be the largest pow­er trans­former ever man­ufactured in all of Chile. But first, the RHONA team had to decide how to do it. “Instead of using an anchor for the cov­er, as is tra­di­tion­al, we decid­ed to build the trans­former with a bell-type tank, as this was the best option giv­en the final size and weight.” Savoy had his plant equipped with new man­u­fac­tur­ing struc­tures to han­dle the big trans­former.

With the con­struc­tion of the 100/133 MVA trans­former, the Chileans have gained enough self-con­fi­dence to now set their sights on inter­na­tion­al mar­kets. © Rhona

What required more atten­tion was the man­u­fac­ture of the wind­ing and the tight­ness of the trans­former tank. “If even the slight­est leak was found here dur­ing the final test, it would have been a big prob­lem. That was my worst night­mare for months”, he points out. By com­par­i­son, the mon­i­tor­ing and data con­nec­tiv­i­ty part was rel­a­tive­ly easy. RHONA opt­ed for MR’s cen­tral mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol sys­tem ETOS® which ana­lyzes and eval­u­ates all sig­nals from the trans­former sen­sors and trans­mits them to the Statkraft RTU remote con­trol ter­mi­nal.

“A cus­tomer like Statkraft wouldn’t award a con­tract with­out such a high-end con­trol.”

Julio Queza­da, Engi­neer­ing Man­ag­er at RHONA

An MSENSE® DGA sen­sor con­tin­u­ous­ly mon­i­tors the con­cen­tra­tion of gas­es in the trans­former oil and cal­cu­lates pri­ma­ry indi­ca­tors of hydro­gen, car­bon monox­ide and mois­ture in the insu­lat­ing medi­um to pro­vide ear­ly warn­ing of elec­tri­cal and ther­mal prob­lems. Online fiber optic tem­per­a­ture mea­sure­ment using MSENSE® FO cap­tures wind­ing tem­per­a­ture direct­ly in the wind­ing and in real time, allow­ing oper­a­tors to per­form dynam­ic load man­age­ment. Statkraft receives all of this and oth­er dynam­ic per­for­mance data and analy­sis on a con­tin­u­ous basis and repro­duces it con­ve­nient­ly in the brows­er win­dow. “A cus­tomer like Statkraft would not place an order like this with­out such a high-end con­trol sys­tem,” says Queza­da.

The plant was com­plet­ed at the end of 2022 and the largest pow­er trans­former man­u­fac­tured in Chile is now in a sub­sta­tion in the low­lands, ready to feed the ener­gy from the wind farm still under con­struc­tion to the high-volt­age grid.

VI. The push

Suc­cess with the Statkraft project is now RHONA’s pride and joy. “Now we are play­ing in anoth­er league and I think we have opened a new chap­ter in RHONA’s six­ty-year his­to­ry. We now want to con­tin­ue with this push.” Fil­ipe Madeira, from MR do Brasil, is also impressed: “RHONA is still a com­par­a­tive­ly small man­u­fac­tur­er of trans­form­ers on an inter­na­tion­al scale, but they have tak­en a huge leap in their devel­op­ment in a short time.”

RHONRHONA and MR, as strong part­ners, have many more trans­former projects in mind (left: Fil­ipe Madeira, Area Sales Man­ag­er MR do Brasil; cen­ter: Marce­lo Ulloa, Com­mer­cial Man­ag­er RHONA; right: Moritz Wern­er, Head of Sales Latin Amer­i­ca, MR). © Lukas Poko­rny

To fur­ther boost the busi­ness of large pow­er trans­form­ers, RHONA and MR want to expand their coop­er­a­tion and build on the pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence gained in this project. After all, the switch to renew­ables is also increas­ing the need for large pow­er trans­form­ers in Chile, as well as for con­tin­u­ous con­di­tion mon­i­tor­ing. But Rhona now no longer only has its own coun­try in mind as Marce­lo Ulloa, Com­mer­cial Man­ag­er, is pleased to announce: “Now we are also tar­get­ing the large US mar­ket where we know that demand cur­rent­ly exceeds the pro­duc­tion capac­i­ty of high-tech pow­er trans­former man­u­fac­tur­ers. We now dare to be of assis­tance there.”


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