By Brad Micallef, President and Managing Director & President
When a customer calls with a need, we have a difficult saying “no”. In truth, we love solving problems, and we take great pride in helping solar projects cross the line to commercial operation.
Last month however, when a client called needing a transformer switching solution, we said “no” … we actually said “no” twice. It’s not that we didn’t want to help, its simply 4th quarter in the solar industry and our resources were already stretched to the breaking point without taking on a special project to launch a new product.
The concept of switching a transformer has been accomplished on the past using either a pad-mounted MV switch or an internal oil-immersed RVAC for Cooper Transformer. While the MV pad-mount equipment can be purchased and retrofitted after final construction (at a cost), the RVAC needs to be ordered with the original (Cooper) transformer; as there is no field retrofit option current available. Our customer did not have the luxury of time, nor the ability to replace their current transformers with new Coopers.
Solar Operations Solutions, LLC (Solar-Ops) first encountered the concept of transformer switching in 2017, as a means mitigating in-rush current. Limiting the total in-rush by delaying the energization of one or more transformers so that in-rush current never exceeds a single transformer at any given time.
Since then, we’d talked about retrofit and non-Cooper options. We recognized that transformer switching for in-current mitigation was only part of the opportunity. Thousands of existing transformers could benefit from an automated switching solution to prevent oil fires … typically caused by low oil levels the go undetected for too long. The product we wanted to create needed to be retrofittable to existing transformers, and capable of fully automated OPEN-on-low-oil-level operation. We just never took the designs off the drawing board and into a final product.
As if not having a product was not enough, we have a deep ethos that dictates we only sell our customers “proven” products. Products that have been tested in our own fleet of assets, under controlled conditions so we can ensure reliability and proper operation. If we choose to create this, on short notice, and as a fist article, we were putting some of our core values at risk.
When our customer called the third time, explaining the project was at dire risk and all other options had been exhausted, we allowed our core value to take over; we are here to serve our customers as if their need is our own. We said “yes”, and the El Jefe Motor Operator was born … and functioned beautifully!
Click to learn more about the EL JEFE Motor Operator.