The work on smart transformers is especially critical, because the majority of the nation's large transformers are reaching, and in some cases exceeding, their intended lifespan. Currently, power companies have two options: wait until a transformer breaks down, which may lead to blackouts as well as emergency repairs; or replace the units on a costly upkeep schedule that may not reflect the actual need.
Smart transformers under development in SSIM labs and in cooperation with DTE Energy will offer another choice. This technology has unique sensing capabilities that detect the signature gases emitted by the transformers as they wear out, and notify the power company of their impending failure. As a result, the power company can reroute the energy load around compromised transformers as necessary, while avoiding the unnecessary replacement of units that may still have many years of service left in them. The SSIM technology is designed to detect looming problems in new and old transformers, as well as underground power cables.