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Transforming power quality for rail networks in the renewable age

Author : Steve Hughes, Managing Director of REO UK

17 May 2018

Following the landmark COP21 agreement to reduce carbon emissions, this piece explores why rail providers need to prepare for the inevitable shift to renewable energy – and to manage the potential power quality issues that may arise…

World leaders took action at the end of 2015, after the United Nations climate conference of parties (COP) reached a landmark agreement to limit the rise of global temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius. Nearly 200 countries have committed to upholding this agreement, which will naturally drive a concerted, international push to move away from fossil fuels and to ramp up use of renewable energy sources instead.

A recent report from infrastructure consultancy WSP outlines how Network Rail could utilise solar energy to help the UK meet these environmental goals. The firm suggests that if Network Rail invited investors to fund and build trackside solar arrays, it could cut carbon emissions by 895,000 tonnes a year – as well as reduce costs by £150m between 2019 and 2024.

This evolution however, while good news for the environment, has the potential to create power quality problems for rail providers that could negatively affect the reliability, safety and performance of trains and railways. This is particularly the case as railways begin to operate at higher speeds, increasing the requirement for reliable energy and power.

Electrical control systems are increasing in complexity, in addition to becoming responsible for higher currents and frequencies. This can lead to power quality issues such as voltage fluctuations and overheating, as well as inefficiencies that lead to higher energy costs. This is driving demand for current transformers that can deliver precise measurement – even at these increased levels of operation, and regardless of current type.

To this end, REO has launched a new range of current transformers designed to ensure high power efficiency and quality by offering highly accurate linear current sensing and electricity metering. These transformers come in a selection of power ranges to suit industry sectors, including automation, railway engineering and renewable energy.

These transformers will become increasingly important as railways navigate the complex transition to renewable energy sources. Maintaining efficiency with such new systems, which demand the use of highly sophisticated power electronics, must be a top priority.

REO’s current transformers ensure that energy is delivered reliably and consistently into applications in a precisely-controlled manner. REO’s range of current transformers is able to accurately measure currents up to 3000A and frequencies up to 150kHz, while providing superior linearity and overcurrent protection. Each series of transformers is designed to deliver reliable power quality catering to a specific industrial sector (for example, the IE series is ideal for use under high currents in the rail sector).

Housing and termination casing can be just as important to an application as the electrical characteristics of the transformer itself. Finding a product with the ideal frequency range is not beneficial if it lacks suitable connections and fittings to be successfully integrated into a specific system.

To ensure that companies get the best power quality solution, REO also offers a bespoke design service to develop application-specific transformers. These transformers are designed and manufactured to be used in a specific system, allowing for optimal performance.

By taking small measures, such as finding the right transformer, rail providers will be able to lead the charge in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels – and transport us into a more environmentally friendly future.

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