How to Protect Solar Transformers from Unexpected Oil Spills

The United States solar industry is booming. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, it boasts an annual average growth rate of 59 percent over the last decade. Utility scale projects accounted for 59 percent of new solar installations in 2017, and should continue at that rate or higher through 2021. Like wind, water and other renewable energy sources, solar energy relies on transformers to connect to the power grid.

Electrical transformers step up solar farm output voltage to the electrical grid voltage. They also create an electrical barrier between the grid and the solar farm. This adds a safety protection layer that prevents grid surges from impacting the solar farm equipment.

Large step ups in voltage require large transformers. If the grid voltage is 35kV or lower, solar producers use distribution transformers. However, voltages higher than 35kV may require substation transformers. Substation transformers can connect into a grid voltage up to 115kV.

What Can Go Wrong with a Solar Transformer?

Transformers contain oil, even in solar farms. Oil fulfills two functions in a transformer. First, it acts as an insulator between the primary and secondary electrical circuits. Second, it performs as a coolant to dissipate the heat generated during operation.

Although the quality of transformer oil has improved over the years, oil leaks still damage the environment. Companies found guilty of oil pollution face EPA fines.

Do Solar Transformers Need to Meet SPCC Regulations for Secondary Containment?

Spill, Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rules is the primary legislation covering oil spills into the environment. It describes the action that companies must take to prevent oil from reaching navigable waters. Secondary containment is one of the key principles of SPCC.

Recommended Solar Transformer Oil Containment Solutions

Install Justrite Geomembrane Liner with Barrier Boom for solar transformer secondary containment. The liner features windows or side walls that allow water but prevent hydrocarbons from passing through. In the case of a catastrophic oil release, the Barrier Boom panels completely solidify, trapping the oil within the containment area. This system can be installed to-grade as well as diked, depending on the preferred configuration.

Fiberglass composite walls, such as Strongwell COMPOSOLITE Walls, are also suitable when installed with a Geomembrane Liner and HFF Oil Stop Valve System. Use the geomembrane to line the floors. Drain rain and excess water to an HFF outside of the containment unit.

The HFF processes all water and runoff, but will filter most organic hydrocarbons to non-detect levels. If a significant release occurs, it will shut off and back-up the containment area. This prevents contaminated water from escaping.

Contact Justrite for Secondary Containment for the Solar Industry

Justrite is a leader in the field of secondary containment and SPCC compliance. We deliver technical solutions that meet and usually exceed EPA and SPCC regulations. Find out more about our secondary containment solutions for electrical transformers here.

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