Power HV: transforming transformer monitoring in the energy sector

Vyra Wu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: Power HV

In the vast and intricate realm of the energy sector, where reliability and efficiency are paramount, Canadian startup Power HV emerges as a notable player with its innovative approach to transformer monitoring. Founded and led by Sizwe Dhlamini, the company is making strides in reshaping how utilities manage their electrical grids through advanced condition monitoring solutions.

Power HV's inception stemmed from a recognition of the limitations of traditional methods in transformer monitoring, which often led to reactive responses and associated costs. Dhlamini, drawing upon his extensive industry experience, identified an opportunity to shift towards more proactive maintenance strategies.

Dhlamini had a lightbulb moment when he realized that directly measuring partial discharge activity – the leakage of current from electrical insulation – could provide much earlier warning signs of impending failures. However, the sensors available on the market for detecting partial discharge were too large, power-hungry, and expensive to deploy at scale across entire grid networks.

Credit: Power HV

Credit: Power HV

That realization prompted Dhlamini to launch Power HV in 2015 and develop a radically different monitoring solution. After several years of intensive R&D, the company emerged with a patented combination of compact sensors and machine learning software that can be easily retrofitted onto existing transformers, switchgear, and other critical infrastructure.

Compact and energy-efficient sensors

Power HV's sensors can be mounted directly on transformer tanks without modifications, sipping just 5 watts of electricity – a fraction of competitors' requirements.

In addition, Dhlamini explains that Power HV offers various integration options to streamline data exchange with existing enterprises, including ERP or CMMS systems. They tailor data formats to meet customer needs, providing CSV files for easy integration into SCADA or other enterprise solutions.

"We create a digital twin of the assets and their operating environment, so customers don't have to wade through thousands of data points," says Dhlamini. "If it's green, the equipment is healthy. Yellow means they should start planning maintenance. And red is the signal to remove that component from service before catastrophic failure."

Credit: Power HV

Credit: Power HV

Non-invasive and preserving asset integrity

In contrast to conventional monitoring methods that can be invasive, the company's solutions are designed to be non-invasive, minimizing disruptions and preserving the integrity of critical components.

"We've developed sensors that are compact, energy-efficient, and highly accurate." Power HV's sensors boast smaller footprints and lower power consumption compared to traditional alternatives, making them suitable for widespread deployment across electrical grids. Furthermore, the company's proprietary machine learning algorithms enable real-time data analysis, providing utilities with actionable insights into asset health and performance.

While the underlying concept seems straightforward, developing Power HV's solution was an immense technical challenge that required leapfrogging conventional monitoring methods. "Existing knowledge was great for diagnosing problems after the fact, but not preventing them," notes Dhlamini. "We patented new hardware and software to make that predictive capability possible."

Credit: Power HV

Credit: Power HV

A vision for a smarter grid

But Dhlamini has far bigger ambitions than simply selling condition monitoring systems. His vision is for Power HV to spark a fundamental shift in how electricity networks are managed by finally giving operators the real-time visibility they've long lacked. "Every utility wants a smarter, more predictable grid to reduce outages and improve reliability," he says. "We're helping make that possible by preventing failures before they happen."

To accelerate its impact, Power HV is actively pursuing partnerships with transformer manufacturers and other condition-monitoring companies looking to enhance their offerings. The company is also exploring the development of adjacent products and services, including energy management systems for buildings.

With plans to expand its product line to include energy management solutions for buildings, the company aims to redefine sustainability and efficiency in the built environment.

"We envision ourselves as more than just a monitoring company," Dhlamini emphasizes. "We're pioneers in clean technology, dedicated to shaping a greener, more resilient energy infrastructure."

Collaborating with Taiwanese partners

Furthermore, Power HV's commitment to collaboration presents opportunities for partnerships with global leaders in the energy sector. From manufacturers to investors seeking to drive innovation, the company is open to collaborations that align with its vision for a sustainable future.

In terms of collaboration with Taiwanese partners, Power HV sees numerous opportunities, particularly in leveraging Taiwan's expertise in PCBs. They aim to work with Taiwanese companies proficient in PCB assembly to enhance the production of their sensors.

Additionally, Power HV seeks partnerships with Taiwanese firms already engaged in transformer monitoring, offering complementary sensor solutions such as partial discharge monitoring. For transformer manufacturers in Taiwan, Power HV envisions collaboration on advanced transformers integrating sensing technology and energy-efficient bushings. Given Taiwan's technological prowess, Power HV is eager to tap into this market.