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Projected Distribution Transformer Needs in the U.S. by 2050

A recent study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) indicates that by 2030, data centers will consume 9% of U.S. electricity production, doubling their current consumption. This increase is driven by the enhanced computing capabilities related to artificial intelligence. EPRI notes that the expanding size of new data centers poses challenges to local and regional power supplies.

With the surge in power-hungry data centers and clean technology factories across the U.S., large regions face the risk of power shortages. Utility companies and regulators must develop reliable plans to expand the fragile U.S. power grid. Furthermore, due to aging transformers and increased electrification, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that by 2050, distribution transformer capacity may need to increase by 160% to 260% from 2021 levels to meet the energy demands of residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors.

NREL researcher Killian McKenna stated, "Distribution transformers are the cornerstone of our energy infrastructure. However, due to supply chain shortages, utilities needing to add or replace distribution transformers face high prices and long wait times. This could impact the availability, reliability, and affordability of energy."

To meet the growing demand, McKenna and his NREL team are leading a study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity and Office of Policy to quantify the long-term demand for distribution transformers.

NREL also found a rising demand for step-up transformers, which convert low-voltage generation to high-voltage electricity for long-distance transmission. These transformers are needed to regulate voltage, improve efficiency, and enhance grid reliability, integrating wind and solar power generation into the grid.

Previously, the DOE proposed new transformer efficiency standards to take effect in 2027, initially considering a full transition to amorphous transformers. They believed amorphous transformers would significantly contribute to energy savings and carbon reduction in the future AI industry. However, considering employment impacts and opposition from some silicon steel manufacturers, the final efficiency standards for distribution transformers will advocate for using amorphous alloy transformers in parts of the market. This demonstrates the DOE’s strong support for the crucial role of amorphous transformers in the distribution sector.

Against the backdrop of global carbon reduction targets and U.S. transformer shortages, there has been a significant increase in the demand for imported transformers in the U.S. Data from Amorphous China Big Data Center shows that this year, China’s transformer market has seen substantial growth, with some companies exporting more from January to May than in the past three years combined. The transformer market is booming this year. As we face markets in the U.S. and Europe, orderly and high-quality advancement is crucial. On June 26, the China Electrical Equipment Industry Association’s Amorphous Alloy Materials Application Branch will hold the Third Symposium on Opportunities and Challenges in developing Amorphous Alloy Materials in the Power Electronics Industry in Shanghai. This symposium will discuss the promotion of new technologies, processes, applications, and markets. Experts will provide suggestions and highlight key points for exporting distribution transformers to markets like the U.S., guiding transformer companies to achieve stable and sustainable growth while navigating international waters.


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