IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) – A 2013 sniper attack on an electrical substation in Northern California that caused more than $15 million in damage and destroyed 17 transformers, led researchers of the Idaho National Laboratory to develop a new protection solution.
Now, the lab’s Armored Transformer Barrier system has been licensed for production by Michigan-based Waltonen Engineering, a full-service design and engineering firm.
Made from inexpensive yet tough military-grade steel, the armor set creates a formidable barricade to protect critical, high-value substations from threats, including high-powered rifles or vehicles laden with weapons. explosives. It even remains stable in Category 2 hurricanes without the need for expensive footings or anchors.
“From the beginning of this project, our goal was to design a simple and cost-effective solution to protect the power grid from physical threats and attacks,” said lead designer Henry Chu. “After years of effort, we have carefully validated and documented the effectiveness of this technology, and we are thrilled to see it manufactured and put into service.”
Each barrier system consists of four components: an A-frame, two shield cassettes that slide into the frame, and an optional hat-shaped shield extension. A separate corner piece locks in place to provide 360 degree seamless protection. Each package can be transported unassembled to a substation site on a commercial truck and reassembled on site with simple hand tools, utility forklifts and lifting cranes.
“We are proud to support INL in the effort to protect our nation’s infrastructure,” said Lloyd Brown, President and CEO of Waltonen Engineering, Inc. “As a small design and manufacturing company “, we understand the need and importance of a power grid. The Armored Transformer Barrier does exactly that by protecting often overlooked physical assets.”
Although grid-damaging events are rare in the United States, organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Congressional Research Service, and the National Academies of Science have warned of the societal effects of a long-lasting power outage. term caused by a physical attack on key parts of the grid. In 2015, Congress passed legislation to develop a strategic reserve of transmission equipment.
Currently, the United States imports approximately 85% of its high voltage transformers from other countries. These large, custom-built devices cost between $2.5 million and $10 million each. With limited supplies, expensive raw materials and manufacturing lead times of over a year, the loss of a single piece of equipment could prevent the delivery of reliable power, creating a risk to national security, economic stability and public health.