After working on a series of projects where transformers seemed to be getting oversized as a cautionary step, I started doing some research on approaches to transformer sizing. I had worked with a cooper power rep prior to these projects, and we were overloading the transformers to a certain extent. So I set out to find the proper balance for value engineering over the life of the system, balancing life-expectancy, efficiency and of course hardware costs. This is, of course, is no small task. After some digging, I found some good information, including a great article on sizing and selecting transformers in a real world application (here: http://ecmweb.com/content/guidelines-transformer-application-designs).
I have summarized some of the carrots picked up and shown in this list:
· “STC” for transformers is 30C average over 24-hr, and 40C maximum.
· Temp. Adjustment > 30C = -0.4% kVA / C (or select a lower temp. rise)
· Insulation classes for dry-type transformers: 105/150(B)/180(F)/220(H)
· Temp. Rise (with allowable insulation class): 80(H,F,B)/115(H,F)/150(H)
· Temp. Rise is determined by full-load Rise/ambient(~40C), with 30C hot spot.
· Insulation classes for liquid transformers: 55(old)/65(new)
· Generally, the greater the continuous-operating load, the more cost effective lower rise transformers become. 80(>75%)/115(>65%)/150(>50%)
· Overloading should involve discussion with the manufacturer, in accordance with ANSI C57.96-1989, as degradation of the insulation can affect the life-expectancy.
· Voltage > 35kV requires 3-hr rated vault
· Sizes > 112.5kVA located indoors require fire rated rooms
Transformers should be sized working with the manufacturer with a proper insulation based on system size, location, ambient temperature and loading ratio. Determining the continuous load ratio becomes more complex when using a renewable energy source supplied from an inverter, and should be balanced with maximum load ratios during peak production. Sizing a transformer without the up-front diligence can easily lead to leaving money on the table.
So, what loading ratio should a solar power system transformer use? It depends. Should the kVA rating be exceeded? Yes. Should the kVA rating be exceeded at continuous-operating load? No. What ratio should be used? Size based on site conditions while working with the manufacturer.