ABB technologies that changed the world
Part ten: Transformers

ABB delivered one of the world’s first transformers in 1893. Today, ABB is the global leader in this vital power technology, with a leading global market share and an innovation track record that is second to none.

By ABB Communications

ABB power and distribution transformers are found wherever electricity is generated, transported and consumed – in power plants and substations, skyscrapers and shopping malls, ships and oil platforms, locomotives and railway lines, wind parks and solar power fields, water and wastewater treatment plants.

Their most important function is to adjust the voltage to the correct level at each stage of the delivery chain, stepping it up for long-distance high-voltage transmission from the power plant, and stepping it down for distribution to the end user and consumer.

They also fulfill other critical requirements like ensuring grid stability, power reliability and energy efficiency, while meeting customer needs for safety, long trouble-free service life, and low environmental impact.


By developing new high performance materials as well as using fire resistant biodegradable insulating liquids such as BIOTEMP®, ABB has improved the efficiency, safety and environmental friendliness of transformers.

ABB was one of the first companies to develop a transformer, integrating it with the world’s first commercial AC power transmission link, a solution innovated by ABB in 1893 to connect a hydropower plant with a large iron ore mine in Sweden.

Since then – and for almost 120 years - ABB has continually extended the limits of transformer performance by developing new technologies and materials that raise efficiency, reliability and durability to new levels.

Besides setting new records in transformer power ratings for both AC and DC transmission, ABB has developed a raft of innovative solutions, including the world’s first 800 kV DC bushings (for a 800 kV DC transmission system in China); the world’s most efficient subsea transformer, one that can operate in offshore oil and gas fields at depths of up to 3,000 meters; and ultra-low sound transformers for noise-sensitive environments.

ABB has also developed high efficiency distribution transformers, both liquid and dry-type, that can reduce energy losses between 40 and 70 percent. Distribution transformers are available with either an amorphous or grain-oriented steel core and biodegradable oil.

The combination of amorphous cores with BIOTEMP® liquid or the use of EcoDry solutions improve energy efficiency and minimize the environmental impact by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

And for aging transformers that have been in service for decades, ABB can improve their performance and energy efficiency significantly while extending their service life by several more decades.

With 55 transformer factories and 30 service centers, ABB is by far the world’s largest transformer manufacturer and service provider.

Notable installations include the following:

The world’s most powerful transformers
ABB has broken the world record for the most powerful transformers on many occasions over the past half century - from the world’s first transformers for 400 kV and 800 kV AC transmission in the 1950s and 1960s respectively, to the most powerful UHVDC (ultrahigh-voltage direct current) transformers for the 800 kV Xiangjiaba-Shanghai transmission link in China, one of the longest in the world.

Repairing a 40-year-old giant transformer in record time
ABB has repaired and remanufactured hundreds of power transformers all over the world, both at customer sites and at ABB facilities. One of the largest and most complex repairs was on a giant 40-year-old 880 MVA generator transformer that failed at a ScottishPower power plant in Scotland. Manufactured by a company that no longer exists, weighing 274 tons and of unusual and complex design, the transformer presented a huge logistical and technical challenge that ABB was able to solve cost-effectively and in record time.

Environmentally friendly traction transformers
ABB is supplying environmentally friendly traction transformers to Siemens after winning a contract to provide units for 38 Desiro commuter trains for the Glasgow urban transport network, which is operated by ScotRail. The traction transformers will improve the environmental impact of the trains by using a biodegradable coolant instead of the standard mineral-based coolant and by minimizing energy consumption during operation. The project demonstrates how ABB transformers contribute to making rail transport even greener.

Power reliability for the world’s tallest building
When completed in January 2010, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai became the world’s tallest manmade structure, with 110 floors and a total height of 818 meters. To ensure power reliability throughout the building, the tower is equipped with 78 ABB RESIBLOC® dry-type transformers, which are renowned for their exceptional mechanical strength and high short-circuit withstand. The Dubai Fountain, which is outside the building and is illuminated by 6,600 lights and 50 color projectors and shoots water 150 meters into the air, is also powered by RESIBLOC transformers. It is the largest fountain in the world.


An artist's impression of the 818 meter high Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

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    One of the two 800 kV ultra-high voltage direct currents power transformers that ABB is supplying for the world’s highest HVDC rating, the Xiangjiaba-Shanghai transmission link in China. The transformers are part of the two ABB converter stations that make UHVDC transmission possible

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