2006-11-02 - Long tradition of developing high-tech products
ABB's transformer factory in Bad Honnef, Germany, celebrated its 100th anniversary last September. At its Bad Honnef facility, ABB builds power transformers for power transmission systems and industrial applications throughout the world. Its specially engineered products for the power transmission sector include phase-shifting transformers weighing over 800 tons. These monsters are used for active load flow control.
ABB power transformers are applied to transform electric power to the maximum voltage levels currently in use. This enables electricity to be transmitted over long distances efficiently and permits power grids with different voltage levels to be linked. "Bad Honnef is primarily involved in ensuring that ever higher performance transformers continue to be developed by the ABB Group," says Peter Smits, CEO of ABB in Germany and head of the Central European region.
The factory was founded in 1906 as August Lepper Elektromaschinen and transformers have been built there since the 1930s. In 1965, the plant was acquired by the Swedish company, Asea. Bad Honnef has been owned by the ABB Group since Asea and BBC joined forces in 1988 and is part of its Power Products business unit.
The first transformer with a rating of 100 megavolt amperes (MVA) was built in Bad Honnef in 1954. In 1985, the factory supplied a power transformer with a rating of 1100 MVA, the largest in Germany at that time. In 2003, a 1640 MVA phase-shifting transformer left the plant. It was the largest manufactured in Bad Honnef to date.
Bad Honnef is designated a "focused factory" and is the only one of ABB's worldwide facilities to manufacture phase-shifting transformers and large industrial power transformers with current ratings of over 100,000 amperes. "Because we specialize, we can manufacture products that are very technically complex in a relatively short period of time and still maintain superior quality," Peter Smits points out. For example, ABB is currently installing phase-shifting transformers built in Bad Honnef at three substations to be operated by the Verbund-Austrian Power Grid. They will be placed in service at the end of 2006 and will be used to manage the increased demands of the transmission system, thereby ensuring a reliable supply of electric power. A unit of this type, consisting of a pair of transformers, weighs 815 tons and has a life of at least 40 years.
ABB is the world market leader for transformers. In Germany, the company manufactures these key power grid products in Brilon and Halle, as well as in Bad Honnef. The company's Bad Honnef facility employs 300 workers.