Bengaluru has many problems when it rains but exploding transformers are among the more pressing. Ordinary power cuts occur frequently and are inconvenient as it is but transfomers exploding present a different set of troubles. High voltage lines come in contact with each other in the wind, or brush against trees. Heat generated inside the transformer can also cause it to overload. Regular maintenance may not get rid of the problem but it can help.
Bescom doesn’t see it this way, insisting that large-scale government investment and a total revamp of the distribution network are the only solutions. But something must be done now, say frustrated residents, for exploding transformers can cause short circuits and burn out household appliances like televisons, refrigerators and inverters.
Team DC reports.
In Bengaluru, when an explosion rents the air, we all know where it came from: The nearby transformer. We also know, as we’re plunged into darkness, that power supply will take a while to be restored. The monsoon is also the peak time for transformer explosions, as the rain and wind can often lead to a malfunction. However, they also explode at other times, including: summer due to excess heat and overloading.
Timely maintenance work could save us all the inconvenience but sadly, this is never done. Subhash Rao, an expert in electricity distribution systems, says that transformers are running continuously to keep an uninterrupted supply of power to various lines. “When there is a minor infraction it leads to an overall malfunctions. The wires inside the transformer come in contact with each other when the wind is heavy, produce a spark and an explosion is caused.
“Overloading also affects transformers and these need to be taken care of through regular checks. The issue is that transformers are never periodically monitored and they give up during heavy rains,” Rao added.
Bescom officials, however, sing a different tune. T hey claim that the government needs to put in money to upgrade the system entirely. A senior officer said, “When the transformers are continuously exposed to heat and rain, it is only natural that they give up. It also needs to be covered with a shelter or a sheet, to keep out the heat and rain. We need to start upgrading the transformers with better quality systems and more efficient distribution methods. Another major issue is that the transformer overloads sometimes and when that happens, it explodes.”
Chandra Kumar, another expert, says the transformers are only part of the problem. The high voltage lines which supply power to the transformers from power stations, create a lot of heat. So much so that even the oil within the transformer is heated, he explains. “When there is lightning or a spell of heavy rain, the wires come in contact with each other, causing the blast.”
Are transformers tracked and maintained regularly? A Bescom officer says the “Distribution Transformer Lifecycle management Software was implemented on a pilot basis but we don’t know how it is functioning, he said, adding, “If the software could keep track of the transformer and send updates, we would know in time when an issue arises. We would not have had so many problems.” They are helpless, he says, when it rains and their only option is cover the transformers to ensure they are not exposed to the elements.
A glimmer of hope: Transformers being shifted off pavements
Another Bescom officer says that transformers which are on footpaths, or close to houses and trees are being shifted to a safer place. “More than 4000 transformers are being shifted from pavements and roads. “The work has begun and we are ensuring now that the transformers are placed in such a way that they don’t come in contact with anything, including extreme weather conditions. This will help mitigate the issue to some extent. But the heat generated within the transformer cannot be avoided, unless we rework the entire distribution system,” he said.
It only takes a spark to short circuit your TV
The public are furious with the transformer blasts and power cuts that extend into several hours. The sudden explosions also cause power fluctuations that results in short circuits that can seriously damage electronic items at home. Televisions and refrigerators are the most vulnerable household items. Inverters at home also fluctuate due to frequent power cuts, another cause of short circuits.
Manish Ram, a techie who lives in BTM Layout, says the transformer exploding in his area is almost inevitable when it rains, as are marathon power cuts. “We have had more than three transformer explosions in our area during the recent rains. All these transformers are linked and supply power to the entire area. When there is a blast, the power goes, damaging our devices at home, even if we have stabilisers.”
The story repeats itself every year, feels Ram and Bescom has done little to alleviate the problem. “It’s time they do some research and find a solution to keep our transformers in working condition always. I have also seen Bescom linesmen working on transformers when they explode. It is not an easy job and takes several hours. We have advanced technology and I am sure that transformers can be upgraded with an advanced system” he says.
Rani John, who lives in Ejipura says the rain causes panic. “A regular power cut doesn’t have the same impact but when the transformer explodes, our television, refrigerator and microwave can all short circuit. Even the inverter at home develops glitches.”
Bescom officials should take preventive measures, not corrective ones, she says. “They do rectify the matter when there is a problem but they don’t do anything to ensure it doesn’t happen again. There should be a change in the method of working,” she added.
Technology’s the answer: It’s available, let’s use it
There is always an issue with electricity supply during the monsoon season. The frequent issue of transformers giving up with a loud blast is a long-pending issue as well. It's time they address it with the technology that is now available to us.
First, the distribution network needs to be strengthened. Efforts should be made to ensure that wires don't come in contact with each other, transformers shouldn't brush against tree tops and the overload on them needs to be examined. And most importantly, this requires regular maintenance on every transformer. It should be understood that they are the life lines of power supply and need to be well-maintained.
The government and the concerned department should look into modern, technological solutions, which are readily available. There should also be large-scale investment to help bring in the change and in the long run, to ensure that there are no disruptions in power supply, whether it rains or not.
A perfect ratio of distribution should be maintained at any point of time. We need a more robust system, which will iron out the issues....