Reliable operation of electric power systems is highly dependent on an insulation system required to safely isolate energized electrical components of the power system from ground and from each other. With an average age of 50-60 years, the insulation systems of North America’s power grid are now under higher levels of stress than they were designed to tolerate. In addition, emergent renewable electric power sources, e.g. wind and solar energies, use power electronics that introduce high frequency voltages which accelerate the ageing of the already stressed electric insulation. These stressed and ageing electric insulators increase the risk of sudden equipment failure, outage, and disturbance, which cost the North American economy over $100 billion/year. Condition monitoring (both online and offline) and diagnostics of electric power systems are required to minimize failures and the resulting outages and disruptions.
McMath High Voltage Laboratory, one of the three laboratories housed in Stanley Pauley Centre, is dedicated to research and training in the area of high voltage and high electric field intensity studies of electrical insulators and insulations systems. The recent renovation of the lab as well as the equipment that has been acquired/ordered are enabling research projects and teaching laboratory experiments related to high voltage insulation and techniques. The experimental laboratories of two courses, one undergraduate level (ECE 4360 High Voltage Engineering) and one graduate level (ECE 7440 Advanced High Voltage Engineering) are held in this lab. The facilities that have been made available in the lab allow the students to become familiar with the state-of-the-art technologies in this area. A number of research projects, both at the M.Sc. and Ph.D. levels, are conducted by the graduate students in the lab. The research carried out in the lab has allowed us to extend our collaboration with local industries such Manitoba Hydro, the local utility company, and CG Power Systems Canada, a world-class high voltage transformer manufacturer.
Recently, an infrastructure grant application has been submitted to Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) that has been successful at the University level and is now being prepared for final submission. The availability of proper laboratory environment dedicated to high voltage and equipment that has been purchased using the Pauley Family Foundation donation had a very positive impact on the success of this application at the University level.
Research Activities at McMath High Voltage Laboratory (M2HVL)
A number of research projects are carried out in McMath High Voltage Lab. A brief summary of two of them are highlighted below.
Wideband partial discharge measurement in high voltage apparatus
Partial discharges (PD), which is a localized breakdown in the insulation system of high voltage (HV) equipment, can lead to both chemical and physical deterioration of materials comprising the insulation systems of electrical equipment. PD detection is an important means of testing the reliability of insulator subjected to high voltage stresses. The focus of this research project is on remote detection of partial discharge and applying the pattern recognition techniques for PD source classification. In remote detection of PD, a wideband antenna outside the high voltage apparatus will be used to capture the PD signal. The advantage of remote radiometric detection is that all the measurements will be performed wirelessly through a non-contact measurement system. Also we investigate the impact of pulsed power signals on aging and deterioration of insulators.
Novel, wireless, passive electric field sensors for monitoring high voltage apparatus
The objectives of this research project include the design and implementation of passive, low cost, small, wireless electric field sensors based on the variation of the resonance frequency of a high-frequency transmission-line resonator loaded with voltage-controlled capacitances. Being passive, the sensors do not require a source of power or batteries. Low cost of production and small size of these sensors will make it feasible to distribute these sensors around a high voltage device or system and form a network of sensors.