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Space Shuttle technology will move massive transformers to Riel Station


November 3, 2012
By Anthony Capkun

November 2, 2012 – Manitoba Hydro tells us three transformers—each valued at over $5 million and weighing over 175,000 kg when prepared for transport—will be hitting the road as they move from their Winnipeg factory to their new home at Riel Station. WILL YOU SEE THE MOVE? We’d love to see your photos or video. Send to the Editor at acapkun@annexweb.com .

The transformers are being installed as part of the utility’s reliability improvements on its 500kV line linking Manitoba to Minnesota. The transformers will be transported using a 320-tire, self-propelled modular trailer (SPMT) that has been brought to Manitoba especially for the move. The SPMT is similar to the unit used to recently move the space shuttle Endeavour through the streets of Los Angeles, says the utility. A special route, designed to avoid tight city streets and narrow overpasses, has been planned for the move.

Ordered by Manitoba Hydro from Alstom Grid as part of the utility’s development of Riel Station on the east side of Winnipeg—and built locally by CG Power Systems at its Fort Garry factory—the three transformers will play a “critical role in enhancing the reliability of the 500,000-volt line that Manitoba relies on for the bulk of its power exports and imports”. The utility says it is ‘sectionalizing’ the line, which will allow electricity to be fed into or taken from the line at more than just one point, providing a measure of backup.

When disassembled for shipping, each transformer measures about 7 x 4 metres; when fully assembled on-site with bushings, insulators, cooling units and other accessories, each transformer will stand almost 12 metres tall, and measure 9.6 metres across. Each transformer requires over 112,000 litres of insulating oil. The weight of each fully assembled transformer will be almost 295,000 kg. By comparison, Manitoba Hydro says an empty 747-400 jumbo jet weighs only 179,000 kg.

The SPMT used to move the transformer will measure just over 34 metres in length and be about 7.5-m wide. The 320 tires on the SPMT allow the tremendous weight of the transformer to be distributed evenly over a large area of road, preventing damage to the concrete and asphalt. The move will be conducted at a speed of about 5 km/h. It is believed that this is the first time SPMTs have been used in Manitoba.

To minimize disruption to traffic along the 144-km route, the moves will be conducted at night, starting each evening at about 8 pm. The SPMT must be off public roads by 6 am. Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation played a major role in helping determine the least disruptive and safest routing, says the utility. Escorts for the SPMT will be provided by Winnipeg Police Service within the city limits, and by Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation Motor Carrier Enforcement Officers outside the city. Rolling road closures will be in effect along the route when the SPMT and transformers are in the area.

Six semi-trailers are also required to move the accessories, such as bushings, coolers and other ancillary equipment, needed to complete each transformer once it is on-site at Riel Station. It will also take six semi-tanker trucks to move the 112,000 litres of insulating oil required to fill each transformer.

The first move is scheduled to start Sunday, November 4 at 8 pm. You can download the route map below.