Towards a Robust Grid

Growing demand for transmission tower testing in India

In order to deliver the growing power demand in the country, there is a need to establish a strong transmission and distribution network and adopt appropriate testing and measuring solutions to maintain a robust power grid. The trans­mi­ssion line length in India grew at a compound annual growth rate of around 9 per cent between 2016-17 and 2021-22 to stand at 458,258 ckt. km (220 kV and above) as of May 2022, resulting in inc­rea­sed demand for transmission infrastructure and equipment including towers. Transmission tower testing is important for determining the dependability of towers in adverse wea­ther conditions and ensuring their compliance with various standards and regulations.

Several tower manufacturers and appro­ved government labs have established dedicated transmission tower testing facilities for commercial as well as re­se­arch and development (R&D) purposes. Some of the common tower testing techniques are full-scale prototype testing that simulates various variables and conditions, real-time strain gauge monitoring of member loads, and reliability tests. There has also been a growing uptake of more sophisticated and advanced tower testing solutions.

Testing methods

In a traditional proof test, the design conditions are verified, only static loads are applied, the support has level-fixed foundations, and the restraints at the load po­ints are the same as in the design model. If a proof test is ordered, it should be done on a full-size prototype structure or another tower of similar design before it is manufactured at scale. This kind of test will assess the ability of the towers and the­ir connections to withstand desi­gn

lo­ads specified for a structure under controlled conditions. Another function of proof tests is fit-up verification. However, the test cannot completely assess how the tower will respond to dynamic loads, if the foundations are not ideal, and the issues associated with connected wires at the load points.

The transmission line industry tests the prototypes of structures. These tests provide a higher level of structural reliability for transmission line structural systems. There are a number of other important reasons to perform tower tests. One of the key reasons is to justify and calibrate to­wer designs to the specific transmission design codes. Another advantage of testing is the complete assembly of the tower, which provides an insight into the fabrication details. A successful test also provides a level of confidence along with a computer model to design the tested to­wer and its combination of bodies and legs. A tower test can also be used during transmission line upgrades.

Test facilities in India

There are less than a dozen tower testing stations in India and hence tower manufacturing companies with a forward integrated presence in both transmission tower erection and transmission tower testing are more capable of timely realisation of transmission deliverables than their global counterparts. The Central Po­wer Research Institute set up the first transmission tower testing station in 1976. This station is still open for commercial as well as R&D tests. Among the initiatives undertaken by private players, Larsen & Toubro’s digitally driven, green tower manufacturing units at Puduc­h­­er­ry, Pithampur and Kanchee­puram have a combined capacity of more than 150,000 tonnes of tower components per annum. The tower testing and research station at Kancheepuram is amongst the most re­nowned testing centres in the world. The clientele of this testing facility includes utilities from 30 countries.

KEC International is another private major that has developed significant tower testing stations in India – Maha­rashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Prade­sh. These world-class facilities are loca­ted in close proximity to our manufacturing plants and provide complete testing solutions for all kinds of transmission towers of up to 1,200 kV, in­cluding lattice and guyed towers, tubular and monopoles. During the pandemic, the company commenced virtual tower testing at the Butibori testing station, which allowed customers acro­ss the globe to verify design and quality parameters of towers through live video streaming. Also, Kalpataru Po­wer Tra­ns­­mission Li­m­i­­ted has developed a tower testing and R&D station, equipp­ed with sophisticated and state-of-the-art equi­pment. It has the capacity of testing double-circuit towers up to 800 kV and single-circuit towers up to 1,200 kV, with 30×30 metre base width and 85 metre height.

The facility has an annual testing capacity of 1,800 mt of transmission and distribution towers and poles. This testing station and R&D centre has been recognised by the Department of Scientific and Ind­us­trial Research, Government of India.

The way forward

Transmission tower tests assess tower’s quality, longevity and installation procedure, helping transmission businesses mitigate RoW and land acquisition challenges. Furthermore, tower testing stati­ons assist transcos in testing prototypes and towers of various specifications, allowing them to construct economically feasible transmission towers that meet the tender’s specific technical cri­te­ria. The demand for transmission to­wer testing is expected to rise due to the expansion of transmission infrastructure and the ever-increasing need for technical accuracy and quality excellence. In India, there are relatively few testing stations in comparison to actual tower installations, which presents a huge opportunity. Thus, the number of testing sites is likely to increase in the medium future.

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