Synchronous Condenser

Innovation Spotlight: SynCons

Have you ever wondered how we maintain reliable energy service to our customers, even as we integrate a growing amount of solar and wind energy that is often intermittent and variable?

One technology that makes it possible is called synchronous condensers, or SynCons for short.

A decades-old technology that is going through a revival, SynCons are massive machines that weigh 400,000 pounds, or 200 tons. They are designed to maintain voltage stability by controlling sudden increases and decreases in power from generating sources.

The shift to a growing renewable energy mix, combined with the loss of generation and grid stability provided by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), led to an SDG&E initiative to install seven SynCons across our region.

Project specialist T.J. Gates and project manager Irina Petersen standing in front of a synchronous condenser unit at the San Luis Rey substation.

Overcoming Engineering Challenges

SDG&E Project manager Irina Petersen managed installation of five of the seven SynCon units.

Prior to joining our company three years ago, she worked in the aerospace industry for 16 years designing auxiliary power engines for commercial and military aircraft. This specialized experience served her well while navigating the technical challenges sparked by these latest projects, including one at Miguel Substation.

“With Miguel, it required a transformer that was much larger than the rest and required a very specialized design – a true engineering accomplishment,” Irina said.

Team Work at its Best

The final unit was put into service in October 2018 at the SONGS switch yard. This unit, along with each that preceded it, brought its own set of complicated engineering challenges. What remained constant was the installation team’s rock-solid foundation and shared sense of purpose.

“With all of the challenges we’ve faced on each of these projects, there was this ‘if they fail, we all fail’ perspective, so whether you were a contractor or an employee, we came together as one team and helped each other succeed,” explained Major Projects Manager Matt Huber.

“The result was overcoming design, engineering and construction challenges so that these projects could be finished and put into service, providing our customers with added reliability they deserve.”