Serveron Corp., a provider of smart grid monitoring technology to help prevent transformer failures and power system blackouts, has joined the GridWise Alliance. The consortium of public and private companies, with 37 member companies including Cisco, GE, IBM and SAP, seeks to transform the electric grid using technology to make it more efficient, cost-effective, resilient, secure and reliable.

“Serveron joining our mission reflects their commitment to help the power industry focus on the way electricity is delivered, managed and used in the United States.” said Guido Bartels, chairman of the GridWise Alliance and general manager of IBM’s Global Energy and Utilities Industry. “Just as technology has revolutionized the way business is done globally over the last 10 years, the GridWise Alliance seeks to help the electric power industry to achieve significant progress more quickly in energy reliability and protection of our nation’s power infrastructure, leading to billions of dollars in cost savings and an increase in national competitiveness.”

Serveron Chief Executive Officer Bart Tichelman said: “We aligned ourselves with GridWise because its member companies are in the best position to transform the electric grid, and we believe our technology and our commitment to the generation, transmission and distribution segments of the power industry enable us to contribute to the improvement process.”

“The electric power infrastructure is both aging and growing, and the systems are in need of being watched carefully to prevent failures and the blackouts that they can cause,” Tichelman said. “Our smart-grid-based transformer monitoring systems and services can help manage these large, expensive assets to benefit their owners, the electric power customer and the nation’s energy security.”

Power transformers, which either step-up or step-down the voltage of electricity to enable its transmission and distribution, represent the single largest asset class for power generating and power distribution companies other than the power plants themselves. Replacement cost for a failed transformer can range from $1 million to $6 million or more, and there are hundreds of thousands of such units now deployed worldwide.

“Even if the decision is made to replace an aging transformer before it fails, new units are on back-order from virtually every manufacturer throughout the world,” Tichelman added, “so monitoring is the only way to make sure that unplanned transformer down-time is minimized, as utilities work to secure the capital and support they need to upgrade their infrastructure with smart-grid technology.”

According to Hartford Steam Boiler, a major insurer of utility assets, more than 1500 large transformers will fail in the U.S. alone during the coming year. Experience has shown that over 300 of these will explode and catch fire when they fail. Transformer fires, which are electrochemical, are dangerous to contain and extinguish, often leaving collateral damage, environmental clean ups, and legal action in their wake.