FACT: In the changed post-COVID-19 business landscape, the global market for Distribution Transformers estimated at US$18.1 Billion in the year 2022, is projected to reach a revised size of US$27.8 Billion by 2030.
General Electric, Toshiba, Siemens, Schneider Electric, Mitsubishi Electric, and ABB are some of the largest transformer manufacturers in the world. They produce the majority of transformers used in large power grids and industrial applications.
With a population of 23.8 million (in 2016), Ghana has a high electrification rate, but its power transmission and distribution equipment is seriously aging. In 2016, the power loss was as high as 21.3%, and the country urgently needs to upgrade and transform the existing power transmission and distribution system.
Takoradi Technical University is harboring an ambitious plan to produce low-loss power distribution transformers to help upgrade and transform the existing power transmission and distribution system in Ghana.
If TTU can manufacture transformers at a profit of $20m a year......................................
What is the annual budget of TTU?
Sharckles: Dr. Payne, what would it take for TTU in collaboration with other technical universities to begin manufacturing low-loss power transformers?
Dr. Payne: We are collaborating with two universities from Zimbabwe and other universities in various African countries, including countries like Trinidad and others. Our approach as a technical university is solution-oriented.
We are focused on finding solutions to contemporary challenges, including problems related to transformers. Our collaboration with Zimbabwe involves their interest in manufacturing transformers and exploring agro-tech for food production and animal husbandry.
So, in discussions with our technical university, Jubilee Technical Training Center (JTTC), and others, we explored the possibility of collaborating on transformer manufacturing. The idea is to address the challenges we face with transformer operations and consider local production to reduce import costs and tax thresholds.
This is outlined in our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). If both institutions agree to the prevailing conditions, we can explore setting up an assembly plant in Ghana with foreign collaborators.
In such a scenario, we would engage stakeholders like the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), responsible for distribution. We are particularly interested in distribution and rural transition to renewable energy, where we would need small to medium-scale transformers.
Our goal is to reduce imports and take charge of manufacturing locally. This is what we are considering in our collaboration, and if all parties agree, we can establish an assembly plant.
Sharckles: You mentioned collaborating with universities in Africa. Apart from Zimbabwe, can you tell us about the other universities involved?
Dr. Payne: We are currently in discussions with two universities in Zimbabwe and one in Zambia. However, some of these collaborations are still at the expression of interest stage.
We often organize conferences and meetings to facilitate discussions and collaborations. For example, there's a conference scheduled for this September in collaboration with a Nigerian university, and I'm part of the local organizing team.
After such events and discussions with various delegations, we can finalize collaborations and sign Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs). It's not limited to African institutions; we also have collaborations with institutions in the US, Canada, the Caribbean, and even some in Europe, such as Finland. However not all expressions of interest result in immediate action due to the associated costs and infrastructure considerations.
Sharckles: Do you have any collaborations with local technical universities or institutions in Ghana, specifically related to transformers?
Dr. Payne: Currently, our collaborations related to transformers are primarily with foreign universities. However, we are open to collaborating with local sister technical universities or research institutions if the need arises. We recognize that such collaborations may become necessary as we progress with our transformer manufacturing initiatives.
One institution we see potential in collaborating with is the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). They have significant expertise in technology development and research applications, which can benefit our project.
Additionally, we also have a good relationship with the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, which can provide support for material analysis, an area where we currently lack expertise.
Sharckles: Does TTU have a dedicated research department or unit?
Dr. Payne: TTU doesn't have a dedicated research department; instead, we have a research unit that collaborates with various departments across the university.
This unit works to bring in external expertise and resources for research projects. While we don't have a central research center, we leverage the capabilities and resources available in individual departments for research activities.
Sharckles: Given the level of knowledge exchange and collaboration with foreign institutions, have you considered establishing a dedicated research department?
Dr. Payne: Establishing a research department goes beyond just collecting information or data; it requires infrastructure, such as laboratories and workshops, that can operate independently as a research center.
Currently, we utilize existing departmental resources for research activities. However, if the need arises, and we find it beneficial to have a dedicated research department with specialized facilities, it's something we may consider in the future.
Sharckles: You mentioned that the transformer manufacturing initiative is part of your Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Have you initiated efforts to gather information and conduct market research on this venture?
Dr. Payne: Yes, indeed. As part of our collaboration agreements, we plan to conduct market surveys and engage with stakeholders to assess the feasibility of transformer manufacturing. However, it's important to note that these activities are contingent on budget allocations.
Our MOU was signed recently, and these initiatives will be included in our next academic year's budget, which commences in January 2023. We are working diligently to prepare all the necessary information and proposals for budget approval.
Sharckles: If you had the choice of collaborating with a specific technical university in Ghana for this transformer manufacturing venture, which one would you prefer?
Dr. Payne: Our choice of collaborating with a local technical university would depend on various factors, including their available resources and expertise in the relevant areas. There are several technical universities in Ghana, each with its unique strengths.
Institutions like KNUST, Accra Technical University, Koforidua Technical University, and Cape Coast Technical University are all potential collaborators. We would assess their infrastructure, such as workshops and laboratories, and their specific areas of expertise before making a decision.
Additionally, institutions like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission can also play essential roles in our collaborations.
Sharckles: What are the key components involved in the manufacturing of a transformer?
Dr. Payne: Manufacturing a transformer involves several key components. These include:
It's important to note that the quality and integrity of these components are critical to the transformer's performance and safety.
Sharckles: Is there a source of copper in Ghana, considering that transformers require pure copper?
Dr. Payne: While Ghana is blessed with mineral resources, including copper, we do not have copper smelting or production facilities to provide the pure copper required for transformer manufacturing.
Often, even when we have mineral deposits, the raw materials for industries like transformer manufacturing are imported. In such cases, we need to ensure that the imported materials meet international standards and undergo proper testing, which is where organizations like the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission can play a role.
Sharckles: Are there any Ghanaian companies or institutions currently working on electrical cable manufacturing and quality standards?
Dr. Payne: Yes, there are Ghanaian companies involved in electrical cable manufacturing. These companies typically import the raw materials needed for cable production and then manufacture the cables locally.
In terms of quality standards, organizations like the Ghana Standard Board and the Energy Commission oversee the quality and standards of electrical products, including cables. They work to ensure that these products meet safety and performance