Prolec: An Agent Of Change In The Transmission And Distribution Space
Ricardo Suarez, CEO In 2020, the U.S. alone consumed 3.8 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the trajectory will move upward by 2.1 percent in 2021 and another 1.3 percent in 2022. These numbers clearly indicate that electrical energy consumption will increase at an incremental pace, and the scale would become enormous enough to adversely impact our ability to ensure reliable and economical delivery of electricity.
Though the U.S. Transmission and Distribution (T&D) system is considered a monumental engineering achievement, the technologies that go into delivering power from nearly 3000 power plants across the country are dated. It clearly lacks the required capabilities to address the needs of the evolving economy. For instance, the entire world is gradually moving toward renewable energy, and the use of electric vehicles and smart appliances is becoming mainstream. With limited capability, T&D systems cannot accommodate renewable energy sources (which accounted for nearly 20 percent of the overall electricity generation in 2020). Utilizing renewable resources located away from major load centers is also a problem, as this can’t be achieved without making several additions to the existing T&D systems. The emergence of load control and power quality needs also require innovative solutions to maintain the network’s dependability. In parallel, the complete modernization of traditional T&D systems has become essential to support the global effort to “go green”.
At the forefront of overcoming these challenges is Prolec!
“Today, more than ever, we must look forward; the world is changing, and so are we,” says Ricardo Suarez, CEO, Prolec. “We must renew ourselves, evolve, and be responsible and committed to positively impact all the communities in which we are present.”
With over five decades of industry experience and products installed in more than 35 countries, Prolec is a leader in offering power delivery solutions. The company focuses mainly on energy companies (Utilities), conventional and renewable power generation industry, companies in the electrical construction (EPCs), as well as the industrial and commercial industries, associations, and municipalities—all of whom are determined to offer the most reliable power supply to its users.
The Legacy of Innovation
The origin of Prolec goes back to 1957, when Jorge L. Garza, with the support of his father, Rómulo Garza, founded Conductores Monterrey. This company was dedicated to the production of bare wire and low voltage cable. With time, they grew exponentially and became a part of Xignux, an important Mexican consortium with strong participation in the electrical energy and food sectors. Prolec began its operations in 1969, with the acquisition of an IEI company and a small factory of electrical transformers for distribution. In 1979, the company moved to the state of Nuevo León, in northwestern Mexico, where a new plant was built.
Starting in the 1990s, a Culture of Total Quality was established in these companies, with the collaboration of the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) and the Quality Center of ITESM (Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education,) one of the most prestigious universities in Mexico. “In 1995, Xignux and General Electric established a joint venture resulting in Prolec GE.” This joint venture managed to significantly increase the range of products—three-phase pedestals, residential, and industrial transformers were added to power transformers. “When the joint venture began, it only covered power transformers.
Thanks to the positive outcomes, the scope gradually extended to the other product lines,” says Suarez. In mid-2020, this strategic alliance got a strong foothold in the American continent with the integration of two new business units, one in Louisiana (the U.S.) and the other in Canoas (Brazil). This allowed Prolec GE to include ‘network’ transformers, voltage regulators, ‘phase shifters’ transformers, and HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) regulators in its product portfolio. “Ingraining Xignux’s philosophy, we significantly increased manufacturing capacity while maintaining product quality,” Suarez says.
Harnessing the Partner Pedigree to Innovate
Prolec’s rich history undoubtedly exemplifies its efforts to stay in path of excellence and be an important agent of change. It’s always been in Prolec’s DNA to address the needs of the hour by leveraging the knowledge and expertise attained from the days past. That’s why Prolec today is undergoing a visual change at an institutional and commercial level.
We prioritize the development of friendly solutions toward sustainability, which promote the generation and distribution of energy from renewable sources
“It is time to innovate with cutting-edge products and solutions for the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power,” says Suarez. “Our change of image is not a cosmetic change. Changing our corporate visual identity is the result of the transformation we are experiencing as a company; we need a new image that is aligned with the present moment, channeled toward the way we are going.”
Under the same vision, Prolec integrates a set of business divisions that work collaboratively for a better and promising future. It is now a combination of Prolec GE, Prolec Celeco, Prolec Energy Solutions, and Prolec Labs. To say the least, this transformation can only mean one thing—the inception of a new energy conglomerate.
Prolec GE offers comprehensive solutions for the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power with a sense of innovation, social responsibility, and leadership. “We offer a complete product scope with three-phase pad-mounted transformers that fit the needs of renewable energy generation from solar and wind power step-ups to collector transformers, providing flexibility, adaptability, and dedicated customer service—these being our greatest strengths in a world where transactions, rigidity, and routines override the personal touch,” says Suarez. For energy transmission systems, the company offers a range of products required to reduce/increase the voltages used in transmission lines and to interconnect systems that operate at different voltage classes. Their portfolio includes a line of Autotransformers, Phase Shifters, HVDC Regulators, Reactors, transformers for FACTS (Flexible AC Transmission System) applications, such as SVC (Static Var Compensator) and VFT (Variable Frequency Transformer). For distribution, the company offers a wide range of single-phase and three-phase distribution transformers, including pole, pad-mounted, voltage regulators, network transformers, submersibles, and power substations transformers. Regardless of their application, all transformers are designed and manufactured under the most demanding standards, which, combined with high-quality materials and components, provide superior performance.
Prolec Celeco is a leader in the manufacturing of electrical equipment and components used by OEMs and electrical power distribution networks. This T-MEC market pioneer offers ceramic and polymeric components and insulation for transformers, such as circuit breakers, bushings, lightning arresters, and accessories. With such a varied product portfolio, Prolec Celeco is considered a strategic supplier with important participation in the entire American continent.
Prolec Energy Solutions is the ideal vehicle that offers Prolec’s current, new, and potential customers the best integral solutions aligned to the challenges of the present and future needs for energy delivery.
“In Prolec Labs, we are dedicated to innovation, supported by our Research and Development Center, related to the permanent evaluation of new materials, as well as the search for new applications of electronic functions and electrical applications that add value to our solutions,” says Suarez. Prolec Labs carries out validation and development tests of digital and power electronics systems; magnetic materials for transformers and insulating materials, liquid and solid; virtual simulation and prototyping. They are also experts in the validation testing of high-temperature insulation systems.
One of Prolec Labs’ greatest innovations is the VG-100, a dielectric fluid derived from natural esters of edible seeds, formulated using a proprietary process for use in electrical transformers. More importantly, VG-100 meets international standards and is certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Prolec also offers a full scope of supplementary solutions to its products so they can have the flexibility and reliability clients might need for their projects. They assist clients throughout an entire project—from the product engineering and manufacturing stage to providing services such as transportation, installation, power tests, field services, spare parts, and training.
We must renew ourselves, evolve, and be responsible and committed to positively impact all the communities in which we are present
Research, innovation, development, and well-being are the four pillars of Prolec’s long-standing success. This has also been instrumental in their cooperative relationships with universities in the U.S., such as Georgia Tech, MIT, and Stanford. That’s not all! The company works on specialized projects with higher education institutions in Mexico, such as ITESM and UANL in Monterrey.
“Prolec today operates in Mexico, the U.S., and Brazil. This bolsters our leadership and increases the scope of our solutions in the international market,” says Suarez.
Harbingering a “Green” Era
To better explain the effectiveness of the combined business forces, Suarez sheds light on some of the company’s recent projects. Recently, Prolec has developed and launched a transformer adapted to the new generations of GE’s WT20, Y 3X wind turbine models. They have also designed configurations that fit the specific conditions of solar farm types to reduce CAPEX and OPEX of photovoltaic generation projects. The company is also supporting the safe harbor model for renewable energy projects. They provide necessary assistance to clients with options on the “Safe Harbor” components of partial construction, storage methods, historical reporting, and support during all stages of renewable projects.
Prolec is supported by the four elements that empower its evolution: customer focus, operational excellence, innovation, and social responsibility based on a solid humanistic culture. “Our commitment is to work in liaison with our customers by offering value engineering services to make them successful. We also focus on the communication channels to ensure the outstanding execution of the projects,” says Suarez. In North America, Prolec has become an important player in the market by developing many long-term partnerships with utility companies and has relevant participation in developing electrical infrastructure projects for industrial and commercial applications. In South America, Prolec designs projects with public energy companies and engineering firms.
Undoubtedly, Prolec’s experience and the relentless urge to innovate in an ever-changing market have always kept it ahead of the game. And as the world goes “green,” the value of companies like Prolec is only going to increase. “Our planet urgently requires the implementation of new forms of energy generation and delivery, and Prolec is aware of this. Our Brand Architecture Restructuring is focused on achieving it. We prioritize the development of friendly solutions toward sustainability, which promote the generation and distribution of energy from renewable sources. We also align our operations with security measures—higher than those required by regulations,” concludes Suarez.