Sreeram Vengayil is a young engineer at Central Power Research Institute (CPRI), India’s most powerful organization dedicated to applied research in electrical power engineering to assist the electrical industry. He is a member of Bureau of Indian standards (ETD-53), sectional committee on standardization of management of power assets. He actively participates in the IEEE PES task forces on ageing switch gear and solid state transformers. He is also an active CIGRE member for the national study committees A2 and A3.
Let’s start the interview!
Q. Tell us about yourself
Sreeram: Hi, my name is Sreeram and I’m from India. I started my career in the nuclear power sector. I was trained in pressurized heavy water reactor technology for an year and later worked at a pressurized water reactor site in the commissioning group for an year. I have a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore, India’s top most research university. Since then, I have been working at the central power research Institute (CPRI), India.
I work in the high power laboratory, where we conduct short circuit testing and arc testing of high power equipment. I was also involved in the operation and maintenance of the short circuit generator and auxiliaries. We carry out independent research projects in the area of modeling and diagnostics of power equipment. . I enjoy programming in Python and Android. I am passionate about applying signal processing and data science in the diagnostics of power equipment.
Q. What inspired you to join this sector?
Sreeram: It was the power sector which piqued my interest during my undergraduate days and got me my first job. Later I wanted to transition to a research role where I could take up intellectually challenging tasks. In fact, my present work in the power equipment modelling and diagnostics, developed organically bottom up. My work led me to analyze the behavior of power equipment under various conditions which helped me gain knowledge in the area and provoked my curiosity enough to explore further.
Q. What trends do you think will rule in the next 5 years in this sector?
Sreeram: The two key trends would be- data utilization and carbon footprint reduction/sustainability
Q. Can you elaborate why?
Sreeram: The massive amount of data generated would drive a transformation in power equipment diagnostics. Cyber-physical systems would give rise to a digital twin of each and every equipment. The efficacy of the model would depend on data. The application of AI/ML for fault identification would also depend on the availability of training data. Data can also help in filling up the gaps in the models which are developed based on the underlying physics of the equipment.
Another thing is that the carbon footprint reduction and sustainability will also become trendy in power equipment manufacturing and management. The industry will have to account fir each and every decision. Already the transformer industry works with ester oils and switchgear industry is introducing SF6 alternatives. Increasing the life of power equipment would reduce the need for new ones and increasing their efficiency would reduce the need for more units of electricity.
Q. Most of the people think maintenance and reliability are the same thing. What are your thoughts about it?
Sreeram: Reliability is a property of the system, by which it is guaranteed that it can perform its duties. It is the comprehensive idea that is the pinnacle of thought in asset management. Maintenance is one aspect of reliability. Maintenance enhances reliability. From breakdown maintenance to condition-based maintenance, we have arrived at the reliability-centered maintenance.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you would give to a junior professional to succeed in your sector?
Sreeram: It is important to have broad skills to succeed in any area. To design a solution that actually works, one should understand probability, digital signal processing, equipment characteristics, and test techniques. Nobody can gain deep knowledge in all area. What is required is the basics understanding which enables one to learn and gain deep knowledge in any areas, as and when the situation demands. An engineering who has that ability would be a real asset to his company.
Q. What is something nobody tells you, but you wish you knew earlier?
Sreeram: Internships are important! Before you commit to any area and take up a permanent position, it is important to do and internship and get an idea about the nature of work and workplace. A software development environment would be very different from a nuclear power plant or a transformer manufacturing firm. Some environments may suit us while others may not. The perception of a firm from outside may ne entirely different from what is actually happening in the inside.
Q. Can you recommend any books or media?
Sreeram: CIGRE guides and brochures are the most comprehensive source of information in the area of power systems. They cover almost all the relevant areas and deal with all the aspects. They are usually prepared by the international team of experts and this fact is reflected in their amazing clarity. They give very strong foundation in an area, thus enabling your to build further.