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WHY STATIC EXCITATION?

INTRODUCTION
Static excitation means no moving parts. The dc rotary exciter is replaced with power
semiconductors capable of providing the dc power required by the generator field to
maintain generator output voltage. There are numerous reasons why static, as opposed to
rotary excitation, is being commonly used in many applications today.
Total system performance is substantially improved because of the elimination of the rotary
exciter time constant, coupled with the inherent speed and accuracy of solid state technology. This combination produces faster transient response to dynamic changes in the
transmission system.

Age is a relentless factor in all equipment. When rewind or replacement of the rotary exciter becomes necessary, a solid state static exciter offers an attractive alternative. lt is
compact and easily installed. ln addition, the static exciter completely eliminates the wornout obsolete equipment and provides easy interfacing for power plant automation.
Replacing the rotary exciter for phase controlled power semiconductors in the dc generator field circuit results in higher operating efficiencies. This reduces the number of watts
consumed in heat energy. The effect is more usable kilowatts of output for every horsepower of input.
PERFORMANCE GONSIDERATIONS FOR APPLYING A STATIG EXGITATION SYSTEM
Why do static excitation systems provide faster transient response than brush or brushless
rotary exciters? Why is voltage dip less during block load motor starting? Why is fault
clearing so often improved during asymmetrical and symmetrical short circuits occurring in
the distribution system? These questions will be addressed in this paper.

Field Time Constant


Static exciters inherently cause faster voltage recovery, minimizing ac voltage variations
because dc is being applied to the generator field in lieu of the exciter field. On large
generators where the main field time constant is coupled with both the exciter field and
the pilot exciter field time constant, unavoidably long delays prevent fast voltage recovery
to load transient. This is caused by the lag networks produced by the machine's field
inductance.
A field time constant is defined as the ratio of inductance measured in henrys and resistance measured in ohms. The ratio describes the time in seconds required to change the
field current63% from the time the excitation voltage is changed. The addition of other
exciter time constant produces other lag networks resulting in additional phase shifts. This
makes it more difficult to have stability in the voltage regulator and reduces the system
ability to cause fast transient response to system disturbances.

By eliminating the exciter field time constant, substantial gains can be obtained to limit
voltage dip and attain faster voltage recovery. Figure 4 shows a typical generator voltage
dip. The initial drop in machinery voltages is due to the effect of the subtransient reactance
X'D.
Exeiter
Field

Generator
F+

Field

Pilot
Exciter
Field

52

/--'xl-"

IGeneratorJ-l F
\_-/\*,_
A2

A.

Figure 1: Brush-Type Rotary Exciter

Generator
Voltage
Dip

Voltage
Recovery
Time

Motor
Starting

Electromechanical

174/"

$,4 sec

10.5 sec

Solid'State

11o/"

3 sec

AVR Type

Type of
Excitation
System

% Voltage

Voltage

Step
Change

Recovery

5OOO KVA

Rotary Exciter/
Vollage
Requlator

1A%

5 sec

15,294 KVA

Shunl Statlc
Exciterl

1Oo/o

1,5 sec

Generator
Rating

Time

Voltage

sec

Regulator

Regulator

Figure

2:

Performance Comparisons

Time

Time$>
Voltage Veriation Cauded by Sudden Load Application

Generator Field Voltage

Figure

3: Portal Power House

Figure

4: Voltage Variation

Even the speed of response produced by the static exciter has no appreciable effect on
this initial voltage drop. The further reduction in generator voltage is caused by the transient reactance X'D and synchronous reactance XD. ln a static excitation system, these
voltage drops are nearly eliminated because of the absence of the exciter field time constant. The lack of the exciter field lag network produces an inherently faster excitation
system.

Field Forcing
Field forcing is synonymous with excitation systems. If the load on a generator is increased, excitation to the field must also be increased to sustain operation at the initial
voltage. lf the generator's excitation obtains its operating power from an "independent
source", and it is not capable of supplying sufficient excitation for the heavier load condition, generator voltage and power output will stabilize at a subnominal voltage governed
by the amount of excitation. lf it uses a shunt excitation system that obtains its operating
power from the "generator's terminal", and it is not capable of supplying enough field
excitation for the heavier load, generator voltage will collapse to residual level.
Obviously, it is important that the excitation system have an adequate capability if generator voltage is to be sustained for various load conditions.

Motor Starting

100%

Hioh

rielo
Forcing

lnitial

Typieal
Field Forcing

Voltage
Dip

c)

llt
g

No

Field Forcing

o-"fifi:"J--

Collapses \

Time

-*

Figure 5: Affects of Field Forcing on Generator Voltage Recovery Time


Furthermore, if the excitation system's ceiling capability is only slightly greater than that
required for the new load, generator voltage will dip deeply and recover more slowly. To
minimize the dip and to speed recovery, it is customary to "force the field" to apply more
voltage to the field during the dip than is needed after recovery. Typically, a field rated at
125 volts is forced with 180 volts. There is a strong trend among generator manufacturers
when using an exciter which forces to 180 volts, to design their field for full load operation
at 60, 80 or 100 volts to increase the forcing ratio and improve motor starting performance
and obtain better critical fault clearing times. Higher field forcing is sometimes required to
further overcome the inductive lag of the generator field.
Figure 6 shows apparent changes in the field time constant as the amount of field forcing
voltage is modified in the excitation system.
3.0

Maximum Ceiling
P.U. Field Current

2.5
2.9
P.U. Field

Current

1.5

Step
Step

Recovery Time

---..}'

Figure 6: Apparent Changes in the Field Time Constant

Excitation systems having substantial field forcing capability, such as 2.0 per unit and
higher (see Figure 6), could result in a more costly excitation system and possibly higher
generator cost. The increase is due to:
1.
The KVA rating of the power potential transformer must become larger to accommodate the higher than normal field forcing requirement.
2.
Higher rated "peak inverse voltage" power semiconductors will be required. This
is due to the large ac voltage at the bridge rectifiers.
3.
A more expensive ac breaker may be necessary due to the higher ac voltage
from the power potential transformer secondary.
4.
Lastly, precautions may be necessary to ensure the generator field insulation
system is adequate for the higher field voltages.
RESPONSE RATIO
IEEE 421A-1978 defines forcing using the term "Excitation System Voltage Response
Ratio." The ratio is determined with the exciter voltage initially at the rated full load value,
and then by suddenly decreasing the sensing voltage by 20%. The ratio is equal to the
excitation system's voltage response measured over the first .5 second interval divided by
the exciter's voltage rated full load value. Figure 7 is included for further explanation. lt
shows exciter voltage as a curved line increasing from the full load value to level "a" to the
ceiling level at "b" in .5 seconds just after the sensing voltage has been reduced. A straight
line "ac" is drawn so the area under the line "ac" is equal to the area under curve "ab."

Exciter
Output
Voltage

ao x

O
Figure

(oe)

Time - Seconds

7: Excitation

System Voltage Response

Then, mathematically:
Response Ratio

ce - ao
(ao) (oe)

Refer to Figure 8 to calculate the voltage response ratio of a shunt static exciter system
that is initially supplying 125 volts and almost immediately rises to 1 80 Vac when sensed
voltage is lowered.

235V

180v

125V

Exciter
Output

Voltage

235V

- 125V

Time - Seconds

0.5

Figure 8: Voltage Response Ratio


Drawing line "ac" per instruction and applying the previous equation:

ResponseRatio=

.4

(ao) (oe)

(235V - 125 V)
(125V) (.5 Seconds)

= 1.76

It becomes clearly obvious that raising the ceiling voltage above 180 volts will give higher
voltage response ratio.

OBSOLETING THE ROTATING EXCITER


When static excitation systems are considered for rotary exciter replacement, perhaps the
most common questions that arise are:
Are they compatible?
Can static always be interchanges with rotary exciters?

.
.

Static excitation can provide a suitable replacement for each type of rotary exciter to be
mentioned. The first requirement, however, is that the rotary exciter must have slip rings
with associated brushes. See Figure 9. There have been numerous types of rotary brush
exciters built through the years, each fulfilling the need of supplying dc to the main field of
the generator. The following discussion outlines the more common types of rotary exciters
in use today, along with a shod explanation detailing their differences.

Figure

9: Rotary Excited, Brush-Type

Generator

Direct Connected Rotating Exciter


The direct connected rotary exciter is connected to the shaft of the prime mover. An example of this type is a vertical shaft hydroturbine with a direct connected top mount exciter.
A direct connected exciter can also be horizontally mounted on top of a generator with a
power takeoff from the shaft using belts to drive the exciter. These exciters are typically
driven many times faster than the rpm of the generator. See Figure 10.

Figure 10: Direct Connected Rotary Exciter.


Power from the exciter is directed by means of brushes and slip rings into the main field of
the generator. Systems were typically controlled by an automatic voltage regulator or a
manually adjustable dc rheostat. Older systems were shut down by field breakers and
discharge resistors located in the exciter or generator field circuit. See Figure 1 1.

Disconnect
Switches

Generator
Field

Figure 11: Rotary Exciter with Discharge Resistors and Disconnect Switches
On more modern systems, where solid state voltage regulators are utilized within the
exciter field circuit, a freewheeling diode in the voltage regulator provides field decay.

As mentioned earlier, speed of response was limited to the design response ratio of the
exciter, the time constant of the generator and the exciter field time constant. lnherently,
the systems were more susceptible to system abnormalities such as line faults caused by
overloads which many times resulted in lost generation. These systems depended heavily
upon outside high-speed protective relaying in order to maintain continuity on the infinite
bus.

Separate Excited, Common DG Bus Exciter


Another type of dc rotary exciter is one in which a single dc generator is used to supply
direct current from a common bus supplying field excitation to multiple generators. See
Figure 12. Sometimes as many as six (6) machines would share a common dc generator.
Typically two (2) rotary exciters would be used, offering redundancy in the event of a
breakdown of one unit. Rotation for the exciter was obtained by separate turbines.

Figure 12: Separate Excited, Common DC Bus Exciter


ln these systems, dc would be shunted away from the common dc bus and fed directly
into the generator field. See Figure 13. The amount of dc applied to the field was adjusted
8

by rheostats controlled by an operator. Since more of these systems did not have voltage
regulators, they were very susceptible to generator overspeed, especially on hydraulic
turbines where high machine overvoltages could result.

Field
Disconnect
Switch
Breaker

Field
Discharge

Resistar

Motorize
Rheostat

Figure 13: Separately Excited Water Turbine Exciter


It was important to have good, reliable protective relays to ensure longevity of the system

and prevent premature insulation failure caused by machine overvoltage. The amount of
overvoltage experienced was proportional to the machine overspeed. The field rheostats
used to control the dc power to the generator field consumed large amounts of power and
generated many watts of wasted heat. Most of the time the system was unregulated and,
therefore, susceptible to the system bus voltage fluctuations which could result in synchronization pullout. These systems require constant monitoring.
Common dc bus arrangements represented a very early philosophy in dc generation. lt
was found later that better reliability could be ensured by having a single exciter per machine. Following this criteria in replacing these large generators, a single static exciter is
suggested per machine to replace the rotating hardware to maintain unit integrity.

Separate Excited Motor Generator Sets (MG)


Many times, exciters were driven by synchronous or induction motors known as MG sets.
These motors were designed with special characteristics that resulted in the exciter being
driven at relatively constant speeds regardless of voltage fluctuations that might occur at
the input to the motor. See Figure 14.The motors were designed very conservatively and
often appeared to be approximately two to three times the relative size of the rotating
exciter. Since the motor was subject to voltage fluctuations from the power source, it was
necessary to construct the motor generator set so it could withstand these disturbances
without affecting the excitation of the main ac generator. The inertia constant of the motor-

generator set was relatively high, in order to prevent motor stall and ensure constant
speed to the exciter during different exciter loadings and momentary voltage dips. One
motor-generator set was usually designed for each ac generator; and, as in the previous
paragraph, would be replaced with one static exciter per generator field.

tF
F

Figure 14: Motor dc Generator Set

High Gain Rotary Exciters


Another type of rotary exciter was the Amplidyne, Rototrol and the Regulex. These were
direct connected dc generators that were designed to provide the dc requirements of the
main field of the generator. ln the ordinary dc exciter, the change in field energy required to
produce 100% change in generator output was usually within 1% to 3% of machine rating.
This resulted in amplification factors between 30 and 100. ln the case of the Amplidyne
and Rototrol exciters, the amplification factor could exceed 106 depending upon the design
of the machine. The result was substantially reduced exciting currents required to control
these fields, as compared to the normal exciter field of the more common exciters.
METHODS FOR IMPROVING EXCITER SPEED OF RESPONSE
Since rotary exciters were inherently slow, many times special means were used to speed
the system response on very large machines having long field time constants. lt was
important to rapidly reduce the generator field flux and yet remain on-line,
ln order to remain on-line, the use of field breakers and field discharge resistors could not
be used, lnstead, a buck-boost exciter field arrangement was used. ln this arrangement,
the polarity of the generator field voltage could be reversed, forcing a rapid decay of the
generator field flux. Control of the buck field was typically done by external means, such as
a generator overvoltage relay. Figure 15 shows a typical response of a generator. ln one
test, the generator voltage is forced to rapidly decay by the buck system. ln the other
diagram, the generator voltage is allowed to decay normally.

l0

Generator
Voltage
115 VAC

20 VAC

10

15

20

15

28

Time in seconds -->


Generator Voltage Decay with Rotary Exciter
Generator
Voltage
115 VAC

20 VAC

510

Time in Seconds -_*,


Generator Voltage Decay with Rotary Exciter and Bucking Field

Figure 15' Typical Response of a Generator

REPLACING THE ROTARY EXCITER FOR STATIC


Static excitation can easily replace any of the six types of rotary exciters discussed and
improve the quality of the power generated. See Figure 16.

Figure 16: Shunt Static Exciter Regulator

Figure 17: Slip-Ring Generator

The static exciter consists of solid state power semiconductors including three power
SCRs and three power diodes that supply dc to the field of the generator. ln the static
exciter system, field breakers and field discharge resistors are exchanged for a single
freewheeling diode permanently connected across the field of the generator. This eliminates nuisance maintenance. The freewheeling diode provides a path for the generator
field flux to decay during shutdown or during SCR switching. The generator field has only
one significant time constant as compared to two or more field time constants in the rotary
exciter system.

1i

For comparable performance represented in type "F" exciter system, a negative field
forcing static exciter system is available. This system has the ability to provide positive
voltage for normal load applications and negative dc voltage when load is removed. The
result is more rapid field decay to decrease the generator field flux resulting in faster generator voltage recovery. This topic requires further discussion, but will be addressed in a
later conference concerning negative field forcing. Static excitation comes equipped with
all solid state controls to regulate and maintain generator voltage, eliminating devices
associated with control of the rotary exciter.

ECONOMICS
Economics play an important role in the evaluation and selection of an excitation system.
Today's equipment, as compared to years past, is favorably different. The static excitation
system cannot only provide volts and amperes for the field but can accomplish this more
efficiently. This helps decrease the operating cost overhead of a power plant and delivers
more kilowatts of generated power for every machine horsepower available. This is accomplished by reducing the watts loss consumed in heat by the excitation system.
Efficiency is measured by the power in the device versus the power out. The greater the
watts loss, the less efficient a system.

Efficiency

Bower 9ut %
Power ln

The more efficient a system is the better the power transfer. ln a rotary excitation system,
there are numerous factors affecting the total efficiency.
A.
B.
C.
D.

l2R losses in the copper wire and eddy currents known as core loss.
The friction losses due to windage and to the flux drag of the rotating exciter.
Other losses, such as belt drag, stray flux losses, etc.
Wire wound manual rheostat losses.

The following example can be offered to illustrate the annual cost savings involved in
obsoleting an existing rotary exciter system.
A generator is rated 3555kW .8 p.9.,4160 volts ac, 164 rpm.
The rotary exciter is rated 250 volts dc at 50 kW.
The static exciter/regulator selected for the application is rated
for 50 kilowatts, while having an operating efficiency of 94.1%.
The rotating brush type exciter is assumed to have a conseryative operating efficiency of 78%. Use the formula shown.
(%Etf .lmprovement) (Exc. Kw) (Operating Hrs.A/r.) (Cost kW/Hr.) = Operating Cost

12

Static exciter savings per year will include:

(16.5%) (60kW) (8760 Hr.fY'r., 100% Duty Factor)


(.04 per kW/hour) =

$2,891.00

Wire Wound Rheostat Losses - Estimated:

(skw) (8760 Hr.l/r., 100% Duty Factor) (.0a per kW/hour)

Where:

$1,752.00

16.5% represents the difference in operating efficiency between the rotating

brushtype exciter system and the static exciter regulator.


50 kW equals the actual generator field loading.

(1)
(2)

(3)

Total Operating Savings for Static Exciter:


Static Exciter Efficiency Cost Savings
Wire Wound Rheostat Losses
Typical Maintenance Savings - Annual and Unscheduled
Troubleshooting for Existing Excitation System
Journeyman Electrician
175 hours/year ($20.00 hour)

$2,891.00
$1,752.00

$3,500.00

Material Exciter Brushes

SavingsA/ear

148.00

$8,291.00

The $8,291 figure represents the annual cost savings per year, if the solid state equipment
system is used. With a static exciter sell cost of $19,757.00, the equipment will pay for itself
in two years. lt becomes evident that greater efficiency, plus maintenance reduction over a
period of time can result in substantial dollar savings for a given generator system.
Other factors that can affect the operating cost of a rotating excitation system include:

A.
B.
C.

D.

Exciter rewind. Exciter insulation can become fatigued and stressed resulting in
turn-to-turn shorts on the wire insulation. Rewind costs can be very high and are
approximately 75% of the cost of a basic shunt static excitation system including
a voltage regulator, manual control and paralleling provisions.
Exciters that are belt driven are easily susceptible to excessive vibration. This
requires routine replacement of the exciter belts and exciter bearings.
The commutator used to rectify the ac voltage from the rotating exciter to pulsal
ing dc periodically requires polishing and grinding. Many times it may even
require replacement due to the continuous movement caused by tracking from
the brushes over the commutator bars. ln addition, the carbon dust from the
brushes falls between the bars and into the exciter windings, causing insulation
breakdown and hipotting.
Brushes also have a limited life, and good maintenance programs are required
to assure good surface contact to minimize arcing.
l3

CONCLUSION - STATIC EXCITERYREGULATION


The early generator systems used the best technology available at the time. The old
rocking contact voltage regulators and the large wire wound rheostats represented an era
which, for years, set the ground rules for regulating and controlling power generation.
However as old technology became obsolete, new and better devices were developed to
offer an improved method of controlling the generator. These new devices also enhance
performance, maintain reliability, and today, extend total system life.
Solid state excitation systems are designed to provide precise and accurate voltage control. The basic system is equipped with underfrequency provisions to prevent
overexcitation due to low frequency operation. lt also has manual control as a convenient
standby mode for system testing and calibration. New system equipment eliminates the
need for the old rocking contact voltage regulators and the large wire wound rheostat.
lmprove voltage regulation control offers truly improved dynamic system control, thus
assure total system stability under the most adverse operating conditions.
Today, static excitation has proven itself to be reliable in literally billions of operating hours.
These systems are offering increased life to both old and new generation plants.

REPLACING ROTATING EXCITERS WITH STATIC EXGITERS

TechnicalTips
How many reasons can you think of why replacing rotating exciters for solid state
static exciters makes good economic sense?

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

Generator uprating that requires more field excitation than the existing rotating
exciter can provide.
Shorted windings on the rotating exciters.
Problems with GE Amplidyne, Westinghouse Rototrol, or Allis Chalmers Regulex
and Pilot Exciters.
Stator overheating caused by carbon brush dust from commutator brush wear.
Safety concerns regarding asbestos insulation on rewound rotary exciters.
Belt problems associated with separate connected rotating exciters.
Commutator problems, such as sparking caused by neutral plane shifts, dielectric breakdown caused by brush carbon dust.
Commutator wear, requiring replacement.
Brush maintenance, or lack of, on commutator brushes.
Electromechanical voltage regulator obsolescence and associated wire wound
rheostats. Lack of parts availability.
Need for fast system/voltage recovery to improve system relay coordination and
avoid nuisance trip due to slow excitation reaction time.
Need for interface to new supervisory control automation to obtain streamlined
unit startup sequence and automatic synchronizing equipment.

t4

13.
14.
15.

Problems with DC field breakers; auxiliary contacts do not open to remove


discharge resistor, expensive replacement, long delivery.
lmproved operating efficiency of static exciters, hence, fuel savings.
Lack of maintenance personnel to maintain old rotating/electromechanical
excitation system.

Additional Considerations for Steam and Gas Turbines

1.
2.
3.

Alignment reduction time on multiple bearing machines, i.e. steam turbine where
the rotating exciter is removed. Generally, it takes a week to align a six-bearing
unit. Two bearings can be removed by eliminating the rotating exciter, reducing
the alignment time of the steam turbineigenerator.
Excessive bearing wear caused by vibration on horizontal direct mounted
rotating exciters. Typically on reciprocating engines, steam and gas turbines.
Problems with speed reduction gear on steam turbine used for rotating exciter
coupling. (large dollar items, long delivery)

t5