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Questions and Answers

Wipeout Harmonics to Improve Power Quality

While the technical information contained herein is believed to be accurate, no warranty, either express or implied, as to the accuracy or fitness for any particular purpose of the information is made.

Introduction The Wipeout Harmonics to Improve Power Quality seminar held on May 3 was a tremendous success. Prior to the event, numerous participants submitted questions regarding harmonics, harmonic mitigators, and AccuSine active harmonic filters many more than we could address in such a short period of time. Please find these questions, with their corresponding answers, in the following pages.

Questions and Answers


How are TVSS affected by harmonics and are there new developments with TVSS that relate to harmonic cancellation using a modified TVSS? TVSS have no interaction with harmonic current. By design, they limit interaction to the fundamental frequency. TVSS are not capable of performing harmonic mitigation. They are designed to perform transient protection for large amplitude, short duration spikes of voltage that are carried on power lines at the fundamental frequency. TVSS that are capacitive based may have difficulties with the ripple currents produced by the 10 or 20 kHz switching frequencies of active harmonic filters. The interaction is dependent upon the location of the current transformers (CT) used for active filters. If the CT is downstream from the TVSS, no interaction is expected.

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Do you have a sample calculation of the energy savings provided by eliminating or mitigating harmonics? Harmonic mitigation does not generate energy savings. Harmonics in no way affect the real power drawn by the loads. Some claim that the I2R losses saved by reducing the apparent power current is energy savings. This has never been scientifically documented. It reduces the current flow (VA) but the reduction is in reactive or harmonic power not in real power.

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What is the cost difference between active and passive systems? What added future costs are there with active systems? It is very difficult to compare the cost of active filters to passive filters. Passive filters do not approach the harmonic reduction performance level of active filters. Only 18-pulse variable frequency drives (VFD) approach active filters in performance but these devices are still dependent upon the source impedance and thus are not as effective. Active filter performance is not dependent upon source impedance, but rather on the harmonic producing loads attached. When active filters are applied as bus solutions where multiple nonlinear loads are present, the active filter is less costly and more effective than any other device, and requires less physical space. Added future costs are similar to those of other power electronic devices like VFD and UPS. Annual inspections are required to ensure terminal tightness and the removal of dust and dirt.

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We have three 750 HP 480 volt chillers on a 2500 KVA utility transformer. We are putting drives on these three units but the mechanical engineers failed to order up frontline filters. York claims worst case 29% THD current. In your opinion (say the transformer is 5.7%) will I have excessive distortion when all three chillers are online possible to the point of interfering with the drives performance? Assuming the VFD all have 3% input line reactors, the 29% Total Demand Distortion (TDD) is about right. If there are no input line reactors or DC bus chokes, the TDD would be a lot higher. Checking the information for IEEE 519-1992 selection criteria, the short circuit ratio is 19:5. In order to comply with IEEE 519-1992 Table 10-3 level criteria, no more than 5% TDD is acceptable. Compliance with IEEE 519-1992 is meant to limit the voltage distortion THD (V) to 5% due to the level of TDD defined in Table 10-3. This level (5% THD (V)) is not expected to effect electronic equipment on the electrical system. However, it is unlikely in my opinion that THD (V) will effect the operations of the VFD even if higher levels exist.

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Which is the better metric: THD or K-Factor? K-factor is a method of sizing a transformer so that the transformer can withstand the Total Harmonic Current Distortion levels (THD (I)). K-factor is based upon the THD (I) present. K-factor does nothing to mitigate harmonics. It permits the transformer to operate in the presence of harmonics and still not overheat.

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What is the correct method for monitoring and interpreting harmonics data so that the equipment selected meets the customers needs? The method defined in IEEE 519-1992 is total demand distortion (TDD). TDD compares the amplitude of the harmonics at any operating point to the demand (full) load fundamental current of the loads. TDD is a hand calculation based on the measured levels that define the harmonic current amplitudes and the maximum fundamental current of the loads. Metering devices do not measure TDD. NOTE: THD (I) is neither used nor defined by IEEE 519-1992

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If we measure harmonic distortion with PowerLogic power management equipment and find 6% total harmonic voltage distortion (THD (V)), how could we tell if part of the distortion comes from the utility company? How could we get them to mitigate theirs? If PowerLogic or any other harmonic meter measures 6% THD (V), it does not define where that THD (V) originates. The loads may cause some harmonics, while others may be from the power source. The only way to measure what is coming from a utility is to shut off all nonlinear loads in the plant and measure the THD (V). Utility standards according to IEEE 519-1992 are limited to 5% THD (V) for all electrical systems less than 69 kV. If the THD (V) level from the utility is less than 5%, the utility probably will not see it as a problem.

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What are the characteristics of harmonics generated by variable frequency drives (VFD), especially regenerative VFD? Harmonic currents caused by VFD depend upon the impedance of the electrical system and the impedance in the VFD and/or the impedance in front of the VFD. Typically, PWM VFD with diode rectifiers do not have (standard) DC choke impedance and input line reactors. These VFD will cause TDD levels between 90120% on a typical utility supply. Adding a line reactor rated at 3% or a DC choke of 5% impedance will lower the TDD levels to about 3237% TDD. Regenerative VFD with IGBT rectifiers will draw current with TDD levels of about 5%. However, active converters directly generate voltage distortion on the AC lines. An input line passive filter is required to limit the THD (V) to 5%. If no line filter is present, THD (V) levels can approach 20%.

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What is the best way to handle power factor correction for FVNR in a low voltage MCC when a significant number of loads are running on VFD (there always seems to be an issue with the harmonics effecting the power factor correction capacitors)? Power factor correction capacitors (PFCC) can interact with all harmonic currents present. If the harmonic current distortion is high enough, nuisance fuse clearing, resonance, or capacitor destruction caused by harmonic heating are possible. Typically, if the content of the loads is greater than 15% nonlinear, then detuned PFCC systems are required to protect the capacitors. Furthermore, detuned systems are not typically installed as part of the MCC but rather as separate standalone units. If the MCC has greater than 50% nonlinear loads, then active filters incorporated into the MCC should be considered for both power factor correction and harmonic filtering purposes.

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What effect do harmonics have on Total Power Factor? What effect do harmonics have on Displacement Power Factor? Total Power Factor is defined by displacement power factor (Cos ) and the harmonics factor (Cos ). Harmonics have no effect on displacement power factor (DPF). DPF is the measure of the phase shift between the fundamental current and the fundamental voltage. Correcting harmonics improves total power factor.

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With the development of the AccuSine, is there still a need for shielded power cables to variable frequency drives (VFD) and/or VFD drive motors? Harmonic filters do not limit the harmonic current drawn by nonlinear loads. Line filters have no effect on the output of the VFD to the motor. There is no reason to modify present wiring practices.

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Can harmonic currents from large variable frequency drives (VFD) actually cause 1520% voltage swells at your service entrance equipment? Our PowerLogic system is constantly seeing 20% voltage swells in a building with several 125 hp, 6-pulse drives and a high amount of distortion on both current and voltage. Cyclical loads may cause swells in harmonic current that result in high levels of voltage distortion. This may be internal or external to the plant in question. THD (V) may be the result of local loads or caused by the power source. If it can be proven to be an external cause, then the utility should be approached to investigate. If the THD (V) is from the utilitys supply, then it is their responsibility to implement a solution.

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How do active filters compare to TVSS? Should they be used in conjunction with one another? TVSS are designed to suppress momentary surges and clip the amplitude of the voltage for the loads. Harmonics are noise at frequencies other than the fundamental frequency. The two are not related. Take care when using harmonic filters with TVSS that are capacitive in nature. Active harmonic filters may interact with the TVSS and overload the capacitor in the TVSS with resonance induced by the active harmonic filter. The current transformer that senses current for the active filter needs to be on the load side of the TVSS.

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What are the implications of harmonic issues in hospitals with integrated communications/ data/control systems? Nonlinear loads draw harmonic current from the source and the current path is subject to harmonic-induced heating. Therefore, thermal trip devices (i.e. circuit breakers and fuses) could activate to remove the loads on that path from the lines. Also, because of the impedance of the electrical system, THD (V) could develop and reflect to the entire electrical network. THD (V) could reach levels that cause adverse logic systems reactions, including data loss, power interruption, and even circuit board failure.

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My customer has problems with PLC S908 remote I/O dropouts, and Square D has recommended a power study. What does this consist of and what are the usual steps for follow up? A power study may take many forms. The objective is to review the electrical power system at critical branches of the system to see what levels of harmonic (current and voltage) and displacement power factor are present. The study may detect other types of problems as well, such as poor grounding. The technician performing the power study will provide a full report of measurements, analysis, and recommendations for addressing any problems discovered. Once of the recommendations are implemented, a follow-up visit can ensure the problems have been fixed.

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Can you explain the benefit, if any, of installing active harmonic filters in a retrofit application? What additional engineering is required beyond the swapping of transformers? Generally, retrofits are performed when harmonics related issues exist or modifications add more nonlinear devices. The engineering required could involve an electrical system study (harmonic analysis) and computer modeling of the electrical system. When nonlinear loads are added, it is wise to review the electrical system contingencies to insure that problems are minimized.

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Can active filters be installed with other manufacturers variable frequency drives (VFD)? Generally, all PWM VFD are of the same design. They employ diode rectifiers to charge a DC bus so that managed voltage and frequency are delivered to the motors. Some manufacturers install DC chokes that reduce the harmonic current draw. Others install input line reactors that limit harmonic current draw. Most do not provide either. These VFD draw harmonic current that may be 90120% TDD. If harmonic reduction devices are installed per the manufacturer, compatibility of the filters must be reviewed to ensure the filters do not interact adversely.

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Can you provide an exact cost and space comparisons between 6-pulse, 12-pulse, 18-pulse, isolation transformer, regenerative VFD, parallel tuned filter, etc.? Exact cost and space comparisons between alternatives can be performed per project. General statements were addressed during the seminar. Please contact us at pqc@ca.schneider-electric.com to discuss your specific situation.

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I am using pumps for the irrigation of my golf course. All of my primary neutrals are overheating or burning up. How far will harmonics travel? Neutral heating can be the result of single-phase nonlinear loads or other problems, i.e. poor grounding issues. If single-phase nonlinear loads are present, the harmonic heating generally effects the neutral cables, distribution panels, and step down transformers. If there are no phase shifting transformers (such as delta-wye), the harmonics traverse the entire electrical system from the source to the nonlinear loads. Typically, single-phase loads are connected line-to-neutral and are downstream from isolation transformers (60 Hz systems). The neutral harmonics will not be seen on the primary but will be seen on the secondary of this transformer. If the singlephase loads are directly connected line-to-neutral from the 480 V or 400 V system, then neutral harmonics are present at these voltages.

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Do active harmonic filters fulfill the requirements of the welding industry, specifically, the dynamic nature of momentary loads and the large transients that are generated? Schneider Electric has two products that will provide support for the very high inrush current requirements of welders:
AccuSine, or AccuSine and a detuned passive PF capacitor bank (Hybrid VAR Compensation system)

Generally, in-rush current support is necessary so that the line voltage does not collapse and cause poor quality welds or flicker. Contact us at pqc@ca.schneiderelectric.com and one of our PQC specialists can assist you in selecting the right product for your unique application.

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Do Servo and stepper motor driver units in control systems give off or suffer from harmonics in the same way as large AC drive systems? All products that rectify AC power to DC power draw harmonic current through the electrical system. Single-phase rectifiers can generate up to 170% TDD. If the device is connected to the neutral, then the 3rd order harmonic is carried on the neutral and can be larger than the fundamental current. This can cause harmonic heating and destruction of the neutral if the neutral is not double the size of the line cables. As a general rule, the smaller the load rating the higher the %TDD levels. This becomes a problem when the voltage distortion increases or the cables overheat.

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Where can I find a complete information (book), about the harmonics problems, and solutions? There are some very good textbooks that define the subject and demonstrate application through actual case studies. Try one of the following:
Power System Harmonics, Jos Arrillaga and Neville R. Watson Power System Harmonics: Fundamentals, Analysis and Filter Design, George J. Wakileh

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What is the proper way to size the feeders to the AccuSine units and where should current transformers (CT) be mounted? AccuSine reduces the total rms current draw through upstream feeders. AccuSine has very little effect on downstream feeders. The nonlinear loads must draw nonlinear current and AccuSine provides it. As far as branch circuit protection for AccuSine and the cables connecting AccuSine to an electrical system, they need to be 125% of the AccuSine rating. The seminar discussed placement of CT with diagrams for simple installations. More complex installations, such as Main-tie-Main or Dual Power sources, should be discussed with one of our Power Quality Specialists at pqc@ca.schneiderelectric.com.

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What are some of the key things to look for with a PowerLogic monitor? The primary worry from a harmonic perspective is the THD (V). If this value is more than 5% and other equipment is malfunctioning, then further investigation is necessary to review the cause and potential solutions for limiting the harmonic current.

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How can I filter reflected power from variable frequency drives (VFD) ? How can I protect instrumentation without deviating from the nominal indicated line voltage? How can I address "voltage gain" problems and the associated error in the peak voltage?
Harmonic current is very similar to reactive current. The power source must provide both unless there are other devices in the electrical system to provide them. PF caps provide reactive current for the loads that need it, such as AC motors. Harmonic filters provide specific harmonics so that the source does have to provide. Voltage distortion usually is the cause of problems for instrumentation. Protection requires limiting the harmonic current that causes the voltage distortion. Whether this is beyond the normal or not could involve much discussion. Its reasonable to expect to gain a benefit from the devices that draw the nonlinear current. There may be no other (easier) way to do what the nonlinear device does. With nonlinear loads, it is normal to be wary and review the harmonic situation. Voltage gain may mean a voltage increase caused by too much capacitance within the electrical system. In other words, there is more capacitance installed than needed. This causes the line voltage to rise. The results are leading displacement power factor (Cos ) and resonance. Nonlinear loads draw current in pulses. The amplitude is higher than a sinusoidal current and thus the peak currents are larger than sinusoidal currents. This may reflect into voltage distortion that could increase the peak amplitude of the voltage.

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What is the most economical method of minimizing harmonics in hospital facilities/college classrooms/airport terminals? Its impossible to say there is a most economical solution for a general installation. Harmonics depend upon the source capacity, the electrical system impedance, the type of nonlinear loads installed, the type and quantity of linear loads installed, and the sensitivity of other loads installed. General statements can be made based upon experience, but specific evaluations are required per project. Contact one of our Power Quality Specialists at pqc@ca.schneider-electric.com to help you select the right solution for your application.

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How accurate are the models that estimate or determine the need for harmonic filters or similar equipment? Can a model be "calibrated" to account for actual or measured field conditions? Harmonic models vary greatly in accuracy. Some vendors of nonlinear load measurement or monitoring equipment may shape the output to justify a single solution that is advantageous to the company. However, the general models developed and sold as software for harmonic analyses that are developed by nonaligned companies (have no product to sell) are as good as the data entered. Accuracy of information is the limiting factor for these programs. The programs can be tweaked through good information. Harmonic site studies provide accurate data so that a program can correctly model any electrical system.

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How "pure" does a power source have to be without affecting other equipment? What type of equipment is more sensitive to harmonics and what are the acceptable limits for harmonic distortion for sensitive equipment? IEEE 519-1992 addresses the utility supply through voltage distortion discussions in Chapter 11. For electrical systems 69 kV and lower, utilities are required to provide THD (V) no higher than 5%. There are no standards for equipment tolerance to harmonics in North America. Tolerance levels will vary even within a single product provided by one vendor. Generally, electronic products are more susceptible to harmonics than other types of products.

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How much longer do you think it will be before government regulation goes into effect demanding that major users clean up their power quality? In the United States, there is no plan or law to require harmonic clean up and local utilities manage the situation. Around the world, some governments have implemented regulations as law that limit the levels of harmonic current drawn by all users.

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What are the pros and cons of transformers (k-rated, zero sequence) for harmonic reduction? As a general statement, transformers do nothing except offer impedance for harmonics. K-factor transformers do very little for harmonics. Total Harmonic Current Distortion (THD (I)) is the same on the primary as on the secondary. The K-factor merely defines the amount of harmonic current the transformer can handle and not burn up. Zigzag (or zero sequence) transformers are designed to shunt triplen harmonics from the neutral to the AC lines. This reduces the harmonic current on the neutral but increases the THD (I) on the AC lines. Some transformers are used as phase shifting transformers for multi-pulse nonlinear loads. The effect is to reduce the harmonic current on the primary side of the transformer.

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Can active filters be used with power factor correction capacitors? Active filters can be used in conjunction with PF capacitor systems. AccuSine, specifically, can be used to remove the harmonic current such that the PF caps do not see harmonic current and thus will not overheat or resonate.

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