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Harmonics sources from industrial loads

1. Three phase power converters 2. DC drives 3. AC drives 4. Impact operating condition 5. Thevenin’s Equivalent - Arcing Devices 6. Saturable devices


Harmonics sources from industrial loads:


Modern industrial facilities are characterized by the widespread application of nonlinear loads. These loads can make up a significant portion of the total facility loads and inject harmonic currents into the power system, causing harmonic distortion in the voltage. This harmonic problem is compounded by the fact that these nonlinear loads have a relatively low power factor. Industrial facilities often utilize capacitor banks to improve the power factor to avoid penalty charges. The application of power factor correction capacitors can potentially magnify harmonic currents from the nonlinear loads, giving rise to resonance conditions within the facility. The highest voltage distortion level usually occurs at the facility’s low-voltage bus where the capacitors are applied. Resonance conditions cause motor and transformer overheating, and misoperation of sensitive electronic equipment.


Nonlinear industrial loads can generally be grouped into three categories: three-phase power converters, arcing devices, and saturable devices. Sections 4.6.1 to 4.6.3 detail the industrial load characteristics.


1. Three-phase power converters


Three-phase electronic power converters differ from single-phase converters mainly because they do not generate third-harmonic currents. This is a great advantage because the third-harmonic current is the largest component of harmonics. However, they can still be significant sources of harmonics at their characteristic frequencies, as shown in Fig. 4.9. This is a typical current source type of adjustable-speed drive. The harmonic spectrum given in Fig. 4.9 would also be typical of a dc motor drive input current. Voltage source inverter drives (such as PWM-type drives) can have much higher distortion levels as shown in Fig. 4.10.


The input to the PWM drive is generally designed like a three-phase version of the switch-mode power supply in computers. The rectifier feeds directly from the ac bus to a large capacitor on the dc bus. With little intentional inductance, the capacitor is charged in very short pulses, creating the distinctive “rabbit ear” ac-side current waveform with very high distortion. Whereas the switch-mode power supplies are generally for very small loads, PWM drives are now being applied for loads up to 500 horsepower (hp). This is a justifiable cause for concern from power engineers.


2. DC drives.

Rectification is the only step required for dc drives. Therefore, they have the advantage of relatively simple control systems. Compared with ac drive systems, the dc drive offers a wider speed range and higher starting torque. However, purchase and maintenance costs for dc motors are high, while the cost of power electronic devices has been dropping year after year. Thus, economic considerations limit use of the dc drive to applications that require the speed and torque characteristics of the dc motor.


Most dc drives use the six-pulse rectifier shown in Fig. 4.11. Large drives may employ a 12-pulse rectifier. This reduces thyristor current duties and reduces some of the larger ac current harmonics. The two largest harmonic currents for the six-pulse drive are the fifth and seventh.


They are also the most troublesome in terms of system response. A 12-pulse rectifier in this application can be expected to eliminate about 90 percent of the fifth and seventh harmonics, depending on system imbalances. The disadvantages of the 12-pulse drive are that there is more cost in electronics and another transformer is generally required.


3. AC drives.

In ac drives, the rectifier output is inverted to produce a variable-frequency ac voltage for the motor. Inverters are classified as voltage source inverters (VSIs) or current source inverters (CSIs). A VSI requires a constant dc (i.e., low-ripple) voltage input to the inverter stage. This is achieved with a capacitor or LC filter in the dc link. The CSI requires a constant current input; hence, a series inductor is placed in the dc link.


AC drives generally use standard squirrel cage induction motors. These motors are rugged, relatively low in cost, and require little maintenance. Synchronous motors are used where precise speed control is critical.


A popular ac drive configuration uses a VSI employing PWM techniques to synthesize an ac waveform as a train of variable-width dc pulses (see Fig. 4.11). The inverter uses either SCRs, gate turnoff (GTO) thyristors, or power transistors for this purpose. Currently, the VSI PWM drive offers the best energy efficiency for applications over a wide speed range for drives up through at least 500 hp. Another advantage of PWM drives is that, unlike other types of drives, it is not necessary to vary rectifier output voltage to control motor speed. This allows the rectifier thyristors to be replaced with diodes, and the thyristor control circuitry to be eliminated.



Very high power drives employ SCRs and inverters. These may be 6- pulse, as shown in Fig. 4.12, or like large dc drives, 12-pulse. VSI drives (Fig. 4.12a) are limited to applications that do not require rapid changes in speed. CSI drives (Fig. 4.12b) have good acceleration/deceleration characteristics but require a motor with a leading power factor (synchronous or induction with capacitors) or added control circuitry to commutate the inverter thyristors. In either case, the CSI drive must be designed for use with a specific motor. Thyristors in current source inverters must be protected against inductive voltage spikes, which increases the cost of this type of drive.


4. Impact of operating condition.

The harmonic current distortion in adjustable-speed drives is not constant. The waveform changes significantly for different speed and torque values. Figure 4.13 shows two operating conditions for a PWM adjustablespeed drive. While the waveform at 42 percent speed is much more distorted proportionately, the drive injects considerably higher magnitude harmonic currents at rated speed. The bar chart shows the amount of current injected. This will be the limiting design factor, not the highest THD. Engineers should be careful to understand the basis of data and measurements concerning these drives before making design decisions


5. Arcing devices


This category includes arc furnaces, arc welders, and discharge-type lighting (fluorescent, sodium vapor, mercury vapor) with magnetic


(rather than electronic) ballasts. As shown in Fig. 4.14, the arc is basically a voltage clamp in series with a reactance that limits current to a reasonable value.


The voltage-current characteristics of electric arcs are nonlinear. Following arc ignition, the voltage decreases as the arc current increases, limited only by the impedance of the power system. This gives the arc the appearance of having a negative resistance for a portion of its operating cycle such as in fluorescent lighting applications.


In electric arc furnace applications, the limiting impedance is primarily the furnace cable and leads with some contribution from the power system and furnace transformer. Currents in excess of 60,000 A are common.


The electric arc itself is actually best represented as a source of voltage harmonics. If a probe were to be placed directly across the arc, one would observe a somewhat trapezoidal waveform. Its magnitude is largely a function of the length of the arc. However, the impedance of ballasts or furnace leads acts as a buffer so that the supply voltage is only moderately distorted. The arcing load thus appears to be a relatively stable harmonic current source, which is adequate for most analyses. The exception occurs when the system is near resonance and a Thevenin equivalent model using the arc voltage waveform gives more realistic answers.


6. Saturable devices


Equipment in this category includes transformers and other electromagnetic devices with a steel core, including motors. Harmonics are generated due to the nonlinear magnetizing characteristics of the steel (see Fig. 4.15).


Power transformers are designed to normally operate just below the “knee” point of the magnetizing saturation characteristic. The operating flux density of a transformer is selected based on a complicated optimization of steel cost, no-load losses, noise, and numerous other factors. Many electric utilities will penalize transformer vendors by various amounts for no-load and load losses, and the vendor will try to meet the specification with a transformer that has the lowest evaluated cost. A high-cost penalty on the no-load losses or noise will generally result in more steel in the core and a higher saturation curve that yields lower harmonic currents.


Although transformer exciting current is rich in harmonics at normal operating voltage (see Fig. 4.16), it is typically less than 1 percent of rated full load current. Transformers are not as much of a concern as electronic power converters and arcing devices which can produce harmonic currents of 20 percent of their rating, or higher. However, their effect will be noticeable, particularly on utility distribution systems, which have hundreds of transformers. It is common to notice a significant increase in triplen harmonic currents during the early morning hours when the load is low and the voltage rises. Transformer exciting current is more visible then because there is insufficient load to obscure it and the increased voltage causes more current to be produced. Harmonic voltage distortion from transformer over excitation is generally only apparent under these light load conditions.


Some transformers are purposefully operated in the saturated region. One example is a triplen transformer used to generate 180 Hz for induction furnaces.


Motors also exhibit some distortion in the current when overexcited, although it is generally of little consequence. There are, however, some fractional horsepower, single-phase motors that have a nearly triangular waveform with significant third-harmonic currents.

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