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Paper accepted for presentation at 2003 IEEE Bologna Power Tech Conference, June 23th-26th, Bologna, Italy

Microcontroller Based Semiconductor Tap Changer for Power Transformer

N. F. Mailah, Member, IEEE, S. M. Bashi, Member, IEEE and W. H. Meng

AbstractA prototype of a fully electronic on-load semiconductor tap changer for power transformer has been designed and built. With the emergence of high power semiconductor devices, problems associated with the mechanical on-load tap changer have been properly rectified. In this work, the prototype was constructed with triacs as the switching devices and microcontroller as the triggering circuit. The results obtained from this work show that the prototype has a faster time response of approximately 0.44s to react to any load changes. It also produces no arching problems as it has no mechanical contacts and requires no maintenance, and can be considered as one of the fast solutions of the voltage sag or voltage swell. The system has been tested for reliability and proven to be reliable in maintaining the output voltage of the system. Index TermsTap changer, voltage sag, voltage swell, microcontroller, voltage regulation, power transformer1

NE of the main concerns of any power utilities is the quality of the power supplied to the customers, as these customers demanded an uninterrupted supply with a minimum case of disruption. By addressing these concerns, the power utilities can reduce the cost related in generating, transmitting, distributing and maintaining the power system. There are several measures that have been taken to rectify these problems, such as by employing voltage regulator, capacitor and dc stored energy. In this paper, focus is being given to the power transformer with tap changer; on-load and off-load. The former is preferable, as there is no disconnection of the power transformer when changing the tap setting, thus the operation of supplying the load demand is remained uninterrupted. Lately, online monitoring of power transformer has become of interest to the power utilities, as the power transformer is one of the most expensive single elements of the high voltage transmission system [1]. The problem to conventional tap changer is contributed to its mechanical structure of complicated gear mechanisms of selectors, diverters and switches. These arrangements are slow in response and susceptible to contact wear condition and
N. F. Mailah is with the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia (e-mail: S. M. Bashi is with the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia (e-mail:


deterioration of insulating oil, thus, requires regular maintenance [2]. On-load tap changer power transformers are an essential part of any modern power system, since they allow voltages to be maintained at desired levels despite the load changes. Although the first on-load tap changers were developed in the early part of this century, modern versions still have not altered radically from these designs and in essence, they are complex mechanical device [3]. Mechanically on-load tap changer power transformer arched during tap changing processes. To address this situation, Roberts and Ashman [4] had described an arrangement of diverter switch of thyristors pairs connected across the arcing contacts. This is further developed to a single diverter resistance and then to inverse parallel thyristor pairs which are connected across a set of mechanical switch contacts [5]. Shuttleworth et. al [3] in their paper had outlined and discussed a new design scheme for tap changing scheme. Instead of using oil-immersed contact and complicated mechanical drive, a vacuum switch and bistable electromechanical actuator were used. These vacuum switches had the advantages of high power handling capability and long life, thus, suitable for the use as the selector. The proposed diverter, consisting of two solid-state switches, was to be connected between each of the selector output leads and star point and in parallel with those two solid-state switches. With this arrangement, the two solid-state switches were relieved from conduction loss and protected from over-current due to through faults during tap changing. Modern GTO thyristors are now approaching the power ratings of large standard thyristors, and can eliminate the need to monitor power factor, since they are able to turn off with a forward applied voltage [6]. Shuttleworth et. al. [3] had also proposed a faster form of GTO assisted tap changer with the advantage of reduced transformer outages. The speed of the intended vacuum switch moving contact is now controllable, since fatigue in the stainless steel bellows is the prime limitation, and reverts to fast operation during a system fault [7]. Asymmetric GTO thyristors in a bridge configuration, formed from one GTO and four diodes is employed as it is cheaper and produces no steady-state losses [3]. The application of semiconductor or solid state devices in designing the tap changer have the advantage of faster response, almost virtually maintenance free and better performance in term of power quality when compared to its conventional counterpart. The only setback of solid-state

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devices is cost efficiency and high conduction loss. Furthermore, as solid-state devices must be permanently connected in the circuit, some sort of protection against highvoltage surges travelling down the transformer winding is required [8]-[9]. Two forms of alternative design of tap changer have been proposed; fully electronic and electronically assisted. Fully electronic tap changer relies upon thyristor technology, while electronically assisted tap changer attempt in maintaining the mechanical essence of the standard tap changer but with improved maintainability by incorporating semiconductors to eliminate contact arching. Fully electronic schemes are inherently fast and maintenance free, but expansive to construct when compared to its thyristor assisted counterpart, and it does not address the problem of operating speed and mechanical reliability [2]. Other than the improvement made on the tap changer designs, a control algorithm using Discrete Cycle Modulation (DCM) and Fuzzy Logic Controller (FLC) has also being explored and tested [9]-[10]. In this paper, the improvement is concentrated on maintaining the voltage supply by changing tap setting via microcontroller through triac assisted selector. The results obtained from this experiment show that the proposed semiconductor tap changer is able to monitor the voltage supply and maintain it within the specified range. The system takes approximately 0.44s to response to the load changes. II. SEMICONDUCTOR TAP CHANGER The main interest in this paper is to design a fully electronic tap changer with a prototype constructed as the model of the operation as shown in Fig. 1. Triacs are used as the switching device to turn on the selected tap of the power transformer. Microcontroller with its loaded software acts as the triggering element to the triac. Step-down transformer and opto-coupler isolator is connected between the input and output of the microcontroller, respectively, thus isolating the low voltage circuit of the microcontroller from the damaging high voltage circuit of the power transformer.

Fig. 2 shows the detailed blocks diagram for the semiconductor tap changer used in this work. A few extra devices are inserted in the prototype to provide a better accuracy and safety for the system. A feedback loop circuit of 110V/6V step-down transformer, rectifier, peak detector, filter and opto-transistor, is incorporated into the prototype. Its function is to convert the 110V AC line voltage to an acceptable DC level voltage for the microcontroller operation and provide a protection from damaging the microcontroller.

Fig. 2. Block diagram of detailed on-load electronic semiconductor tap changer.

Fig. 1. The layout of the prototype of the on-load electronic semiconductor tap changer.

The rectifier converts the AC voltage signal to DC voltage signal. As the output of the rectifier is not constant but with ripples, peak detector and filter is employed to get a better signals. Peak detector will detects the peak value of the rectifiers output signal and gives a constant DC equivalent voltage and then the filter will filtered out any noise and further improve the signals so that it is free from any ripples and within a certain range of frequencies. While the optotransistor acts as an electric isolator to protect the input of the microcontroller. NMIT-0020 F68HC11 microcontroller is used as the logical central process control to process the input signal and produce a suitable output signal according to the program loaded into the microprocessor. The microcontroller acts as a trigger by injecting pulses to the selected triac representing the appropriate taps. At any instant, only one triac will be in its ON state while the others are in OFF state. Fig. 3 shows the connection of the microcontroller, resistors, opto-couplers, triac circuits, load and power transformer. Opto-coupler protects the output of the microcontroller from the high voltage value of the power transformer. It also functions to maintain the ON-OFF switching operation of the triac. When the microcontroller has samples the DC voltage from the rectifier, and determines the appropriate tap setting to maintain the voltage, it will generate pulse signal to the designated opto-coupler. This opto-coupler will then activates the triac connected to it.

Once the triac is ON, it will stay ON until the gate terminal voltage of the triac falls below the holding current. The rest three triacs are at its OFF condition and will continues to be in this condition until the microcontroller decides to change its tap setting based on the output of the load. So, when the microcontroller senses changes in the load voltage, it will compute the new tap setting and gives an appropriate pulse to the selected opto-coupler. It will then turn on the triac and the load voltage will returns to normal. The software loaded into the microcontroller is written using PROCOMM. It samples the input given to the microcontroller and compares the value with the determined value written in the program. The software has been given a set value of 100V. The signal is first converted to digital value by the internal analog-to-digital converter before the microcontroller could processes the information. If the value is 10% more or 10% less than the nominal value, the microcontroller will quickly change the tapping to a lower or a higher taps setting respectively. Microcontroller will continue changing the setting to maintain the voltage within the set value. If the tap setting is at its maximum or minimum, alarm signal will be generated and indicated by the flashing LEDs.

Otherwise, the taps setting will remain unchanged. The flowchart of the program is shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 3. circuit.

Diagram of the connection of the opto-coupler isolator and triac

Fig. 4 Flowchart of the triacs triggering program.

III. RESULT AND DISCUSSION The power transformer of input voltage of 240V has 4 taps setting; tap 1, tap 2, tap 3 and tap 4, arranged in increasing voltage value of 95V, 100V, 105V and 110V respectively. The nominal output voltage of the power transformer is set at 100V and load current of 5A. At this condition, the tap 2 is ON. The prototype was tested for its reliability by measuring the output voltage of the transformer when the input voltage was increased steadily. Each time the power transformer changes its tap setting, the output voltage was recorded. The increment stopped when the alarm indicator for voltage too high turned on. The experiment was then repeated for decreasing voltage value until the alarm indicator for voltage too low turned on. The power transformer was set with an intended output voltage of 1005V. The results were recorded in Table 1.

Fig. 5 shows the waveform of the power transformers output voltage without tap changer. As the heavy load is switched on, there is a voltage drop occurs at the secondary side. However, with the semiconductor tap changer, the microcontroller detects the situation and changed the tap setting from tap 2 to tap 3 in a period of 0.44s, hence the voltage increased to the permissible level as displayed in Fig. 6. Fig. 7 shows the closed-up voltage correction when the voltage drops due to switching on heavy load of Fig. 6.

Fig. 5. Switching on heavy load without the microcontroller semiconductor tap changer.

From the table, it is shown that as the output voltage increased, the microcontroller generates pulse to decrease its taps setting by 1 (changing from tap 2 to tap 1) in order to maintain the output voltage at nominal value. When the output value exceeds 105V, V high indicator lights up, showing that the system is in dangerous state. The input voltage of the power transformer was then decreased and the output voltage dropped. The microcontroller then generates pulse to increase the taps setting by 1 (changing from tap 1 to tap 2) and continues to do so until the output voltage is within 100V. If the input voltage falls below 95V, V low indicator lights up, showing that the system is in dangerous state. From this table, it is clearly indicates that the microcontroller manages to maintain the system at its nominal voltage and it is reliable. The system was also tested with a heavy load at the secondary side switched on and switched off, with and without the tap changer.

Fig. 6. Switching on heavy load with the microcontroller semiconductor tap changer.

440ms 99V 91.9V 96.9V

Fig. 7. Closed-up of switched on heavy load with the microcontroller semiconductor tap changer of Fig. 6.

It is then repeated by switching off a heavy load at secondary side. Fig. 8 shows the increment of the voltage value. With the presence of tap changer, the microcontroller detects the situation and generates a response to decrease the tap setting from tap 3 to tap 2. In a period of 0.4s, the output voltage was restored to its permissible value as shown in Fig. 9. Fig. 10 shows the closed-up voltage correction when the voltage increases due to switching off heavy load Fig. 9.

Any variation of the output voltage of the power transformer will be detected by the microcontroller, which in turn computes and executes necessary command instruction to be pass on to the appropriate triac. The semiconductor tap changer will changes the tap position when the variation is out of the permissible range. Thus the voltage of the system could be maintained at nominal value. From the results, the prototype of the microcontroller semiconductor tap changer had shown that it could maintain the output voltage of the power transformer within its specified value of 1005V. IV. CONCLUSIONS A prototype of fully electronic on-load tap changer has been built and tested. Triac devices as the switching device that had eliminated all disadvantages of arching, contact wear and maintenance that associated with conventional mechanical tap changer. With these semiconductor devices and microcontroller as the processing element, the response time of the tap changer had been improved to approximately 0.44s. The result obtained from the experiment had showed that the tap changer was able to maintain output voltage level by varying the tap setting each time the input voltage changes. V. REFERENCES
T. Leibfried, Online monitoring of power transformer system technology and data evaluation, in 11th International symposium On High Voltage Engineering, vol. 5, no. 467, pp. 184-187. [2] Hao Jiang, Roger Shuttleworth, Bashar A. T. Al Zahawi, Xiaolin Tian and Andrew Power, Fast response GTO assisted novel tap changer, IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 111-115, Jan. 2001. [3] R. Shuttleworth, X. Tian, C. Fan and A. Power, New tap changing scheme, in IEE Proc., Electric Power Application, vol. 143, no. 1, pp. 108-112, Jan. 1996. [4] M. E. Roberts and W. G. Ashman, A thyristor assisted mechanical onload tap changer, in IEE Conference Publication 53, Power Thyristor and Their Applications, pp. 185-192, 1969. [5] G. H. Cooke and K. T. Williams, New thyristor assisted diverter switch for on-load transformer tap changers, in IEE Proceedings-B, vol. 139, no. 6, pp. 507-511, Nov. 1992. [6] R. Shuttleworth, A.J. Power, X. Tian, H. Jiang, and B. A. T. Al Zahawi, A novel thyristor-assisted tap changer scheme, in CIRED 97, IEE Conference Publication No. 438, pp.1.28.1-1.28.5, June 1997. [7] P. Barkan, A study of the influence of dynamic overstressing and annealing on the fatigue life of convoluted bellow, in Israel J. Tech., vol. 9, no. 6, pp. 591-578, 1971. [8] R. C. Degeneff, A new concept for solid-state on-load tap changers, in CIRED 97, IEE Conference Publication No. 438, pp. 1.7.1-1.7.4, June 1997. [9] Osman Demirci, David A. Torrey, Robert C. Degeneff, Friedrich K. Schaeffer, and Robert H. Frazer, A new approach to solid-state on-load tap changing transformers, IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, vol. 13, no. 3, July 1998. [10] B. Kasztenny, E. Rosolowski, J. Izykowski, M. M. Saha and B. Hillstrom, Fuzzy logic controller for on-load transformer tap changer, IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, vol. 13, no. 1, Jan. 1998. [1]

Fig. 8. Switching off heavy load without the microcontroller semiconductor tap changer.

Fig. 9. Switching off heavy load with the microcontroller semiconductor tap changer.

400ms 97.6V 105.3V 99V

Fig. 10. Closed-up of switched off heavy load with the microcontroller semiconductor tap changer of Fig. 9.

N. F. Mailah graduated with B. Eng. degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Huddersfield, UK in 1999 and obtained her M. Eng. from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia in 2001. She is currently a lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia. S. M. Bashi graduated from University of Mosul, Iraq in Electrical and Electronics Engineering (1969). He received his Ph.D. in Simulation of power transmission system from Loughborough University of Technology, England (1980). Since 1999, he is with the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia. His area of research interest includes; power system analysis and design, quality of power supply, simulation and application of power electronics systems, and machines drives. W. H. Meng was a student in the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia. He graduated from the university in 2002.