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HOME > POWER QUALITY > IMPROVING POWER FACTOR WITH VARIABLE SPEED AC DRIVES

Improving Power Factor with Variable Speed AC Drives
Mauri Peltola, ABB | Electrical Construction and Maintenance
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The installation of AC drives can yield some predictable benefits and some not-so-predictable side effects

Utility power plant generators are usually designed for a power factor (PF) of .8 to .9. If demand-side PF is lower than the designed PF, the generator current will rise above the equipment's rated current or the active power output must be limited. As a result, these utilities put limits on reactive power consumed by their customers, who have to pay a penalty if their PF falls below certain limits, which can range from .8 to .97.

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Electric motors connected to the power line are the main reason for reduced PF. The rated PF of a standard motor depends on its rated power and, typically, is around .85. However, it can be much lower if the motor is lightly loaded (Fig. 1).

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Fig. 1. Graph of line current and power factor of a 55kW AC induction motor as funtion of its load. Before examining its effects on motors, a discussion of PF is in order. The term power factor is often confused with cos φ (phi). PF is defined as the ratio of real or active power (P), expressed in total kilowatts, to total apparent power (S), expressed in kilovolt amps:

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Remember that cos φ is equal to power factor only when both system voltage (U) and system current (I) are sinusoidal and at the same frequency. In real-world electrical installations, both voltages and currents contain harmonics, so the power factor won't be equal to cos φ.

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From Fig. What does this mean in reduced losses and saved money? The losses in the power line.. and cables are proportional to the square of the current. The active power input. and power factor=0. PF due to the motor's inductive reactance. 4..5kW The formula for real power (P) in a 3-phase systems is as follows: Using this formula yields the output and input currents of the drive: The drive input current from the supply is more than 5% lower than the drive output current to the motor.com/power-quality/improving-power-factor-variable-sp.5kW) than the output from the drive. The PF to the AC line on a pulse width modulated (PWM) drive with a diode bridge converter input is near unity (Fig.. efficiency=98% and power factor=0. The AC drive input current under these conditions is 60A. The DC voltage (Ud) is then converted in the inverter to variable frequency and variable voltage AC that is connected to the AC motor. usually insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) in modern drives. efficiency=94. the motor current at 35kW is 65A. the motor's reactive current is circulated between the motor and the inverter but not to the input line. transformers. savings.5A Input voltage=400V.2kW higher (58. Switches V1 to V6 in the inverter are very fast semiconductors. or lagging. Fig.3kW.Improving Power Factor with Variable Speed AC Drives | Power Quali. http://ecmweb. To better understand the process by which AC drives can improve PF. The drive input consists of a rectifier bridge that converts the line AC voltage to DC voltage.4%.3kW vs. Assume the average load on the 55kW motor is 35kW. is 1. instead.. 59. You can estimate this as follows. 94. 4 below).96 Input power=58. 1. However. Motor mechanical power=55kW Input voltage=400V. 1.89 Motor electrical input power=55kW÷0. The smoothing of the DC voltage is made via an inductor (L) and capacitor (C). and reduce wear on the machinery. The reduction of losses when operating the motor from an AC drive is described by the following equation: 3 of 5 21/02/2013 18:39 . refer to the voltage level and motor and drive system in Fig.98=59. Schematic of a variable speed AC drive. This is how an AC variable speed drive (VSD) can improve the PF and how the drive's output current can be greater than the input current.944 = 58.3kW Output power of drive=58. Such drives also have the added benefit of improving PF. The output may have an inductive.3kW÷0. The AC drive reduces the input current from 65A to 60A.

PF is important to several parties in the power generation and consumption marketplace. the usual reason to install an AC drive isn't for PF improvement but for better process controls. The lower the speed. while improving process control. saving electrical energy. Industrial. and/or reduced wear of the machinery. which causes a phase shift between voltage and current.. Manufacturers of power-factor-correction equipment are willing to sell capacitor banks and automation equipment to help improve the power factor. SHARE SHARE Tweet Recommend 0 Discuss this Article 0 4 of 5 21/02/2013 18:39 . screening. consumers. VSDs help solve the power factor problem. and suitable mechanical construction inside the drive cabinet. International regulations set limits on both low. and other interest groups with audits and plans for better energy economy and achieving higher power factors..and high-frequency emissions. 5). PF comparison between AC and DC drives The main difference between standard AC and DC drives is that PWM AC drives have a diode rectifier on the front end while DC drives have an SCR rectifier. Due to the fast switching inside the AC drive. Helsinki. and reducing machinery wear.. which can take the form of conductive and radiating interference. ABB Oy.com/power-quality/improving-power-factor-variable-sp. especially in the lower speed ranges (Fig. including the following. Remember. the AC drive can reduce these losses to about 4%.Improving Power Factor with Variable Speed AC Drives | Power Quali. With the use of filters. energy savings in the process. the larger the phase shifts. Drive and motor manufacturers can also help to improve the power factor with variable speed drives. Power production and transmission companies would like to sell as much active power as possible to their customers. there's a risk of electromagnetic emissions. 5. it's possible to meet the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) standards. Peltola is emeritus director of marketing for drives and motors. This reduces the PF of DC drives. Finland. commercial. Fig. Low power factor can reduce the generating and transmission capacity. http://ecmweb. If total losses on the supply side are 5% of the average load. PF improvement is a positive side effect. Consultants have an interest in helping power companies. Power factor of AC and DC drives as function of motor speed. The control principle of the SCR rectifier is based on phase control with line commutation. Low PF can mean extra losses and penalty payments to the utility for excessive reactive power. and domestic customers want to get the most cost effective electrical installation to serve their machinery..