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Prepared on Request of Cigr 36.05/CIRED 2 (Voltage Quality) Thomas E. Grebe, PE

Electrotek Concepts, Inc.

The application of transmission and distribution system capacitor banks has long been accepted as a necessary step in the design of utility power systems. Design considerations often include traditional factors such as voltage and var support, power factor, and released capacity. However, as customer systems evolve through the use of power electronics, the capacitor bank system design of the future will include power quality as a consideration. The term power quality has many different meanings, perhaps as many as attempt to describe its impact on system operation. The electric utility may describe power quality as reliability and quote statistics stating that the system is 99.95% reliable. The equipment manufacturer often defines power quality as the characteristics of the power supply, which may vary drastically for different vendors. However, the customer is the party ultimately affected by power quality related problems and the best definition should include his perspective. Considering each of these factors, the following definition is often used: Power Quality Problem: "Any power problem manifested in voltage, current, or frequency deviations that results in the failure or misoperation of customer equipment." There are many events that can cause a power quality problem. Analysis of these events is often difficult due to the fact that the cause of the event may be related to a switching operation within the facility or to a power system fault hundreds of miles away. This paper evaluates several of the more common power quality problems associated with the application of transmission and distribution system capacitor banks.

The frequent switching of transmission and distribution capacitor banks coupled with the increasing application of sensitive customer equipment has led to a heightened awareness of these important events: 1. 2. Magnification of capacitor switching transients. Nuisance tripping of adjustable-speed drives.

These concerns have become particularly important as utilities institute higher power factor penalties, thereby encouraging customers to install power factor correction capacitors. In addition, nontraditional customer loads, such as adjustable-speed drives, are being applied in increasing numbers due to the improved efficiencies and flexibility that can be achieved. This type of load can be very sensitive to the transient voltages produced during capacitor switching. The most common methods for controlling these transients include the application of switching control (synchronous closing, preinsertion inductors/resistors) and series inductances, often referred to as chokes.

Capacitor Switching Transients

Capacitor switching is considered to be a normal event on a utility system and the transients associated with these operations are generally not a problem for utility equipment. However, the transients can be magnified in a customer facility if the customer has low voltage power factor correction capacitors. In addition, nuisance tripping of adjustable-speed drives can occur, even if the customer does not have capacitors. Because capacitor voltage cannot change instantaneously, energization of a capacitor bank results in an immediate drop in system voltage toward zero, followed by a fast voltage recovery (overshoot) and finally an oscillating transient voltage superimposed on the 60 Hz fundamental waveform (illustrated in Figure 5). The peak voltage magnitude depends on the instantaneous system voltage at the moment of energization, and can reach 2.0 times the normal system peak voltage (per-unit) under worst-case conditions. The magnitude is usually less than this due to system loads and damping (resistive elements). Typical

San Marcos Capacitor Switching Study

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distribution system overvoltage levels range from 1.1 to 1.6 per unit. Transient frequencies due to utility distribution capacitor switching usually fall in the range 300-1000 Hz. Transient overvoltages which result are usually not of concern to the utility, since peak magnitudes are just below the level in which utility surge protection, such as arresters, begins to operate. However, because of the relatively low frequency, these transients will pass through step-down transformers to customer loads. Secondary overvoltages can cause voltage magnification or nuisance tripping of adjustable-speed drives.
9997 Phase A Voltage Wave Fault 150 100 50 0
% Volts


The size of the switched capacitor bank is significantly larger (>10) than the low voltage power factor correction bank (i.e. 3 mvar vs. 200 kvar = 15 - refer to Figure 2). The energizing frequency (f1) is close to the series resonant frequency formed by the step-down transformer and the power factor correction capacitor bank (f2) f1 = 490 Hz and f2 = 670 Hz - refer to Figure 2). There is relatively little damping (resistive) provided by the low voltage load (typical industrial plant configuration primarily motor load).



June 06, 1994 at 06:12:17 PQNode Local Trigger Max 134.9 Min -114.7 Duration 0.011 Sec Ref Cycle 39476

-50 -100 -150 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

Uncalibrated Data
Time (mSeconds)

Previous computer simulations and in-plant measurements have indicated that magnified transients between 2.0 and 4.0 per-unit are possible over a wide range of low voltage capacitor sizes. Typically, the transient overvoltages will simply damage low-energy protective devices (MOVs) or cause a nuisance trip of a power electronic device. However, there have been several cases of complete failure of customer equipment (single device). Solutions to the voltage magnification usually involve:

9997 Phase A Current Wave Fault 400 300 200 100 0 -100 -200 -300 -400 0 10 20 30

June 06, 1994 at 06:12:17 PQNode Local

Max Min 397.9 -303.7

De-tuning the circuit by changing capacitor bank sizes, moving banks, and/or removing banks from service.

b) Switching large banks in more than one section.

40 50 60 70
Uncalibrated Data

Time (mSeconds)

b) Using one of the previously described overvoltage control methods (pre-insertion resistor/inductor or synchronous closing control). c) Applying surge arresters (MOVs) at the remote location.

Figure 1 - Example Distribution Capacitor Energizing Feeder Voltage and Current Power quality symptoms related to distribution capacitor switching include: customer equipment damage or failure (due to excessive overvoltage), adjustable-speed drive or other process equipment shutdown (due to dc bus overvoltage), TVSS failure, and computer network problems.

d) Converting low voltage power factor correction banks into harmonic filters (de-tuning the circuit).

Nuisance Tripping of Adjustable-Speed Drives

Nuisance tripping refers to the undesired shutdown of an adjustable-speed drive (or other power electronic process device) due to the transient overvoltage on the devices dc bus. Very often, this overvoltage is caused by transmission and/or distribution capacitor bank energization. Considering the fact that many distribution banks are time clock controlled, it is easy to see how this event can occur on a regular basis, thereby causing numerous process interruptions for the plant.

Voltage Magnification
Voltage magnification occurs when the transient oscillation, initiated by the energization of a utility capacitor bank, excites a series resonance formed by the low voltage system. The result is a higher overvoltage at the low voltage bus. Previous analysis has indicated that the worst magnified transient occurs when the following conditions are met:

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The nuisance tripping event consists of an overvoltage trip due to a dc bus overvoltage on voltage-source inverter drives (pulse-width modulated - PWM). Typically, for the protection of the dc capacitor and inverter components, the dc bus voltage is monitored and the drive tripped when it exceeds a preset level. The potential for nuisance tripping is primarily dependent on the switched capacitor bank size, overvoltage controls for the switched bank, the dc bus capacitor size, and the inductance between the two capacitors. It is important to note that nuisance tripping can occur even if the customer does not have power factor correction capacitors. Figure 2 illustrates an example of the voltage magnification and nuisance tripping phenomena using a oneline diagram approach.

limit (clip) the overvoltage at local and remote locations. These devices include:

Pre-insertion distribution)




Pre-insertion inductors (transmission) Synchronous distribution) closing (transmission and

Fixed inductors (transmission and distribution) MOV arresters (transmission and distribution)

Previous studies (digital simulation and TNA) have

Transmission System Equivalent Distribution Substation Transformer 12.5kV Bus SC = 200 MVA

Distribution System Parameters: 12.5kV source strength 12.5kV capacitor size 12.5kV feeder load Preinsertion resistor size Plant Load Summary : Compensation - Bus #1 PWM ASD (no choke) PWM ASD (3% choke)

200 MVA 3 MVAr 5 MW 6.4

200 kVAr 25 HP 100 HP

Distribution Feeder PCC - Point of Common Coupling Substation Capacitor Bank - 3 MVAr Other Feeders 5MW Total 1500 kVA 6% 480V Bus #1 1500 kVA Ztx = 6% 480V Bus #2

25 HP 200 kVAr


M V A sc 60 = MVA r

200 60 = 490 Hz 3

3% Choke
100 HP


(100 * kVA tx ) 60 = (100 * 1500 ) 60 = 670 Hz


* Z tx %

200 * 6 .0

Figure 2 - Oneline Diagram Illustration of Voltage Magnification and Nuisance Tripping - Example System

Overview of Overvoltage Mitigation Techniques

The devices currently available for transient overvoltage control either attempt to minimize the transient overvoltage (or overcurrent) at the point of application, or

suggested that the effectiveness of these control methods is system dependent, and that detailed analysis is required to select the optimum control scheme. While often justifiable for large transmission applications, analysis of distribution system capacitor applications is rarely completed, and in general, banks are installed without transient overvoltage control. Each of these methods has various advantages and disadvantages in terms of transient overvoltage reduction, cost, installation

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requirements, operating/maintenance requirements, and reliability. Pre-insertion Impedance: A pre-insertion impedance (resistor or inductor) provides a means for reducing the transient currents and voltages associated with the energization of a shunt capacitor bank. The impedance is "shorted-out" (bypassed) shortly after the initial transient dissipates, thereby producing a second transient event. The insertion transient typically lasts for less than one cycle of the system frequency. The performance of pre-insertion impedance is evaluated using both the insertion and bypass transient magnitudes, as well as the capability to dissipate the energy associated with the event, and repeat the event on a regular basis. Pre-insertion resistors are one of the most effective means for controlling capacitor energizing transients; however, reliability issues have often caused utilities to select other means. The optimum resistor value for controlling capacitor energizing transients depends primarily on the capacitor size and the source strength. It should be approximately equal to the surge impedance (Zs) formed by the bank and source:

ta t b= ta +2.77mSec t c = ta+5.55mSec

<-Switch Operating Time->

Measured Phase A Zero Crossing

0.0000 0.0167 0.0333 0.0500 0.0667

Figure 3 - Concept of Synchronous Closing Control (grounded-wye bank) Ungrounded banks are controlled by closing the first two phases at a phase-to-phase voltage zero and then delaying the third phase 90 degrees (phase-to-ground voltage zero). Fixed Inductors: Fixed inductors have been used successfully to limit inrush currents during back-to-back switching. Typically the value of these inductors is on the order of several hundred microhenries. In addition, inductors provided for outrush (into a nearby fault) current control may be applied, and are typically 0.5 - 2.0 millihenries. Previous simulations indicate that these fixed reactors do not provide any appreciable transient overvoltage reduction. MOV Arresters: Metal oxide varistors (MOVs) can limit the transient voltages to the arrester's protective level (maximum switching surge protective level, typically 1.8 - 2.5 perunit) at the point of application. The primary concern associated with MOV application is the energy duty during a restrike event. Although a rare occurrence, a switch restrike generally results in the highest arrester duty for arresters located at the switched capacitor. In addition, remote arresters (including low voltage customer applications) may be subjected to severe energy duties if voltage magnification occurs. This condition could be especially troublesome for distribution systems if SiC arresters remain in service. Application Experience: Each of the technologies previously described has been utilized in the field with varying degrees of success. The criteria by which these devices are evaluated, however, is changing significantly. For example, design requirements often state that protection of utility equipment (i.e. transformers - phase-to-phase transients) is the primary factor. However, the recent concern for customer systems has prompted a number of utilities to seek a "transientfree" solution. This fact is best illustrated by reviewing


L s C

Pre-insertion inductors, which are primarily used for overcurrent control for back-to-back applications also provide some level of transient overvoltage reduction. Often applied to circuit switchers, inductors are less sensitive to thermal considerations (resistor failure mode) and are more economical than resistors . Synchronous Closing Control: Synchronous closing is independent contact closing of each phase near a voltage zero, as illustrated in Figure 3 (grounded bank). To accomplish closing at or near a voltage zero (avoiding high prestrike voltages), it is necessary to apply a switching device that maintains a dielectric strength sufficient to withstand system voltages until its contacts touch. Although this level of precision is difficult to achieve, closing consistency of 0.5 milliseconds should be possible. Previous studies have indicated that a closing consistency of 1.0 millisecond provides overvoltage control comparable to properly sized pre-insertion resistors. The success of a synchronous closing scheme is often determined by the ability to repeat the process under various (system and climate) conditions.

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the concern for nuisance tripping of adjustable-speed drives. As previously stated, the dc bus overvoltage trip setting for small voltage-source inverter drives may be as low as 117% of nominal. Using this value as the maximum (low voltage) transient during utility capacitor switching means that the mitigation technology will have to be very robust. A recent study indicated that even with an error window of 1.0 millisecond (using synchronous closing control), the dc bus levels would be within 10% of the drive's trip setting (drive without input choke). In addition to the overvoltage design limits, there are a number of other factors that have delayed the widespread application of mitigation technologies. One obvious obstacle is cost, however, an equally important reason has been reliability. Several examples include:

Customer Power Conditioning Options

Customer solutions for problems related to utility capacitor switching transients include chokes, low voltage arresters, and harmonic filters. Although there are other power conditioning options, such as TVSS, the options listed below provide the best protection from the voltage magnification and nuisance tripping phenomena Chokes: A choke (or reactor, or isolation transformer) may be used to provide isolation for a power electronic device, such as an adjustable-speed drive. In general, these devices are low cost (relative to cost of drive) and easy to install. Several manufacturers now include them as a standard option, primarily to reduce harmonic current levels and solve the nuisance tripping problem. Care should be taken when selecting an appropriate size for the input choke. If the size of the choke is too large, the drive may not function properly due to the voltage drop. Typically, standard sizes of 1.5%, 3%, and 5% are used to solve the nuisance tripping problem - with 5% being the upper limit.

A number of utilities indicate that the cost of the technology has not reached a point where widespread application is feasible, especially at the distribution level where the number of banks "near" sensitive customers is significant. Another factor in the cost is system studies, and custom designs (utilities would prefer to apply one technology and have it work anywhere on the system). Pre-insertion resistor failures (thermal) prompted one manufacturer to move to a pre-insertion inductor design. Several studies have indicated that under certain system conditions (i.e. weak source), these inductors provide minimal local overvoltage control and may even cause the remote overvoltages to increase. A number of utilities have reported drift (usually climate related) of the synchronous closing control. Even a minor error could be enough to produce low voltage transients sufficient to cause drive tripping. The error is correctable, however, it requires a technician to "zero-in" the controls. A number of utilities have reported equipment failure during a capacitor switch restrike event. Although the mitigation scheme does not play a role in the restrike, a lack of arresters (MOVs), due to the existence of the control, would certainly affect the event (perhaps leading to multiple restrikes and subsequent equipment failure).


Figure 4 - Typical Choke / Drive Configuration Arresters: Low voltage (480 volt) arresters may be used to limit overvoltages to acceptable levels. For low voltage applications, the energy rating of the arrester is the critical consideration. Small, inexpensive, MOVs that are found in TVSS and power electronics typically have energy ratings of only several hundred joules (or less). Simulations indicate that for the voltage magnification case, arrester duties may exceed several thousand joules. Therefore it is necessary to install high-energy MOVs for this application. These MOVs are modeled using an arrester maximum switching surge protective level (MSSPL) of 700 volts (based on a 500 Amp surge). Figure 5 illustrates the arrester protective level and energy capability of one particular brand of low voltage arrester (480 V).

These, and most certainly other factors have prompted a number of utilities to evaluate elaborate schemes, and have motivated manufacturers to design new options.

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Crest Voltage (Per Unit)





1 .01






Crest Current (AMPS)

Figure 6 - Typical Low Voltage Filter Configuration Additional overvoltage control may be obtained by placing high-energy MOV arresters across the power factor correction capacitors.

7 6

Energy Capability (kj)

5 4 3 2 1 0

Conclusions and Recommendations











Nominal Operating Voltage (V rms)

Transient overvoltage magnitudes caused by uncontrolled (no synchronous closing control or stepped-bank configuration) energization of 12kV capacitor banks may be sufficient to cause voltage magnification and/or nuisance tripping of small voltage-source inverter adjustable-speed drives. Transient overvoltages may be reduced with the application of an oil switch that includes a preinsertion resistor. The technology is presently available from Cooper Power Systems (VCR switch). The effectiveness of the pre-insertion resistor will be somewhat system dependent, however, for the range of operating conditions at the 12kV level, it should reduce the transient overvoltages to levels comparable to the synchronous closing control with an error tolerance of 1.0mseconds. The application of low voltage customer power factor capacitors would have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the overvoltage control scheme. Even the slightest amount of voltage magnification might be enough to increase the possibility of nuisance tripping. ASD nuisance tripping problems are best solved with input chokes on the drives or purchase of drives that include additional reactance in the dc link. This is a very economical solution on the customer side and it provides the additional benefit of reduce harmonic components in the drive input current. A typical value of 3% of the drives HP rating is usually sufficient to eliminate the nuisance tripping problem (assuming voltage magnification does not occur).

Figure 5 - Low Voltage Arrester Protective Level and Energy Capability

Filters: Harmonic filters are often applied to reduce harmonic voltage distortion levels. Since power factor correction capacitors are the key element in the voltage magnification case, it is worthwhile to evaluate the impact of the filter inductor on the transient voltage. In most cases, converting a power factor correction bank into a harmonic filter will reduce the transient overvoltage due to: 1. Adding the filter inductor changes the resonance frequency (f2 - refer to Figure 6). Typically, this will cause the two frequencies to move further apart. In addition, if magnification still occurs, it will be across the capacitor (and not the bus). A significant amount of the transient voltage will be dropped across the inductor, thereby improving the bus voltage.


Figure 6 illustrates the typical low voltage filter configuration.

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Reliability will probably be the most important factor in the widespread application of an overvoltage mitigation scheme, primarily due to the fact that the additional protection is primarily for the customers benefit. However, the cost of the various schemes will also play a role. It should be noted that none of the schemes described will protect the customer in the case of a capacitor switch restrike. MOV arresters, applied to the bank or bus, will provide overvoltage protection, however it is very likely that some customers will experience nuisance trips if this event occurs. System monitoring of disturbances that can impact customers is beneficial. Coordination with customers can help with characterizing equipment sensitivity to disturbances. Customers on circuits being monitored should be provided with equipment disturbance recording forms so that equipment problems can be correlated with events on the distribution system. Some monitoring within customer facilities could also be beneficial. If a utility adopts a policy encouraging customer power factor correction (such as enforcing a power factor penalty in the rate), it should be accompanied by an education program that shows customers the impact of low voltage capacitors on transient overvoltage levels. In general, customers with ASDs or dc drives should only apply power factor correction as harmonic filters. The application of filters also reduces the possibility of excessive harmonic distortion levels. Finally, low voltage, high energy MOV arresters may be applied to limit transient magnitudes. These arresters can be placed on equipment, across capacitors, or directly on the bus. Customer education is very important part of solving problems with capacitor switching transients. Utilities should continue the education process with their customers, concerning the transient considerations associated with the application of 12kV distribution capacitor banks. Educating them prior to the installation, especially with respect to the fact that they have applied the latest technology for controlling capacitor energizing transients and that the customers themselves should consider mitigation techniques for additional protection, should reduce the number of customer complaints.

Methods for customer education include seminars, newsletters, special mailings, power quality brochures, and direct contact.


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