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S u r v e y of

s ol ut i ons
s t a b i l i t y
e f f e c t i v e and p r a c t i c a l
for longer-term v o l t a g e
Ca r s o n W Ta y l o r
Bonnevi l l e Power Admi ni st rat i on, PO Box 3621,
Portland. Oregon 97208, USA
We survey some of the more effective and practical
solutions to the voltage stability challenges facing electric
utilities. Solutions are grouped by the distribution/load,
transmission, and generation subsystems of a power
system. Most of the effective (cost-effective) solutions
involve controls and, in some cases, tele-communications.
Keywords." voltage stability, voltage collapse, reactive
power, loads, distribution automation, undervoltage load
shedding, LTC transformers
I . I n t r o d u c t i o n
Power system voltage stability has received considerable
industry attention in recent years. Most of the literature
describes various analysis methods and indices that are
in use or under development. Much less has been written
about effective and practical solutions to voltage stability
challenges. ('Effective' is used in an engineering sense,
meaning the same as 'cost-effective'.)
Effective solutions often involve reactive power com-
pensation and special controls. We can distinguish
between preventive methods applied before a voltage
stability threatening disturbance, and corrective methods
applied after a voltage stability threatening disturbance
Oc c ur s .
Voltage stability phenomena has been divided into
transient voltage stability and longer-term voltage
stability 1"2. Transient voltage stability involves the
dynamics of equipment such as induction motors and
HVDC converters. Longer-term voltage stability involves
the dynamics of equipment such as LTC transformers,
thermostatically-controlled loads, and generator excita-
tion limiters. While there is nearly always a clear separa-
tion between transient and longer-term phenomena, the
final stages of longer-term voltage instability or collapse
will involve the faster phenomena. This paper is mainly
concerned with longer-term voltage stability occurring
in a time frame of tens of seconds, to minutes, to tens of
minutes. Longer-term voltage stability problems implies
that a significant portion of the load is voltage sensitive
and that fast-acting equipment such as static var
compensators are not necessary.
Reference 1 provides other voltage stability terms and
definitions. Although voltage instability can result in high
voltages, only voltage instability leading to partial or
complete voltage collapse will be considered.
After discussing reliability criteria for voltage stability,
this paper surveys effective and practical solutions for
longer-term voltage stability. Solutions are categorized
by the generation, transmission, and distribution/load
subsystems of a power system. As a survey paper,
references are made to case studies and implementation
details contained in the literature.
II. Pl a n n i n g a n d o p e r a t i n g r e l i a b i l i t y
c r i t e r i a f o r v o l t a g e s t a b i l i t y
Voltage stability solutions are influenced by planning and
operating reliability criteria. Utilities are still struggling
with voltage stability criteria, and several years may be
required for industry guidelines to evolve. There is a
choice between traditional deterministic criteria and
probabilistic criteria 3. Hybri d criteria with elements of
probability are a possibility as a step toward probabilistic-
based (value-based) planning and operating 4'5.
Voltage instability and collapse incidents are relatively
rare 2'6. In many cases, voltage instability requires a
combination of heavy (or abnormally heavy) loads and
a major disturbance. The joint probability of both
conditions is usually very low. For low probability events,
expensive solutions are not effective unless the cost of
the event is very high. If expensive solutions are not
justified, controls such as undervoltage load shedding
may still be provided to mitigate the costs of unusual
Effective solutions often involve use of special controls.
By design, reliability can be adequate. For example,
decentralized controls may be used where failure of any
one control is acceptable. As a second example, central-
Vol ume 1 5 Number 4 1 993 0142- 0615/ 93/ 04217- 04 @ 1993 Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd 21 7
ized controls may be triplicated, with voting for discrete
inputs and middle value selection for analogue inputs 7.
An example deterministic criteria is provided below.
For planning, the load area is tested during heavy load
conditions. A major reactive power source (generator,
SVC, or shunt capacitor bank) is out of service prior
to a large disturbance.
For on-line operations, the load area is tested for large
disturbances based on the current or expected or
desired pre-contingency conditions.
(1) For a single outage (first contingency), the system
must serve the pre-disturbance load with no fast-acting
reactive power sources at control limits; a specified
small amount of fast-acting reactive power reserve
must remain for control of normal load fluctuations.
Automatic local or centralized shunt reactive power
compensation switching is allowed.
(2) For credible multiple outages (e.g., outages of
double circuit lines or lines with common terminations),
undervoltage load shedding is allowed. Other emerg-
ency controls such as blocking of tap changers or direct
load shedding are allowed. Consumer voltages must
be above 90%. No additional power plants or
transmission lines shall be in danger of tripping and
generator terminal voltages shall be 95% or higher.
Performance should be confirmed by the most realistic
simulation methods available.
I I I . S o l u t i o n s a t t h e d i s t r i b u t i o n n e t w o r k
a n d a t l o a d s
Voltage stability is load stability and effective solutions
can often be found by control of the loads seen from the
bulk power network.
I l i a LTC transformer cont rol
One of the principal mechanisms of longer-term voltage
instability is load restoration by bulk power delivery LTC
transformers (e.g., a 115 kV/12.5 kV, 20 MVA transformer).
After a time delay (typically 30-60s in North America)
tap changing starts to restore the pre-disturbance voltage
near the loads, and thus restores voltage-sensitive loads
to pre-disturbance values. A large load area may contain
tens or hundreds of these transformers.
A rather obvious voltage stability solution method
is to block tap changing based on significant decay of
the unregulated transmission-side voltage. Reference 6
describes implementation of this method on fourteen
transformers in the Ottawa area of the Ontario Hydro
system. In a very large load area such as the Puget Sound
area of the U.S. Pacific Northwest, over seven hundred
LTC transformers are present and implementation of the
special controls would be relatively expensive. Future
installations with microprocessor LTC controls could
possibly provide this option at low cost. Reverse control
to depress voltage at loads is also possible.
A better solution might be to allow tap changing only
one or two boost steps above the value normally reached
during heavy load conditions. Another option is to use
long intentional delay between tap steps; this allows more
time for corrective action without greatly affecting
normal operation. Wider tap changer bandwidth settings
could also be considered.
The above controls are most effective at stations
serving high power factor loads. For highly shunt
compensated loads such as induction motors, benefits
may be small or negative. If the load is some distance
from the LTC transformer, limiting tap changing may
also be counterproductive.
Preventing recovery of voltages near loads only delays
restoration of the portion of the load that is constant
energy (e.g., thermostatically-controlled heating loads).
Field tests have indicated that substantial sustained
reduction in reactive power load may, however, be
obtained because of distribution transformers operating
in saturation at normal voltages.
111.2 Voltage reduction
Many utilities have used voltage reduction as preventive
control (as opposed to corrective control) during periods
of heavy load and power transfer. Usually, voltage
reduction is ordered manually from a power control
centre. Experience with 'conservation voltage reduction'
tests have indicated that some sustained real power load
reduction is obtained.
111.3 Undervoltage load shedding
Several utilities have implemented undervoltage load
shedding as a decentralized voltage stability solution 8.
References 6 and 7 describes implementation in Ontario,
Canada, and References 5 and 6 describe implementa-
tion in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
References 8 and 10 describe a system installed in 1981
by the Tennessee Valley Authority to protect against
transient voltage instability in an area with high air
conditioning load. The relays, installed at nine 161kV
substations, have time delays between 60 and 105 cycles.
During the summer of 1987, the controls prevented
voltage collapse on three occasions. Another voltage
collapse was prevented in July 1992.
Undervoltage load shedding may either be a primary
solution for rarely occurring conditions, or may provide
relatively low cost defence in depth as a backup to primary
solutions. It removes a burden from system operators
who otherwise might be required to rapidly shed load
manually during emergencies. It also allows operators to
take more risk in system operation.
111.4 Direct load shedding
Direct detection of major contingencies can initiate
tripping of load. In the Puget Sound area, for example,
outage of 500 kV cross-Cascade Mountain 500kV lines
during heavy load conditions initiates tripping of
aluminium reduction plant load. This system, however,
may be phased out with the installation of undervoltage
load shedding and other system additions.
Florida Power and Light Company has developed the
Fast Acting Load Shedding (FALS) program which runs
at their system control centre 11. The system differentiates
between generation loss below and above approximately
1200MW, and initiates 800MW of load shedding for
generation loss above 1200MW. The load shedding
occurs about 20 s after the outage. The load is shed before
load restoration by tap changing and before field current
limiting at generators. The time delay allows automatic
switching of transmission shunt capacitor banks; this may
eliminate the need for load tripping. There is a similar
system for transmission corridor outages called Corridor
Fast Acting Load Shed (CFALS).
218 Electrical Power & Energy Systems
111.5 Direct l oad control and distribution automation
We would like to shed load during emergencies less
disruptively than by the methods described above 9'12.
Rapidly turning off air conditioners, water heaters,
electric heating, or other load for five to twenty minutes
during an emergency is attractive. For longer-term
voltage stability, extremely fast action is not required -
tens of seconds or minutes are available. The controls
provide load relief, and the time needed to start gas
turbines, reschedule generation, or restore transmission
lines (BPA has found that 60% of 500 kV non-moment ary
line outages are restored in less than 15 min). One concept
is for the utility to communicate emergency conditions
to consumer microprocessors by a large increase in the
real-time cost of electricity 13. Thermostat settings or load
demand would then be changed to reduce consumption.
Many utilities have implemented or are considering
direct load control. The requirements for emergency load
shedding are sensitive methods to detect impeding
voltage collapse, and fast communications and actuators.
The technology for fast load relief is available today, but
widespread use of fibre optics and comprehensive com-
munication systems such as I SDN (Integrated Services
Digital Networks) will improve feasibility in the near
future - at least for industrial and commercial loads.
Direct load control can be initiated based on activation
of reactive power reserve at generators and static var
compensators 2. Reactive power reserve activation is a
sensitive indicator of impeding voltage instability.
Distribution aut omat i on can improve voltage stability
through switched capacitor bank control, tap changer
control, and voltage reduction. Fut ure coordinated
distribution network and transmission network control
can aid bulk power system problems 14.
Distribution aut omat i on can be used for inexpensive
testing of load characteristics. Capacitor banks can be
switched off by SCADA to lower voltage, and the
resulting active and reactive power response of the loads
can be monitored and analysed at control centres.
Voltage reduction controls can be used for the same
For the future, direct load control and distribution
aut omat i on may become an effective and practical
method of improving voltage stability. Direct load
control and distribution aut omat i on has not yet ' taken
off' for economic and other reasons; solving voltage
stability problems can provide needed additional justifi-
cation for distribution automation. Standards for com-
munications networks need to be developed for distri-
bution automation. Standards and co-operation between
electric, cable TV, telephone, and computer industries
will facilitate direct load control.
I V. S o l u t i o n s a t t h e t r a n s m i s s i o n n e t w o r k
Large transmission voltage shunt capacitor banks are
being increasingly applied by utilities as lines are loaded
above surge impedance levels. For example, Bonneville
Power Administration has many 500kV banks in the
200-399 MVAr size range, and many 230kV banks in
the 150MVAr size range. Some of these banks are
considered ' mechanically switched capacitors' (MSCs),
and are used for peak load and for emergencies.
Shunt capacitor banks provide economic reactive
power compensation relative to static var compensators
and series capacitors.
IV.1 Preventive application of shunt capacitor banks
An effective solution is to install and operate shunt
capacitor banks in order that generators, synchronous
condensers, and SVCs operate near unity power factor
during normal conditions. Although system dependent,
experience indicates that the considerable fast-acting
reactive power available allows stable operation for quite
severe disturbance conditions. Because capacitor banks
can be optimally placed, and because capacitors have
lower losses than generators or SVCs, system losses are
IV.2 Corrective application of shunt capacitor banks
As discussed above for load tripping and load control,
fast corrective actions following a disturbance (within
about 30s) can prevent voltage instability mechanisms
from starting. Because of the voltage sensitivity of loads
and because of the response of generators with automatic
voltage regulators, voltages do not initially sag very
much; local voltage measurements are not a sensitive
indicator of potential voltage instability.
Reference 2 describes sensitive centralized automatic
voltage control where the voltage at the capacitor bank
location is augmented with signals proportional to
reactive power changes at selected generators and SVCs.
The reactive power changes are obtained by simple
washout filters with time constants of 2-5min. The
control system is inspired by Reference 15 which describes
capacitor bank control where voltage measurement is
augmented by the out put of an SVC located in the same
station. Simulations 2 demonstrate the effectiveness of the
centralized control.
In some cases, purely local control based on voltage
may be effective, with capacitor banks switched on during
the period of voltage decay caused by the longer-term
voltage instability mechanisms.
IV.3 Novel emergency control of shunt capacitor banks
References 2 and 16 describe a low-cost method to
improve the effectiveness of large capacitor banks. During
abnormally low voltage, series groups of wye-grounded
shunt capacitors banks are temporary shorted by
medium-voltage switches to reduce capacitive reactance,
and thereby increase reactive power output. Some of the
temporary (10-30rain) overvoltage capability of capaci-
tors is used. Voltage-controlled medium voltage switches
are used to short the series groups. Bonneville Power
Administrations is testing the concept on a 168 MVAr,
241.5 kV wye-grounded shunt capacitor bank. Shorting
3 of the 14 series groups increases capacitor reactive
power out put by 14/11 or 127%.
This control provides some of the benefits of SVCs
(including advanced GTO-based SVCs) and synchronous
V. S o l u t i o n s a t g e n e r a t i o n
Voltage stability can be greatly improved by better
regulation of the generating plant high side (network side)
voltage. This reduces the transmission network reactive
power losses. This solution can be limited by constraints
on terminal and auxiliary bus voltage levels, and by
controls, protection, metering errors, and operator
misconceptions. Optimization of transformer tap settings
and other corrective actions may be necessary to
minimize constraints 17,1 s.
Vol ume 15 Number 4 1993 219
V.1 Line drop compensation
The most common met hod is l i ne- dr op ( t r ansf or mer -
drop) compensation of the automatic voltage regulator
terminal voltage measurement 19'2. The regulated point
(generally part way through the step-up transformer
reactance) is controlled very fast by the basic AVR.
Disadvantages may be complexity in multi-unit generat-
ing plants and incomplete compensation of the trans-
former reactance.
Appendices I and V of Reference 1 provide simulation
examples of the effectiveness of line drop compensation.
Cost is very low.
V.2 Secondary voltage control
A local secondary (outer) AVR control loop may be used
to regulate high side voltage. The speed of this control
loop should be about ten times slower than the basic
AVR control, or around 10s. Control will be effective
prior to longer-term voltage instability mechanisms such
as LTC transformer control of voltage near loads. Tokyo
Electric Power Company has implemented a sophisticated
version of this control 15.
Although some European utilities are implementing
centralized secondary voltage control, local control has
the advantages of speed and lower cost.
V. 3 Opt i mi zat i on of n e t wo r k vol t age c ont r ol by
gener at or s
Generat or AVR controls should be adjusted so that, for
severe disturbances, all generators providing significant
reactive power support have field current limiting enforced
at about the same time. Generators near loads may
control terminal voltage, while sending-end generators
may control network voltage. Real-time adjustment of
control settings probably is not necessary and could be
excessively complex.
Vl . S u m m a r y a n d c o n c l u d i n g r e m a r ks
Several effective (cost-effective) means to solve voltage
stability problems are surveyed. Most methods rely on
controls and communication which are low cost com-
pared with high voltage equipment. The exception is
transmission network shunt capacitor banks with life-
cycle cost that are low compared with other high voltage
equipment such as transmission lines, SVCs, or series
In most cases, a combination of the effective and
practical solutions described will provide robust protec-
tion against voltage instability and collapse. For example,
network voltage control at generators, preventive and
corrective transmission network shunt capacitor bank
controls, and backup undervoltage load shedding would
provide defence in depth against longer-term voltage
instability and collapse. Demands for fast emergency
actions on the part of system operators would be minimal,
and appropriate risks could be taken in system operation.
VI I . Re f e r e n c e s
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