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Power Quality Case Histories

N. G. Foster
Technical Services Manager
Power Quality Services
East Midlands Electricity plc.

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Case Hlstonas Provide F


As the advantages of information technology and electronic control are increasingly
exploited by both manufkcturer and consumer, there has been, and will continue to be,
an increasing number of power quality concerns for electricity suppliers, equipment
manufacturers and customers. This situation has been recognised at East Midlands
Electricity plc. (EME), with the formation of a specialist technical team called Power
Quality Services (PQS). PQS’ main aim is to deal with the growing concern of
EME’s customers on power quality issues, by:

Investigating and solving customer problems.
Informing and advising customers on potential power quality problems, and how
to avoid them.
Improving EME’s response to customers by keeping its staff informed and up to
date on power quality issues.

This paper presents various case histories of investigationsthat PQS have been
involved with over the past few years.

The most valuable tool for an engineer involved in investigating a power quality
problem is experience. The sheer breadth of the power quality field demands an
intuitive approach, which is based largely upon experience. At PQS engineers deal
specifically with power quality investigations, and are often called upon to apply the
lessons learnt in previous investigations. In order to share these experiences, a system
of circulating reports and newsletters is used within PQS and EME. The most
important investigations are included, as case studies, in a power quality training
pragramme developed at PQS, for use by the PQS team and other EME staff.

An industrial customer suspected that a conducted disturbance was causing the images

on various visual display units (VDUs), within the facility, to jitter or wobble. The
customer was sure it was a supply problem, because it was a new installation and the
wiring had passed all the required inspection tests, and the computer screens worked
perfectly at his home. From previous experiences of this type of problem, PQS
suspected the cause to be a radiated magnetic field. Site investigationsrevealed that

Authorized licensed use limited to: CENTRO FEDERAL DE EDUCACAO TEC DE MINAS GERAIS. Downloaded on May 14,2010 at 18:07:35 UTC from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.

In another case concerning VDU jitter. The choice of solution depends very much on the individual circumstances encountered. Downloaded on May 14. Screen the source of magnetic fields. It was readily apparent. virtually illiminating the magnetic field. at the lamps fittings. The magnetic field. along with checks on the computers and the building wiring. Inthe cupboard was the main intake panel and distribution panels for the office block. a three year long battle between a Law firm and a Radio Station was resolved in a matter of minutes of attending the site to cany out a harmonics survey. the solution w& to move the VDUs into another office. As part of the ongoing electrical tests. Use alternative display technology such as plasma. thereby. etc. It appeared that the increase in load current used by the new occupants. The Law frnn leased several floors of their unused office block to the Radio Station. Authorized licensed use limited to: CENTRO FEDERAL DE EDUCACAO TEC DE MINAS GERAIS. was strong enough (1-2pTesla) to disturb the image on the VDUs. Plan building layout and occupancy to avoid sitting VDUs near magnetic sources. running down the centre of the computer room. the source of the field was located to a cupboard at one end of the room. In this case. The most cost effective approach is prevention by good plarmhg. Shortly after they moved in. However. and from having observed the same Using the VDU as a magnetic field strength indzator. coming together dong the centre ofthe room. caused by the current flowing through the conductors. there are other solutions to this type of problem that can be considered: e e 0 e Screen the VDUs with magnetic shields (commercially available). The answer was simply to run both the live and neutral conductors together (general good practice). had increased the ambient magnetic field strength to a level that affected the monitors. liquid crystal.2010 at 18:07:35 UTC from IEEE Xplore. upon visiting the site. Various studies to check for radio interference were solicited. Then there began a three year battle between the two companies as to what and who were responsible for the jitter.the live and neutral conductors feeding tbe ffowecent lamps. Restrictions apply. the computer monitors in one of the Law firm’s offices began to jitter. Specify VDUs for high magnetic field environment. . EME were requested to carry out a harmonics survey of the supply to the office block. had been installed separately down either side of the length of the room. causing the operators to complain of headaches.

A UIE Flicker meter was installed at the customer's premises to establish the validity of the complaint. Most flicker complaints arise when small business and domestic customers connect welders and motors without seeking advice fiom their electricity supplier.8 Plt The results established that the Ievels of flicker exceeded acceptable limits. Authorized licensed use limited to: CENTRO FEDERAL DE EDUCACAO TEC DE MINAS GERAIS.8 would indicate a valid complaint. careful consideration is given when customers (typically industrial) apply to connect flicker producing loads such as welders.Long Term Severity Level (PlQ Recommended maximum limit of 0. . the industrial unit was being used to process stolen cars. and investigations were planned for monitoring the supply at the suspected industrial unit. and rapidly varing motor loads. 24 hour Period 12 k + 1 1 I Figure 1. Restrictions apply. arc furnaces. A level of 1 Plt is the level at which 50% of observers would percive lamp (60w incandescent) flicker. Certain levels of flicker are very annoying to customers. several days before the monitoring was scheduled. the complainant rang to inform PQS that the owner of the industrial unit had been arrested by the police. A long term flicker severity level (Plt) in excess of 0. and that the flicker had stopped. Downloaded on May 14. In order to avoid problems arising. F V Flicker is the term used for perceptible variations in illumination intensity fiom light sources (lamps). . A domestic customer was complaining about flicker. Apparently. the flicker is caused by a welder. The following results were obtained: I Mee8ured Flicker Levsl. However. which was likely produced by electrical equipment operating at a nearby farm.2010 at 18:07:35 UTC from IEEE Xplore. The farm had recently been converted to several small industrial units.Casemtorv 2.

stow 3: Disturb= lmd Occasionally. It is thought that the clocks. 7/4 Authorized licensed use limited to: CENTRO FEDERAL DE EDUCACAO TEC DE MINAS GERAIS. located on the load side of the triac. The random nature of the disturbance can make it very difficult to locate the offending lamp. Restrictions apply. i. the Company receives compfairrts fiom domestic customers of running fast. from several milliseconds up to 24 hours per day. The majority of these complaints are found to res operation of triacs in the photocells of street lights. advance in time by the introduction of extra zero crossing points. Figure 3 shows how the nature of the disturbance has changed several minutes after the street lamp has been switched on. causing a fast rate of change in dv/dt across the power factor correction capacitor. Some clocks use zero crossings ofthe supply voltage as a time base. The failure has been found to cause repetitive transients on the supply voltage of the local distribution network (figures 3 and 4). especially on large housing estates. any number of transients can be present on each half cycle or both half cycles. Downloaded on May 14. This current impulse causes an associated high frequency oscillatory voltage transient to appear across the impedance of the supply cables. 100 zero crossings (50Hz)equal 1 second.e. The transients that follow are a result of the triac switching on and off rapidly. This causes a large impulse of current to be drawn through the impedance of the supply cables. Once a triac has gone into this particular failure mode.2010 at 18:07:35 UTC from IEEE Xplore. connected to the same phase. The initial transient (in figure 2) occurred at the time the street lamp was switched on. .

which had no street lighting. Street lamp on 24 hours a day. indicating that the cause was remote from the customer's house. Remote controlled television sets change channels spuriously. Digital clocks advancing in time.2010 at 18:07:35 UTC from IEEE Xplore. Picture interference on television sets. . a local farmer informed the engineer that the pole mounted transformer had been hit by lightning and was making "crackling and popping" sounds. Restrictions apply. Later. it was apparent that the enquiry had come fiom a customer in a rural area. Circumstantial evidence is also available that relates component failures in computer power supplies to disturbances caused by faulty street lamps. Since the "fast clock" phenomena is well understood throughout EME. Street lamp not illuminating. Spurious tripping of RCD operated circuit breakers. produce an audible hum. Disconnecting the household supply from the network did not remove the disturbance. Interference on long wave radio channels. it was with some surprise that a complaint of clocks running fast was passed through to PQS. but this action did not solve the problem. The damaged transformer was replaced. and that the clocks had been operating correctly prior to this event. Downloaded on May 14. apparently. After initial questioning. such as microwave ovens and fluorescent lamps. were.Audible hum from the street lamp column. responsible for the clocks running fast. The customer's supply was fed from a SOkVA pole mounted transformer which fed approximately ten properties. High frequency transients (Figure 4) detected on the voltage waveform. Equipment containing magnetic circuits. 7/5 Authorized licensed use limited to: CENTRO FEDERAL DE EDUCACAO TEC DE MINAS GERAIS. and all such customer enquiries are routed to the Local Authority's Street Lighting department.

when the system was taken to a fiend’s home. determined that the disturbance was caused by a refrigerator with an electronic “energy saving” device installed at the socket. Downloaded on May 14. fed &om the “Blue” phase. a site investigation was p During the site survey. An isolation transformer was t installed.After the transformer was replaced. Examination of the “energy saving” device revealed the main component to be a triac operating in the more conventional phase controlled mode. PQS were asked to investigate the customer’s complaint of dc on Because of the unusual nature of the complaint. the high pitched noise abated. However. Furthermore. . which solved the problem. the high frequency disturbance ceased. as opposed to the triac found in a street light photocell. Case Historv 4: Sensitive Load Equbment A customer discovered an audible “hum” whenever he used his hi-fi system. the audiophile was unwilling to purchase one to “solve a problem with the supply. he was told that the amplifier was sensitive to dc OB the supply voltage. and the transformer LV fuses were drawn. the “hum” was not When the audiophile contacted the manufacturer of the hi-fi system. The triac had gone into the same failure mode as those found in faulty photocells. dc voltage levels at the house were found to vary as appliances (especially a hair dryer) were connected.2010 at 18:07:35 UTC from IEEE Xplore. it was noted that the transformer was making a high pitched noise.” Authorized licensed use limited to: CENTRO FEDERAL DE EDUCACAO TEC DE MINAS GERAIS. Restrictions apply.The audible “hum” on the hi-fi system was found to be bare1 the music was between song tracks. and which operates as an “on/ofY switch. It was concluded that the lightning strike in the previous week may have caused a failure in the device. Following this. all the customers were warned of a supply interruption. a high frequency resonance condition on the radial distribution feeder may have contributed to the severity of the disturbance. and reached 0. When the “Blue”phase fuse was removed. unlike the typical 1OO& “hum”. When the “energy saving” device was removed.5V. However. An investigation of the customer premises.

and by learning from other peoples experiences. 1. Although great efforts are being made by electricity suppliers to provide power that is fit for its purpose. power quality problems will inevitably continue. and by manufacturers to produce equipment that is less sensitive to. and that newer units were being manufactured with better immunity characteristics. we only get 3-5 calls per week on this now!!” . and was asked why the equipment was not immune to such a minor disturbance.The PQS engineer contacted the hi-fi equipment manufacturer.2010 at 18:07:35 UTC from IEEE Xplore. The manufacturer was told that the level of dc voltage was considered normal. Nigel Foster. . The manufacturer said “Itk really not much of a problem. 1995 “Assignment Of Costs And Responsibilities For Power Quality In A Competitive Power Market Environment” 7/7 Authorized licensed use limited to: CENTRO FEDERAL DE EDUCACAO TEC DE MINAS GERAIS. Downloaded on May 14. Security and Quality of the Electricity Supply-Ibedrola. As can be seen fiom these few case histories. and creates less power disturbances. to solve the problem. Restrictions apply. The manufacturer replied that the problem was due to an intemal transformer which saturated with dc voltage.05 D- 2.David Mueller. power quality is a diverse subject. Bilbao. Eamon Delaney. who again expressed ’ concem about the level of dc voltage present.Nigel Foster. PQA94-Amsterdam “Both Sides of the Meter: An Electric Utility’s Response to Customer Power Quality Concerns” 1. This can be done through a combination of actual site investigations. To be successfurin resolving power quality problems requires a thorough technical knowledge of the electrical principles involved. but it is equally important to build up practical experience in identifying and solving power quality problems. The manufacturer agreed to have the transformer replaced.