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Historical Review of Power System Stability Problems
Edvard

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His to ric al Re vie w o f Po we r Sys te m Stab ility Pro b le ms

electric power systems have evolved over the last century, dif f erent f orms of instability have emerged as
being important during dif f erent periods. T he methods of analysis and resolution of stability problems were
inf luenced by the prevailing developments in computational tools, stability theory, and power system control
technology. A review of the history of the subject is usef ul f or a better understanding of the electric power
industry’s practices with regard to system stability.
Power system stability was f irst recognized as an important problem in the 1920s (Steinmetz, 1920; Evans
and Bergvall, 1924; Wilkins, 1926). T he early stability problems were associated with remote power plants
f eeding load centers over long transmission lines.
With slow exciters and noncontinuously acting voltage regulators, power transf er capability was of ten
limited by steady-state as well as transient rotor angle instability due to insuf f icient synchronizing torque.
To analyze system stability, graphical techniques such as the equal area criterion and power circle diagrams
were developed. T hese methods were successf ully applied to early systems which could be ef f ectively
represented as two machine systems.

While interconnections result in operating economy and increased reliability through mutual assistance. Small signal stability problems have led to the development of special study techniques. With increased dependence on controls. such as modal analysis using eigenvalue techniques (Martins. 1986. T his led to the development in the 1930s of the network analyzer. Later in the 1950s. In the 1960s. 1996). one in the east and the other in the west. as interarea modes of oscillation. 1965. most of the power systems in the U. and interconnections were f ound to be economically attractive. In 1967. In addition. Improvements in system stability came about by way of f aster f ault clearing and f ast acting excitation systems. Loads were represented as constant impedances. Steady-state aperiodic instability was virtually eliminated by the implementation of continuously acting voltage regulators.. the digital computer emerged as the ideal means to study the stability problems associated with large interconnected systems. most industry ef f ort and interest has been concentrated on transient (rotor angle) stability. the complexity of the stability problems also increased and systems could no longer be treated as two machine systems.S. as well as of engineers. the power systems in North America f orm virtually one large system. System dynamics. still had to be analyzed by solving the swing equations by hand using step-by-step numerical integration.As the complexity of power systems increased. . and special stability controls and protection schemes. T he 1950s saw the development of the analog computer. Generators were represented by the classical ‘‘f ixed voltage behind transient reactance’’ model. however. which was capable of power f low analysis of multimachine systems. Kundur et al. the emphasis of stability studies moved f rom transmission network problems to generator problems. 1990). they contribute to increased complexity of stability problems and increased consequences of instability. with which simulations could be carried out to study in detail the dynamic characteristics of a generator and its controls rather than the overall behavior of multimachine systems. made this abundantly clear. it f ocused the attention of the public and of regulatory agencies. supplementary control of generator excitation systems. on the problem of stability and importance of power system reliability. T his type of angle instability is of ten seen as local plant modes of oscillation. series capacitors. and simulations with more detailed representations of synchronous machines and excitation systems were required. Advertisement Until recently. and HVDC converters is increasingly being used to solve system oscillation problems. T here has also been a general interest in the application of power electronic based controllers ref erred to as FACT S (Flexible AC Transmission Systems) controllers f or damping of power system oscillations (IEEE. low capacity HVDC ties were also established between the east and west systems. T he Northeast Blackout of November 9. or in the case of groups of machines interconnected by weak links. Signif icant improvements in transient stability perf ormance of power systems have been achieved through use of high-speed f ault clearing. Powerf ul transient stability simulation programs have been developed that are capable of modeling large complex systems using detailed device models. T here were similar trends in growth of interconnections in other countries. static Var compensators. and Canada were part of one of two large interconnected systems. coupled with decreasing strengths of transmission systems. T he increased use of high response exciters. At present. has led to an increased f ocus on small signal (rotor angle) stability. high-response exciters.

voltage stability is increasingly being addressed in system planning and operating studies. 1994.. voltage stability problems are now a source of concern in highly developed and mature networks as a result of heavier loadings and power transf ers over long distances. Transmission. 2003. and well-established criteria and study procedures are evolving (Abed. Northeast USA-Canada blackout of August 14.. Present-day power systems are being operated under increasingly stressed conditions due to the prevailing trend to make the most of existing f acilities. f or example. 1999. Brazil blackout of March 11. Gao et al. Taylor. 1975. and construction and environmental constraints are shaping the operation of electric power systems in new ways that present greater challenges f or secure system operation.. and Distribution by Leonard L. 1993). voltage instability has been the cause of several power system collapses worldwide (Kundur.. (1994) makes it convenient to carry out a comprehensive analysis of power system stability. Consequently. 1981). 1989).. Analysis and modeling needs of power systems during major f requency disturbances was also addressed in a recent CIGRE Task Force report (1999). Signif icant advances have been made in recent years in providing the study engineers with a number of powerf ul tools and techniques. 1985. 1992. 2003. Powerf ul analytical tools are available f or its analysis (Van Cutsem et al. f requency stability problems experienced f ollowing major system upsets led to an investigation of the underlying causes of such problems and to the development of long term dynamic simulation programs to assist in their analysis (Davidson et al. Morison et al. SOURCE: Electric Power Generation. such as the one described by Kundur et al. Since the late 1970s. T his is abundantly clear f rom the increasing number of major power-grid blackouts that have been experienced in recent years. 1995. Guidelines were developed by an IEEE Working Group f or enhancing power plant response during major f requency disturbances (1983). open transmission access. 1999.. Increased competition. Younkins and Johnson.. 1990). 2003. Ontario Hydro. 1994. Stubbe et al. 1989. 1976. IEEE. Converti et al.. 1989. . and Italian blackout of September 28. Southern Sweden and Eastern Denmark blackout of September 23.In the 1970s and 1980s. T he f ocus of many of these investigations was on the perf ormance of thermal power plants during system upsets (Kundur et al.. 1995. Inoue et al. Once associated primarily with weak radial distribution systems. 1981. 1996). Planning and operation of today’s power systems require a caref ul consideration of all f orms of system instability. A coordinated set of complementary programs. Kundur. Gao et al.. Chow et al.