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Power Factor


MSc./PG. Dip in Electrical Installations 2014/15
University of Moratuwa

What is Power Factor?

When an Alternative Current (AC) voltage is applied to a load which is not purely resistive, the current
will lag or lead with respect to the voltage, say by radians. The cosine of this angle is defined as
the power factor. Why cosine of is taken as p.f. can be understood by defining it in terms of power.

Power Factor =

Active Power (kW)

Apparent Power (kVA)


Active Power (P) = Vrms.Irms.cos

Apparent Power (S) = Vrms. Irms
Reactive Power (Q) = Vrms.Irms.sin

Depending on the load, power factor (p.f) could either be leading or lagging.
Due to the matter of fact that most of the electrical power is consumed by inductive motors, in a
power system, most reactive loads can be said to be inductive and hence causing a lagging power

Reactive Power
Today, the whole world runs on machines and these machines require power to build up the magnetic
flux and to rotate their shafts. For powering up these motors, industries need transformers to step
down the overhead line higher voltages to low voltage. These transformers, inductive machines
(motors), reactors as well as discharge lamps with magnetic ballasts must be fed with reactive power
for their coil magnetization.
The current waveform is shifted from the voltage waveform and this current vector could be split into
two components which are perpendicular to each other: one in phase with voltage vector (Ia - active
current component) and one lagging by 90o (Ir - reactive current component).
Instead of drawing power from the system, the reactive current causes power losses over the
transmission & distribution lines by heating the conductors. They are responsible for the voltage drops
over the power lines as well. A power system is not meant to provide the reactive currents to the
inductive loads, but only the active power (or active current). The reactive power shall be catered
locally, near to the loads.

Power Factor for pocket and country?

Power Factor could better be one but not more than one either (due to voltage rises). Achieving ONE
is not practically possible technically and financially.
The producers (industries) pay for the maximum demand which is the apparent power. If they had to
pay a lot more than what is actually being consumed (active power), it is not financially worthwhile.
And also, as discussed previously, higher amount of reactive current along transmission lines causes
losses of electric power as heat and hence a massive waste of money in country. Therefore,
compensation of reactive power at load ends is vital.
The Figure 1 illustrates the relationship among the active power, reactive power, apparent power and
the phase shift angle when the reactive power is compensated.
Q1 Reactive power without any compensation
Q2 Reactive power after compensation
Qcomp Compensated reactive power
S1 Apparent power before Q compensation (paying more than we consume)
S2 Apparent power after Q compensation (paying lesser than before)
P Required Active power for the loads (constant)





Figure 1: Phasor Diagram

When the reactive power is being compensated, the apparent power (S) decreases while maintaining
the required active power (P) constant. The phase shift angle also reduces resulting in a higher
cos() value. Therefore, the chemistry between reactive power compensation and power factor
improvement is evident. This has led to the need for power factor correction in electrical system
designing and upgrading.

Power Factor Correction (PFC) Solutions

The exiting solutions for Low Voltage Power Factor Correction can be categorized as follows.

Low Voltage PFC Solutions

Active Filter



Switched Bank



Figure 2: Power Factor Correction Solutions


Case Study NIBM Head Office, Col. 07 (Year 2009 - May)

The facility is fed by a 250kVA CEB Transformer.
The energy data was fetched using a data logger during a period of 24 hours.


Figure 3 : Measured Active Power (P) and Reactive Power (Q)

(Source : Capacitor Bank Installation for NIBM H.O by Amithi Power Consultants Pvt Ltd)

Figure 4 : Measured Power Factor

(Source : Capacitor Bank Installation for NIBM H.O by Amithi Power Consultants Pvt Ltd)

As seen by the obtained values, the power factor of the facility is ranging from 0.75 to 0.94.
The connected inductive loads are mainly the fans, Air Conditioners and CFLs.
The target is to achieve 0.98 power factor. Accordingly, the following values can be calculated and
tabulated as below.
Maxm Avg. Demand
Active Power at Max Demand
Reactive Power
Power Factor

Before Installation
243 kVA
209 kW
124 kVAr

After Installation
213 kVA
209 kW
42 kVAr

We can observe a reduction of maximum demand and a requirement of 82 kVAr by means of a

capacitor bank.
The financial analysis can be conducted as below.

Monthly Average Saving of Demand

Current Reduction by Installing capacitor bank
Monthly Saving
Annual Saving by installing capacitor Bank

= 30 kVA
= 37A per phase
= LKR 22,500.00
= LKR 270,000.00

Cost for Installation of Capacitor bank

Simple Pay Back Period

= LKR 509,725.00
= 1 Year 10 Months

Although we always seek for 0.98 power factor, the optimum power factor can be obtained through a
financial optimization as follows.

Optimum Power Factor = ( )

A Maximum Demand charges per year per kVA

B Depreciation and interest charges per year per kVAr = C ( + )

C cost of capacitors/kVAr
Y economic life of equipment (generally 10 yrs)
I Annual interest rate

The study conducted for the NIBM facility lacks the above power factor optimization analysis.
Also, better performance of the capacitor bank can be achieved by automatic switching by sensing the
reactive power and connecting the required capacitive reactance.