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Operational Experiences of STATCOMs for Wind Parks

Beat Ronner, ABB Switzerland Ltd,
Philippe Maibach, ABB Switzerland Ltd,
Tobias Thurnherr, ABB Switzerland Ltd,


Following the increasing importance of renewable power generation in certain countries or

regions, grid operators are forced to introduce stringent Grid Code requirements which also
apply for wind parks. The requirements include fault ride through, dynamic reactive power
generation and steady state voltage control.
Certain wind turbine types, however, are not able to inherently fulfil certain grid codes. In that
case, additional equipment is needed to get the connection permission.
A lot of work has been done until present to examine the static and dynamic performance of
STATCOMs with respect to voltage control and support during a fault. Besides that, the
behaviour of STATCOMs has been compared with other reactive power compensation
solutions, like capacitor banks, SVCs or synchronous compensators. ([9][12][13][14][15])
This paper presents practical experiences from STATCOMs based on medium voltage IGCT
technology, which has been successfully implemented for various industrial and utility
applications for several years. After a brief overview of the chosen solution, the steady state as
well as the dynamic performance of the STATCOM are described and underlined with
measurements from several realized STATCOM installations in different countries. Besides that,
additional features of the STATCOM are presented.

System Description

Because wind parks are growing in size, their behaviour during grid faults can no longer be
neglected. They are required to principally behave like conventional power plants. This is one of
the main reasons why transmission and distribution system operators (TSO, DSO) have
developed detailed grid codes in order to specify the behaviour of wind parks in their grids.
Keywords in this context include frequency control, voltage control and fault ride-through
Frequency control is influenced by active power and is therefore a task of the wind turbine
control. Reactive power compensation equipment as described in this paper cannot influence
the system frequency. The voltage, contrarily, is influenced by the reactive power of the wind
park. This can to some extent be achieved by the wind turbine control. However, some wind
turbines are not able to fulfil the grid code requirements with respect to static and dynamic
reactive power control.
The classic electrical wind turbine concept contains a fixed speed asynchronous generator.
With this setup, the reactive power can not be controlled. Moreover, depending on the active
power output of the turbine, it absorbs more or less reactive power. For a certain point of
operation, the power factor can be corrected to unity using passive elements (capacitors).
The currently most common wind turbine concept is based on a doubly fed asynchronous
machine. With a converter feeding the rotor circuit, a variable speed characteristic can be
achieved. Contrarily to turbines with a full power converter, the doubly fed does not require a
converter dimensioned for the full generator power. Theoretically, such turbines are able to
control their reactive power output. However, it depends on the converter design and on the
control system if they are able to fulfil requirements from grid codes.
For turbines which do not inherently fulfil the applicable grid code in terms of reactive power, a
STATCOM can be added to make the wind park grid code compliant.

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Most grid codes require the wind park to remain transiently stable and connected to the grid and
even inject reactive power during a fault to as far as 0% of nominal voltage. Different studies
show that a STATCOM can help the wind park ride through grid faults ([9],[15]). Simulations
resulted in the conclusion that the STATCOM supports the wind park during and especially after
a fault in such a way that the wind park voltage recovers faster. Compared to other reactive
power compensators, the required STATCOM power was shown to be considerably smaller to
have the same supporting effect.
A STATCOM is basically a voltage source with controllable amplitude connected to the grid via
an inductance. Figure 1 shows the principle, a simplified single-line diagram and two phasor
diagrams. The STATCOM consists of a voltage source converter (VSC) with its DC link and a
transformer (or reactor) with impedance XT connecting to the grid. The single-line diagram and
the phasor diagrams are a per-unit representation of the STATCOM. The VSC voltage phasor
UComp has to be in phase with the grid voltage phasor UGrid in order to avoid active power
exchange between grid and STATCOM1. As long as both UComp and UGrid have the same perunit value, no current will flow through the impedance XT. If the STATCOM converter voltage
phasor UComp is larger than the grid voltage phasor, a current IGrid will flow through the
impedance XT. Since the impedance XT is mainly inductive, the phasor of this current is
perpendicular to the voltage drop across XT (phasor UT) and therefore also to the grid voltage
phasor UGrid. The STATCOM injects reactive current into the grid. Comparably, if the STATCOM
converter voltage phasor UComp is smaller than the grid voltage phasor, the STATCOM absorbs
reactive current from the grid. A STATCOM injecting reactive current behaves like an overexcited generator or a capacitor: It supports the grid voltage. A STATCOM absorbing reactive
current behaves like an under-excited generator or a reactor: It tends to decrease the grid



I Grid







U Comp

U Grid

I Grid
I Grid


U Grid

U Comp


Figure 1 - The STATCOM principle

In fact, the phasors are not completely in phase because the STATCOM losses have to be
compensated. However, the phase angle is very small and can therefore be neglected to
understand the principle

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Figure 2 Example of a connection of the STATCOM to the wind park MV bus

The STATCOM can provide reactive power following different control strategies:
Controlled reactive power output according to a reference from the wind park controller
Control of the power factor at e.g. the point of connection of the wind park
Operation according to a voltage/reactive power slope characteristic where the
STATCOM is able to accept a target voltage and a slope setting from the wind park
In a wind park, the STATCOM is usually connected to the wind park MV bus, as shown in
Figure 2. This applies for all cited installations.
Compared to other principles for reactive power compensation, the STATCOM includes several
advantages as outlined in [1]:
Possibility to inject constant reactive current down to very low voltage levels. This is the
reason for the superior behaviour of a STATCOM right after a fault: It is able to support
the grid with full reactive current independent of the grid voltage.
Very fast response to voltage steps.
Since no switched passive components are used, there are no disturbing resonance
effects caused by e.g. capacitor switching.
Smooth and fast continuously acting reactive power source as often required by grid

STATCOM Modules ABB Solution

A comparison of actual wind park sizes and requirements from important grid codes showed
that the reactive power compensation equipment needs to be sized in the order of a few tens of
Mvar. For this power range, medium voltage power electronic equipment is most cost effective.
Therefore, power electronic building blocks based on IGCTs (Integrated Gate Commutated
Thyristors) are used in modular voltage source converters, see [2]. This technology has been
successfully applied in various applications, like MV drives, frequency converters, wind turbine
converters, AC excitations, etc.
The operational experiences shown hereafter are mostly gained from installations rated
approximately 12 Mvar. This STATCOM size is adequate for a wind park with around 30MW
nominal output power, if the turbines run at unity power factor and the grid code specifies that
the wind park has to be able to run between PF=0.95 leading and 0.95 lagging (as for example
in Great Britain). In that case, the STATCOM reactive power has to be rated roughly one third of
the total wind park active power.

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However, there are also examples from STATCOM units with an output power between 20 Mvar
and 30 Mvar.

Verification Process of STATCOM Performance

The performance of a STATCOM is verified in several steps:

Design calculations and studies
Software simulations
Tests on a dedicated hardware-in-the-loop simulator
Converter heat-run test in the factory at full rated current and voltage
Site acceptance tests
The results of design calculations and studies include the reactive power performance chart
(see Figure 3), components specifications, e.g. transformer and grid filter, and calculation of
harmonic distortion caused by the STATCOM.
Parallely to the assembly of the hardware, the control algorithms and site specific requirements
are implemented and studied. Afterwards, detailed measurements are done on the hardware-inthe-loop simulator. This development and test environment allows to study the real control
hardware and software of a STATCOM running on a scaled down power system. The scaled
power system model is either microprocessor based (dSPACE) or built with real electronic
components including the power electronics, transformers, a grid model and passive
components as far as relevant. The grid model is adapted to the real on-site short-circuit power.
On this setup, the behaviour of the STATCOM during grid disturbances is studied and
optimised. As such, it is a very powerful tool to develop and optimise the control structure and
parameter settings of a STATCOM. Furthermore, it can greatly support trouble shooting if in a
later stage of a project problems should occur.
Before delivering the STATCOM and after the standard routine tests, a heat-run test is
performed with nominal current and voltage. The purpose of this test is to run all
semiconductors for at least 10 times their thermal time constant. Additionally, this test proves
the integrity of the conductors and connections. The factory test can be witnessed by the
The most interesting tests are performed on site after erection and commissioning of the
STATCOM. The following chapters are based on an example of an installation in the UK if not
otherwise stated. The UK National Grid company issued comprehensive Guidance Notes for
Power Park Developers [3], where a clear process for studies and tests to reach grid code
compliance is outlined. Tests performed with the STATCOM are based on these guidance

Steady State Reactive Power Requirements

Figure 3 shows an example of a STATCOM installation in the UK. In this diagram, the voltage is
depicted in a per-unit scale on the y-axis. On the x-axis, negative reactive power means
reactive power absorption from the grid (STATCOM in under-excited mode), positive reactive
power means reactive power injection into the grid (STATCOM in over-excited mode). The area
limited by the dash-dotted line represents the grid code requirement whereas the area limited by
the grey line represents the somewhat more demanding requirement given in a Bilateral
Agreement. Although the basic requirements are given in the grid code, it is common in the UK
to define additional site-specific requirements in a Bilateral Agreement. The area between the
solid blue lines represents the operating range of the STATCOM. The crosses represent the
operating points run during the acceptance tests on site: At almost nominal grid voltage, the
STATCOM was run at full injecting and full absorbing reactive power for at least one hour as
specified in the acceptance criteria given in [3]. These measurements were done to verify the
agreed reactive power provided by the STATCOM. During this test, the grid voltage was kept
stable by the tap-changer of the upstream transformer.

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Grid Voltage [p.u.]










Reactive Power [Mvar]

STATCOM theoretical operation limits [MVA]

NGC Requirements [Mvar]
Grid Code Requirements [Mvar]
Measured inductive Vars (under-excited)
Measured capacitive Vars (over-excited)

Figure 3 - Steady state reactive power requirements, design and measurements

The operation area of the STATCOM is limited by the output current and voltage the STATCOM
converter is designed for. The maximum current is constant down to approximately 15% of
nominal grid voltage. Therefore, the maximum reactive power varies linearly with the grid
voltage. This current limit is reflected in the lines 1). The STATCOM converter output voltage is
limited. Combined with the turns-ratio and the impedance of the transformer, this limitation is
reflected in line 2).

Voltage Control and Dynamic Reactive Power Performance

Some grid codes such as in the UK or Ireland require relatively high dynamic response of the
reactive power output to voltage changes in the grid. In the UK, a STATCOM response is
required within 200ms. In both grid codes, UK and Ireland, 90% of the steady state target
reactive power has to be reached within 1s. Stable operation has to be reached after 5s.
STATCOMs are able to react very fast, often considerably faster than required by the grid
codes. Figure 4 shows a measurement of a reactive power step response taken at an
installation in Ireland. The stepped curve shows the reactive power reference, the smooth curve
the measured reactive power response. The sinusoidal trace shows the STATCOM output
current to the grid. It can be seen that in this installation, the STATCOM is able to switch from
maximum under-excited mode to maximum over-excited mode within approximately 30ms.
Although very fast, the response is remarkably stable and shows virtually no oscillations.
The response time of the STATCOM can be tuned, depending on the control mode, the grid
stability, the grid code requirements etc. In the best case, the STATCOM is able to reach full
reactive power output within a few ms.

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Primary (grid side)

current in one phase

Reactive power (reference

and measured value)
Qmax (12.5 Mvar)
Imax (326A)

Imin (326A)
Qmin (-12.5 Mvar)


120 140 160 180


Figure 4 - Reactive power step response
In voltage control mode, such a fast response may not necessarily be requested. However, after
a voltage dip, reactive current shall be injected quickly in order to support the grid voltage.
Figure 5 shows a measurement of a minor unbalanced grid disturbance recorded at a
STATCOM installation in Canada. The voltage dropped to around 90% of nominal voltage in
two phases. The reaction of the STATCOM is a compromise between re-balancing the grid and
distributing the available STATCOM output power on the three phases. It can be seen that the
STATCOM reacts almost immediately and helps to stabilize the grid voltage.

Time [s]
Figure 5 - Recording of a minor unbalanced grid disturbance

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Harmonic Performance

Voltage harmonics (in %)

Several standards are available that give the basis for harmonic performance requirements at a
given connection point. Important standards are [5] or [6] for wind turbines. In the UK, the
individual harmonic levels required in Engineering Recommendation G5/4 [7] are closely related
to the indicative values given in [4]. However, some country specific exceptions are specified.
During the acceptance tests of a 12.5Mvar STATCOM in the UK, the harmonic spectrum was
measured without the STATCOM operating in order to obtain the background harmonic
spectrum at the site. Afterwards, the STATCOM was operated for several hours, and the
voltage harmonic measurement was repeated.

Harmonic limits ([7])

Lowest frequency
STATCOM contribution

Harmonic order n (multiple of 50Hz)

Harmonic order n (multiple of 50Hz)

Figure 6 Voltage harmonic spectrum without (left) and with (right) STATCOM in operation, and
harmonic limits specified in [7]
Figure 6 shows the spectrum measured in one phase without (left) and with the STATCOM in
operation (right). The measurements are taken from a 12.5Mvar STATCOM installed in the UK,
connected to the wind farm 33kV bus. The bars show the maximum measured amplitude of the
voltage harmonics. The grey dashes on top of the bars show the limits specified in [7].
It can be clearly seen that each individual harmonic is well below the allowed level. Due to its
topology, contrarily to other STATCOM topologies present in the market ([11]), the PCS 6000
STATCOM does not contribute harmonics below 27th. The STATCOM contribution starts at the
29th harmonic. Due to the grid filter at the output of the STATCOM, the additional harmonic
distortion caused by the converter operation is very small and well within the limits of each
individual harmonic. Consequently, the total harmonic distortion (THD) of the grid voltage is
hardly affected by the STATCOM operation.


Operation after Acceptance

Ensuring reliable and robust operation

Since wind parks are often installed in remote areas, it is very important to offer to the industry
highly reliable and close to 100% available equipment that is furthermore almost maintenancefree. For the case that, during the operation of the equipment, some problems should arise,
efficient service tools are necessary.
The STATCOM as installed at several wind parks is designed for very high availability. The
converter includes a closed-loop water cooling circuit. This allows a most compact, low-noise
indoor installation or a containerised outdoor option. The heat is transferred via a water-to-air
heat exchanger to the outdoor air. Dusty or dirty air does not present a problem to the
STATCOM, and no filter air mats have to be exchanged. This cooling concept is well proven in
a multitude of applications all over the world. It is very robust and requires virtually no
maintenance. Thanks to the redundant pumps and partial redundancy for the heat exchanger
fans, the availability of the cooling circuit is extremely high.

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The STATCOM is not equipped with switched passive components. Only one circuit breaker is
needed to protect the complete STATCOM installation. Therefore, time consuming maintenance
and adjustments on circuit breakers for capacitor banks are obsolete.
In case some troubles occur during operation, the STATCOM is equipped with powerful service
tools: A human-machine interface (HMI) is available that gives a quick overview of the
STATCOM status (see Figure 7). This tool can be accessed over the internet. It is very helpful
not only during commissioning but also to support service personnel from remote.

Figure 7 - HMI overview of the STATCOM status

The same information is also made available on the interface to the wind park SCADA. The
STATCOM can easily be embedded into the wind park control system. Commands, status and
measurement information are exchanged.
Furthermore, the STATCOM is equipped with an integrated transient recorder. This feature
programmed in the STATCOM control software is triggered as soon as any abnormal condition,
like e.g. a voltage dip, is detected. Not only predefined measurement values but also computed
control values and binary information is stored by the transient recorder before and after it is
triggered. This function is extremely helpful to analyse system failures in order to quickly find the
root cause of the problem.


Example of trouble shooting

In the early time period after commissioning of a 12.5 Mvar STATCOM in the UK, there was an
issue with the STATCOM control system that caused it to become instable with certain
parameter settings. The problem was studied at the hardware-in-the-loop simulator. A modified
control software version was downloaded to the STATCOM from remote. During the
subsequent tests it was found that the problem was not completely solved. As a consequence
of resonance effect, the STATCOM failed and the transient recorder triggered. The data was
retrieved from remote. After the analysis of the measurement data, it became quickly clear
which component was defective and what was the root cause for the failure. In a short time, the
STATCOM was repaired, the root cause of the failure rectified and finally the control software
modified. The STATCOM has been running very stable throughout the warranty period and is in
successful and reliable operation today.

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Additional Value Adding Features


Smooth grid synchronization

In remote areas where wind parks are often installed, the grid is comparatively weak. If the
STATCOM output power is not much smaller than the grid short circuit power, flicker
requirements are very difficult to meet. During the magnetisation of the main transformer, the
inrush current loads the grid in such a way that the voltage may drop considerably for a short
time. This voltage drop might not be compatible with flicker requirements given in standards
such as [1], [5], [6] or [8] for the UK.
The STATCOM is optionally equipped with a unit connected to the auxiliary power supply.
Before the STATCOM main circuit breaker is closed, the DC link is charged by this pre-charging
unit. Once charged up, the converter pulses are released and the STATCOM smoothly
magnetises the transformer. At the same time, the converter output voltage is synchronised to
the grid voltage. After a few seconds, the transformer is magnetised and the high voltage
transformer terminals are synchronised to the grid voltage. The circuit breaker can be closed.
No inrush current will flow from the grid, and the grid voltage is unaffected.
Figure 8 shows the voltage and the current in the moment the STATCOM is connected to the
grid. The measurements are made with a 24Mvar STATCOM, connected to the 33kV medium
voltage grid in a wind park. The nominal current on the primary side of the transformer is 430A.
It is seen that the inrush is not visible, and the current is under control immediately after the
breaker is closed. The grid short circuit power is between 284 and 525MVA.

Grid voltage [kV]


STATCOM primary current [A]



time [ms]



Figure 8 - Grid voltage and STATCOM current after magnetizing the STATCOM transformer
and closing the breaker
It is important to understand the impact of the pre-charging unit to the auxiliary supply. During
the pre-charging period and especially the energising of the transformer, a peak load has to be
supplied by the auxiliary transformer. This load may be about two to three times as high as the
normal auxiliary power supply needs of the STATCOM. It is however only needed for a few
seconds. The auxiliary power transformer does not need to be designed for the peak load, but
this overload scenario has to be taken into account. Furthermore, this fact needs to be
considered when defining the protection settings for the auxiliary transformer.


Active voltage harmonic filtering

Another interesting feature is implemented in a STATCOM for a utility customer in Canada. At

the customer site, important low-order voltage harmonics exist in the grid. Voltage source
converters as used in STATCOMs can principally be operated to actively filter certain

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harmonics. It is state of the art for active harmonic filters to compensate current harmonics.
However, in certain cases, voltage harmonics have to be compensated.
The basic idea of voltage harmonic compensation is to inject a current with the same frequency
as the respective voltage harmonic. The amplitude and the angle of the compensating current
have to be chosen such that the voltage harmonics are compensated. This is the case if the
multiplication of the injected current and the grid impedance, which corresponds to the
compensating voltage, has the same voltage magnitude at the respective frequency and
presents a 180 phase shift with respect to the voltage harmonic that has to be compensated.
Consequently, to define the magnitude and angle of the compensating current, the grid
impedance has to be known for the harmonic to be cancelled. However, depending on the grid
configuration, the grid impedance for higher order harmonics can vary considerably in
magnitude and in angle.
By having a closer look at the grid impedance, it is found that the real part is always positive for
harmonics with an order n>=2. In other words, the grid has always a positive resistive
component at higher order harmonics. This comes from the fact that the grid has losses.
This resistive characteristic of the grid is used by the active voltage filter. In a first step, the filter
reacts with the assumption that the grid impedance is purely resistive and injects a current with
a small amplitude and a 180 phase shift with respect to the measured voltage. Figure 9 shows
the initial condition for any frequency, when the filter is not active, as well as the variation in the
grid voltage due to the small current of the filter. UG0 is the grid voltage before compensation. IG0
shows the compensating current, which has a phase shift of 180 to the grid voltage. U1
represents the voltage drop due to the compensating current IG0, where UG1 is the resulting grid
voltage. The results shown in Figure 9 are based on a grid impedance ZG as shown in the
complex plane.

Figure 9 - Injection of current with 180 phase shift to voltage, represented by phasors in an
orthogonal coordinate system rotating with the frequency of the respective voltage harmonics
It is seen that only if the resistive component of ZG is positive and greater than zero, the voltage
amplitude is reduced. However, unless the grid impedance is purely resistive, this reduction is
not optimal, because the compensating voltage is not directly opposed to the voltage to be
By further increasing the current amplitude and keeping a 180 phase shift between the
compensating current and the measured voltage component, the voltage is further decreased,
as is shown on the left graph in Figure 10. IG1 corresponds to the filtering current with increased
amplitude, which is opposed in phase to UG1. It is seen that the resulting voltage is further
reduced to UG2.
This is illustrated on the graph on the right side of Figure 10, which shows the path of the
harmonic voltage vector in the complex plane if the compensating current is increased and the
phase difference between the filtering current and the measured voltage is kept at 180. The
path of the voltage on the right side of Figure 10 is found if the compensating current IG in the
left side of Figure 10 is further increased. The harmonic voltage theoretically approaches zero,
but it does not follow an optimal path.

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However, it is practically not possible to completely eliminate the voltage harmonics: Zero
harmonic voltage is a singularity, since no more voltage is present to give a reference for the
phase of the compensating current. This means in practice that the voltage harmonics can be
decreased to a minimal value depending on the measurement accuracy, but not completely
Harmonic voltage progression with resistive harmonic filtering
Path of the reduced voltage component
Maximum harmonic reduction
depending on measurement accuracy


imag(VnPCC), p.u.


real(Vn ), p.u.



Figure 10 - Change in grid voltage by assuming resistive grid impedance

The above described method has been successfully implemented. The reduction of harmonic
voltage components is visualized in Figure 11.

Figure 11 - Harmonic spectrum with active filter function deactivated (left) and activated (right)
Of course, there is a trade-off between standard STATCOM reactive power performance and
the amount of achievable compensation. Careful system studies need to be done in order to be
able to design the STATCOM properly.

10 Conclusion
This paper describes different aspects of operational experiences of STATCOMs used as
continuously acting, highly dynamic reactive power compensation equipment for wind parks.
Measurements that confirm the satisfying operation of the STATCOM are presented.
The importance of high availability is pointed out and measures taken in order to ensure the
reliable operation of the STATCOM are highlighted. Furthermore, important service tools are
described. These tools support efficient trouble shooting by remote access to the STATCOM
and its transient recorder files.
Last but not least, optional value adding features such as inrush-free energising of the
transformer and active voltage harmonic filtering are presented.

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Table of figures
Figure 1 - The STATCOM principle............................................................................................... 2
Figure 2 Example of a connection of the STATCOM to the wind park MV bus ......................... 3
Figure 3 - Steady state reactive power requirements, design and measurements....................... 5
Figure 4 - Reactive power step response ..................................................................................... 6
Figure 5 - Recording of a minor unbalanced grid disturbance ...................................................... 6
Figure 6 Voltage harmonic spectrum without (left) and with (right) STATCOM in operation, and
harmonic limits specified in [7] ...................................................................................................... 7
Figure 7 - HMI overview of the STATCOM status......................................................................... 8
Figure 8 - Grid voltage and STATCOM current after magnetizing the STATCOM transformer
and closing the breaker ................................................................................................................. 9
Figure 9 - Injection of current with 180 phase shift to voltage, represented by phasors in an
orthogonal coordinate system rotating with the frequency of the respective voltage harmonics 10
Figure 10 - Change in grid voltage by assuming resistive grid impedance ................................ 11
Figure 11 - Harmonic spectrum with active filter function deactivated (left) and activated (right)
..................................................................................................................................................... 11








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