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Reactive Power Supplied by

Wind Energy Converters –


M. Braun
Institut fuer Solare Energieversorgungstechnik e. V.
Koenigstor 59, D-34119 Kassel, Germany
Phone +49(0)561/7294-118

Abstract: use of reactive power control. The distributed

supply of reactive power by Wind Energy
Converters (WECs) is an option to support network
This paper provides a cost-benefit-assessment of operation.
reactive power supplied to network operators by Presently, WEC have to fulfil grid code
Wind Energy Converters (WECs). An approach is requirements for reactive power (e.g. Germany
proposed to estimate the costs of reactive power [1,2] or Spain [3]). This paper analyses the costs
supply by WECs with inverter-coupled generators. and the benefits of this service to provide more
A cost-benefit-analysis shows the economic insights into its economics which allows designing
attractiveness of reactive power supply in many improved economic frameworks with regard to
cases, but also significantly varying costs. An reactive power supply. Firstly, it describes the
economic optimisation of both, the WEC’s and the capability and availability of reactive power supply
network’s operation, must consider these cost by WECs. Secondly, the costs are assessed, and,
variations. finally, a cost-benefit-analysis shows the economic
attractiveness of this ancillary service by WECs.
Keywords: Ancillary Services, Economic Analysis,
Inverter Losses, Reactive Power, Wind Energy
2 Reactive Power Supply
Capability of WECs
1 Introduction In principle all generators which are coupled to the
network either with inverters or with synchronous
In standard Alternating Current (AC) electrical generators are capable of providing reactive power
networks the voltage and current pulsate with the [4]. Principal WEC designs [5] are
network’s frequency (in Europe: 50 Hz). Due to a • directly-coupled induction generators (IGs) in
phase shift between voltage and current two fixed speed or variable slip design with
different types of power are distinguished: active capacitor banks;
power for the useful work and reactive power • doubly-fed induction generators (DFIGs) with
which oscillates between electrical storage a power electronics converter between the
elements (capacitors and reactors). Many loads point of grid connection and the rotor circuit of
and generators as well as the passive network the IG (designed only with a fraction of the
elements have a certain reactive power rated power);
characteristic. Different types of compensating • directly-coupled synchronous generators
units can be installed to compensate reactive (SGs) with a dynamic gearbox and excitation
power flows in the network. This goes alongside control; and
with the objectives of network operators who have • inverter-coupled generators with a full power
to control the grid’s voltage within allowed limits electronics converter (FC) which couples
(e.g. EN50160). Furthermore, network operators different designs of induction and
aim at reducing grid losses and congestions by synchronous generators.
IGs are not considered further on because their • capacitive reactive power limit
control capabilities are limited compared to the Æ Qmax (blue, right-hand side), and
requirements of network operation and their • apparent power limit
capacitors can be regarded as additional passive Æ Smax (green)
network elements (see section 4.1.1). Also SGs
the reactive current of the inverter can be
with little installation rates are not considered in
controlled arbitrarily with response times in the
detail. However, the approach for FCs is
order of milliseconds.
transferable to SGs. The focus of this paper is on
While the solid blue line in Figure 1 shows often
the two market-dominating power electronic
published reactive power limits even more is
designs: DFIG and FC with a market share of 50%
possible as displayed by the dashed blue line. Also
and 42% respectively (rest: IG) in Germany [6].
reactive power can be supplied if no active power
is transferred [8,9]. An extension of the solid to the
dashed blue line, given by equation 1, depends on
2.1 Inverter-Coupled Generators (FC) the power electronic design. The availability is then
dependent on the actual active power transfer so
Reactive power occurs only in AC networks due to that not 100% availability can be stated but less.
a phase shift between voltage and current. In DC As an exemplary database (source: ISET), the
networks it is not defined. Consequently, only the measurements of an Enercon E-66 WEC (with
grid-side inverter of the power electronic back-to- Pmax = 1300 kW) in Germany are analysed. For
back converter needs to be considered as it each five minute interval, the maximum active
defines the phase angle of the current to the mains power is measured in the years 2001-2003. The
grid. maximum reactive power Qmax is calculated with
One fundamental limit is the maximum current equation 1 for different inverter sizes Smax. This
transfer of the inverter or the maximum apparent leads to the availability of a certain reactive power
power Smax. The phase angle of the current vector Q as displayed in Table 1 showing the influence of
can be arbitrarily controlled as long as the absolute oversizing the inverter. With Smax = 1400 kVA =
value of the current does not exceed its maximum. 1.077 Pmax it is possible to guarantee 520 kVAr and
The active power transfer Pact is generally handled with Smax = 1500 kVA = 1.154 Pmax even 748 kVAr
by the operational control of the WEC with first for the full active power operation range. More
priority so that it limits the maximal possible reactive power can be supplied but the availability
reactive power supply Qmax according to is less than 100% but still more than 90% up to
1000 kVAr.
Q max (t) = S max
− Pact
(t ) . (1)
Availability of Q with
Smax = Smax = Smax =
However, also the reactive current faces limits 1300 kVA 1400 kVA 1500 kVA
mostly due to reasons of stability and availability. 100 >99% 100% 100%
Figure 1 presents an example of the loading 200 >99% 100% 100%
capability chart (power domain) of a FC which 300 >99% 100% 100%
transfers active power and supplies reactive power 400 99% 100% 100%
500 97% 100% 100%
(practical values see [7]). 600 95% >99% 100%
700 94% 98% 100%
800 94% 95% >99%
900 93% 94% 97%
1000 92% 93% 94%
1100 89% 92% 94%
1200 84% 90% 93%
1300 5% 85% 90%
1400 0% 5% 86%
1500 0% 0% 5%

Table 1: Available reactive power Q of an Enercon

E-66 WEC (with Pmax = 1300 kW) in Germany with
different inverter sizing Smax
Figure 1: Loading capability chart of a FC
(Q > 0: capacitive) Also certain overload capabilities for short-term
reactive power supply exist, e.g. for fault-ride
Within the through support. In contrast, active power has no
• active power generation limits overload flexibility if not throttled because it is
directly linked with the maximum mechanical
Æ Pmin and Pmax (red),
power due to the wind conditions. However, the
• inductive reactive power limit possibilities from these overload capabilities are
Æ Qmin (blue, left-hand side), not discussed further in this paper.
2.2 Doubly-Fed Induction Generators 3.1 Investment costs
In principle, grid-side inverters can control reactive
A DFIG is an IG whose rotor windings are coupled power without the need of additional investments
by a power electronic converter to the grid. This due to the described power electronic
design allows an excitation in the rotor coils for functionalities. However, additional investment
speed regulation and reactive power control of the costs have to be considered if the inverter’s rated
IG by the rotor-side inverter as well as reactive capacity is extended for higher capabilities and
power supply by the grid-side inverter. Three limits availabilities of reactive power supply. Inverters are
define the reactive power capacity of a DFIG [10]: generally oversized by WEC manufacturers to
• stator current (heating of stator coils) comply grid code requirements.
Æ Smax (green), Qmin (blue, left-hand side), Assuming inverter costs of 150-300 €/kVA leads to
additional investment costs as listed in Table 2 and
• rotor current (heating of rotor coils)
depicted in Figure 3. Also the annual costs are
Æ Qmax (blue, right-hand side), and given in Table 2 with a lifetime of 20 years and 5%
• rotor voltage (limiting the rotor speed). discount rate. If 0.5 MVAr should be available from
The rotor voltage can be a limit at high slip s, a WEC with FC of 1 MW it has to be oversized by
reducing Qmax further on. Figure 2 shows the 12%. This oversizing generates investment costs
loading capability chart at s = 0. At lower slip the of 36-71 €/kVAr. A general finding is that the
defining circles are extended in direction of the P additional investment costs are low at small
axes (and compressed at higher slip). A detailed secured reactive power capacities. Other ways of
discussion on the functional dependencies assessing capacity costs are discussed in [11,22].
provides Lund et al. in [10].
Additional Costs Annual Costs
Q [MVAr]
[€/kVAr] (20 a, 5%) [€/kVAra]
0.1 8-15 0.6-1.2
0.2 15-30 1.2-2.4
0.3 22-44 1.8-3.5
0.4 29-58 2.4-4.7
0.5 36-71 2.9-5.7

Table 2: Additional investment costs for secured

reactive power supply Q of a 1 MW WEC with
inverter costs of 150-300 €/MVA

Figure 2: Loading capability chart of a DFIG

(Q > 0: capacitive)

3 Costs of Reactive Power

Supply by WECs
Costs for reactive power supply can be separated
into investment costs [€/kVAr] and operational
costs [c€/kVArh]. Both costs are very specific and Figure 3: Additional investment costs for secured
show large ranges. The purpose here is to give an reactive power supply capacity
order of magnitude and an understanding of the
various dependencies.
Hence, additional minor cost factors are not 3.2 Operational Costs
discussed in detail. They tend to be dependent on
the higher currents (often with I²) causing WECs have low variable operational costs
electromagnetic forces (mechanical stress) and [€/MWh] because no primary energy costs have to
higher temperatures (thermal stress). These be paid for the wind. However, similar to all other
effects result in higher maintenance costs and power plants they have a certain self consumption.
equipment aging as well as higher costs of The additional self consumption due to reactive
unavailability. Due to their I²-dependency these power supply corresponds to the additional losses
additional minor costs might be added to the of the grid-side inverter.
operational costs (see section 3.2). The following operational cost estimation approach
The following analysis of investment and has been introduced in [12] for photovoltaic
operational costs focuses on WECs with FC. It is inverters. It is further developed, adjusted and
possible to transfer this approach to DFIG and SG. applied to determine the costs of reactive power
supply by WECs. It can be divided into two main the maximal apparent power Smax for further
steps: generalisation.
1) Reactive power supply in addition to active
power supply increases the losses of the grid- We can then calculate the additional losses ΔPloss
side inverter of WECs. by taking the difference of the inverter’s losses with
2) These additional losses need to be reactive power supply Q(t) ≠ 0 and without Q(t*) =
compensated by active power 0 for the same DC link power PDC at time t and at
a. by reducing the amount of active power reference time t* respectively:
generation resulting in operational
opportunity costs, or ΔPloss (t ) =
b. by network purchase if no active power is Ploss (PDC (t ), Q(t ) ≠ 0 ) (4)
fed into the mains (at low wind conditions).
− Ploss (PDC (t *) = PDC (t ), Q(t *) = 0 )
The determination of the self consumption of
inverters starts with the available data on the These additional losses can be attributed to the
inverter’s efficiency reactive power supply to get the related value in
kW/kVAr (or kWh/kVArh in energy units):
eta = = ΔPloss (t )
PDC PAC + P'loss Ploss (t ) =
Q(t ) (5)
depending on the active power output PAC on the
AC side and the active power input PDC on the DC With the loss curve of Figure 4 this leads to the
side. The difference between PDC and PAC define related additional losses caused by reactive power
the losses P’loss of the inverter. supply as displayed in Figure 5. The graph is
The losses of an inverter can be approximated by limited by the semicircle of the device’s maximal
a second-order polynomial function of the apparent apparent power Smax and the maximal active power
power supply S [12] Pmax. It shows the symmetry of negative and positive
reactive power supply. These additional related
active power losses for reactive power are the
Ploss (S ) = cself + cVloss ⋅ S + c Rloss ⋅ (S ) (3)
basis for the following cost calculation.
with self losses (standby losses) cself, voltage
dependent losses over the power electronic
components cVloss (proportional to I), and current
dependent losses over the impedances cRloss
(proportional to I2).

An exemplary efficiency curve and the

corresponding loss curve are used for the following
calculations (Figure 4).

100% 3
Figure 5: Losses due to reactive power supply Q
with different active power transfer P
Losses [%Smax]

2 (Smax = 1.1Pmax and step size = 5%Pmax)


Two cases are distinguished for the cost
1 assessment:
Active WEC (P > 0):
Active power generated by the wind turbine is fed
90% 0
into the mains grid. In addition reactive power is
0 20 40 60 80 100
supplied. The additional losses accompanying the
Apparent Power (%Smax) reactive power supply reduce the active power
injection. Hence, the costs of the additional losses
Figure 4: Efficiency (red) and losses (blue) of an are the opportunity costs due to reduced active
exemplary grid-side inverter of a WEC power supply. Active power production by WECs is
site-dependent and can vary considerably.
The considered grid-side inverter has a maximal Average costs of active power generation by
efficiency etamax = 98%. The values of active power WECs in Germany can be estimated as 9 c€/kWh
losses and apparent power are given in percent of [13,14] within the range of the feed-in tariffs of 4-
9 c€/kWh for the years 2005-2015 [15]. studying the benefits for network operation.
This section provides a comparison with
Inactive WEC (P = 0): conventional reactive power supply technologies,
According to the measurement database (Table 1) network purchase, and an analysis of the benefits
the WEC did not generate active power in 5% of of reactive power based ancillary services for
the 5 minutes intervals. The inverter’s losses are network operation.
then compensated by the external grid (here:
mains) resulting in costs due to the tariff of active
power purchase. These costs of active power 4.1 Comparison with Conventional
purchase vary with regard to voltage level, energy Reactive Power Supply Technologies
supplier and consumption profile. Here we
consider costs of 9 c€/kWh [16].
The following conventional devices for reactive
With the given assumptions the operational costs power supply are looked at:
of reactive power supply by WECs can be 1. static capacitors and reactors;
classified in cost ranges as given in Figure 6 2. static compensators with power
showing electronics;
• an increase of the costs with increasing 3. synchronous condensers; and
reactive power supply; and 4. synchronous generators of conventional
power plants.
• a decline of the costs of a certain reactive
power supply with increasing active power
supply. 4.1.1 Static Capacitors and Reactors
These functional dependencies lead to the general A standard network component for reactive power
finding that the operational costs are the lowest at compensation is a capacitor bank. The analysis of
low levels of reactive power supply. This goes costs of capacitor banks results in the kVArh
alongside with the finding in section 3.1: Reactive prices displayed in Figure 7. They depend on the
power should be preferably delivered by many used full load hours: few full load hours cause high
WECs instead of few ones. costs per kVArh which are reduced rapidly with
increasing full load hours. The cost estimation is
based on the following assumptions: investment
costs of 15 €/kVAr [17], lifetime of 20 years,
discount rate of 5%, losses of 1.5 W/kVAr [17] and
power purchase costs of 9 c€/kWh [16]. Figure 7
includes two operational cost ranges of reactive
power supply by WECs according to Figure 6. The
additional investment costs are not yet considered.


Capacitor Banks
Costs of Q [c€/kVArh]


0.03 - 0.10 c€/kVArh

Figure 6: Ranges of operational cost of reactive < 0.03 c€/kVArh
power supply by WECs 0.00
0 2000 4000 6000 8000
(Smax = 1.1Pmax and step size = 1%Pmax) Full Load Hours [h/a]

These costs are compared to the benefits of

Figure 7: Cost of capacitors (in c€/kVArh) over the
reactive power supply and costs of alternative
used full load hours (in h/a) in comparison to the
supply technologies in the following section.
cost ranges of WECs

The comparison in Figure 7 shows that reactive

power supply by WECs in the low cost range of
4 Cost-Benefit-Analysis < 0.03 c€/kVArh (approx. |Q| < 15%Pmax) is
cheaper than capacitors in general. Considering
The benefits of reactive power supply by WECs the middle cost range of 0.03 – 0.10 c€/kVArh
can be assessed by looking at alternative sources (approx. 15%Pmax < |Q| < 50%Pmax) WECs are
of reactive power which are presently used. If cheaper than capacitors if only used for few 1000
WECs have lower costs they can economically full load hours per year. Taken these insights
substitute the conventional technologies. Another together it can be stated that reactive power supply
approach is the analysis of the network effects by
by WECs can be beneficiary compared to reactive supplying Q in comparison to conventional power
power supply by capacitor banks at the same electronic based compensators.
network node (without additional network losses)
and without taking into account additional
investment costs assuming that no 100%
availability is necessary.
This conclusion is also valid for static reactors
which tend to be some tens of percent more
expensive than capacitors. If reactors as well as
capacitors have to be installed at one node WECs
having the full range are even more attractive.

As discussed in section 3.1 it is necessary to

consider the additional investment costs if 100%
availability of Q is required. A comparison with
Table 2 and Figure 3 shows that guaranteeing 10-
20% of the reactive power capacity already results
in investment costs in the order of those of
capacitors. However, if reactors have to be Figure 8: Operational cost (in c€/kVArh) of Q
installed as well up to 40% of Qmax can be supply by inverters which only supply Q (blue) and
guaranteed. Including investment costs it becomes WECs which supply Q in addition to P (red)
more difficult for WECs to be competitive. (Smax = 1Pmax and step size = 2%Pmax)
However, with higher inverter efficiencies and
decreasing inverter costs this situation might 4.1.3 Synchronous Condensers
improve in the future. Synchronous condensers are synchronous
generators without prime mover. They are devices
The comparison with static capacitors and reactors dedicated for reactive power supply. Because of
might be not reasonable in all cases. An important this dedication all costs are attributed to reactive
feature of reactive power supply by WECs is their power supply. Figure 8 can also be referenced
possibility to follow smoothly the demand. This is with regard to operational costs. In contrast, the
an important advantage compared to capacitor investment costs are approx. one order of
banks which switch discretely resulting in magnitude lower than those of inverters of WECs
suboptimal compensation and transient voltage [18]. Nevertheless, at low Q capacities (see
disturbances. In many cases a comparison to Figure 3) WECs can be competitive at the same
static compensators with power electronics of network node, also because of low efficiencies of
similar functionalities should be preferred. synchronous condensers.

4.1.2 Static Compensators with Power 4.1.4 Synchronous Generators of Conventional

Electronics Power Plants
Different types of static compensators with power Conventionally also central power plants are used
electronics are available. Static VAR for reactive power supply in the transmission
Compensators (SVCs) are capacitors and/or network. The efficiency of their synchronous
reactors connected by thyristors (grid-commuting). generators can be assumed to be similar to the
Static Compensators (STATCOMs) are power efficiency of the grid-side inverter of WECs. One
electronics-based (self-commuting) with gate turn- important difference is that they generally sell their
off thyristors (GTOs) or insulated gate bipolar power generation on the power exchange with
transistors (IGBTs) comparable to those of average prices, for instance, of 2.9 (2004), 4.6
inverter-coupled WECs. Kueck et al. [18] estimate (2005) and 5.1 c€/kWh (2006) on the European
the investment costs in the range of 40-100 Energy Exchange (EEX). They are with 4.2
US$/kVAr which is assumed to be in the range of c€/kWh (average 2004-2006) considerably lower
30-75 €/kVAr. This cost range corresponds to than the feed-in tariff prices in Germany of 9
costs for oversizing the inverter of a WEC in order c€/kWh (see section 3.2). A second difference to
to have up to 100% of the reactive power capacity WECs is that conventional power plants normally
secured available (cf. Table 2 and Figure 3). operate at rated power and not with variable P
The energy losses depending on the efficiency of which tends to lead to lower losses (see Figure 6).
STATCOMs and grid-side inverters of WECs are Even more significant is the situation for the
similar due to similar power electronic designs. investment costs of inverters compared to
Figure 8 shows that STATCOMs tend to have synchronous generators which can be about one
higher operational costs because all losses would order of magnitude higher at MW sizes.
be attributed to Q (blue line) while only the Taken these differences together shows that costs
additional losses are attributed to Q in case of for reactive power by conventional power plants
WECs (red area) because P is transferred as well. are generally lower than those of WECs. However,
If designed properly WECs can be competitive in the dispersed installation of WECs increases the
competitiveness because a distributed supply near situations (peak, plateau, and off-peak). If
the consumer loads reduces the network losses generating units provide the correct power factors
compared to more centralized supply of they receive an incentive if they counteract they
conventional generators. have to pay a penalty. This incentive is attractive
for operators of WECs in Spain. But it cannot be
4.1.5 Additional Aspects contrasted reasonably here because the incentive
Additional aspects need to be considered, e.g.: is paid per kWh.
• Harmonics:
IGTB-based inverters are capable to If the converter is designed appropriately reactive
compensate harmonics while synchronous power supply by WECs can be economically
generators have no influence and SVCs even attractive looking at the actual prices of network
generate harmonics [4]. purchase or incentives for network delivery.
• Short-circuit behaviour and overload However, many countries have not yet established
capability: any market design. It is recommended to improve
Synchronous generators add with their inertia reactive power market designs based on real costs
to system stability and they have an inherent of this ancillary service (see also [22]).
transient overload rating which does not exist
with the other technologies.
• Q dependency on bus voltage V: 4.3 Comparison with Benefits for
• Independent: synchronous generator Network Operation
• Q ~ (1/V): inverter
• Q ~ (1/V²): SVC, capacitors, reactors Reactive power is necessary for an optimized
In case of voltage dips the behaviour of network operation. It is used mainly for three
synchronous generators but also inverters is ancillary services:
beneficiary. 1. voltage control,
These and further aspects should be included in 2. reduction of grid losses, and
comprehensive comparisons (see also [19]) of 3. reduction of congestions.
alternative reactive power sources. The value of these services is analyzed in the
following sub-sections individually. It is difficult to
analyze all three of them combined in general
4.2 Comparison with Network Purchase because reactive power control might have
opposed effects on these ancillary services
A comparison with reactive power supply costs or depending on the system’s state. However, the
tariffs of network operators allows taking all network operator can take into account all these
present sources of reactive power together. effects within the optimization of the network’s
An analysis of [20] shows that German distribution operation.
network operators charge on average
1.1 c€2005/kVArh (0.0 - 2.7 c€/kVArh) if the power 4.3.1 Voltage Control
factor is lower than 0.9 (in average). In the high Voltage control is a basic need for network
voltage network the average charge is 1 c€/kVArh operation because the voltage has to stay within
(0.0 – 1.5 c€/kVArh) and in the extreme high certain limits throughout the whole network (cf.
voltage one network operator has a charge of EN50160). Capacitive reactive power increases
0.3 c€/kVArh. However, this charge is more a the voltage level while inductive reactive power
penalty than the real costs which should be lower decreases the voltage level. However, the voltage
according to section 4.1. needs to stay within certain limits demanding for
National Grid in the United Kingdom spends distributed reactive power compensation. Different
approx. 0.2 c€/kVArh on the reactive power market reaction times are used to optimize the voltage in
of the transmission network [21]. the network: primary, secondary and tertiary
The three transmission network organizations voltage control during normal operation, as well as
PJM, NYISO ad ISO-NE in the United States grid design in the installation phase (especially of
provide an annual payment in the range of 1005- distribution networks), and transient voltage control
5907 US$/MVAr [18] assumed to be 0.75-4.4 during faults.
€/kVAra. This payment would compensate an WECs can be integrated in primary, secondary and
oversizing of more than 40% of WECs according to tertiary voltage control during normal network
Table 2. In addition, the three US network operation. Here they have to be compared to
organizations also provide a compensation for lost standard network components providing this
profits on real energy sales (opportunity costs). service: tap-changing transformers and
ERCOT, for instance, pays not for capacity but for conventional reactive power sources. The
the utilization 2.65 US$/MVARh at power factors competitiveness of WECs in comparison to
smaller than 0.95 [18]. conventional reactive power suppliers is analysed
in section 4.1. Depending on the converters
In Spain a royal decree [3] defines three load design, its location as well as the network
operator’s needs WECs can be attractive suppliers Average Network Losses dPL
of reactive power. cos(φ) 1% 2% 3% 4%
Another benefit can arise at the installation phase. 0.95 0.016 0.033 0.049 0.066
The grid design might have caused a restriction of 0.9 0.024 0.048 0.073 0.097
larger WECs due to voltage limits [1,2]. Such 0.85 0.031 0.062 0.093 0.124
connection conditions might be complied by using
reactive power control of the respective WECs. Table 3: Savings in c€/kVArh due to reduction
The network can be utilized more effectively with of active power losses due to reactive power
this functionality. compensation with different load power factors
Transient voltage control happens in milliseconds. cos(φ), average network losses dPL, and with
This is a service already required from WECs. Due costs for active power losses of 5 c€/kWh
to very fast reaction times and their spatial
distribution throughout the network the voltage is 4.3.3 Reduction of Congestions
supported effectively during faults (cf. fault-ride- By active compensation of reactive power it is
through requirements e.g. in [2,23]). The general possible to reduce the reactive power flows in the
benefit is difficult to assess but is expected to be network. Particularly at peak load situations this
bigger than the costs of providing reactive power can reduce the loading of the network helping to
for few seconds if the security of supply can be avoid congestions. In addition, also network losses
increased. are reduced but not considered in the economic
assessment in this subsection.
4.3.2 Reduction of Grid Losses Figure 9 displays the relative reduction of the
The transfer of reactive power causes active power loading of a considered network element (e.g. line
losses in the network. Reactive power or transformer) by reactive power compensation.
compensation reduces these active power losses. The network element is assumed to operate at
In addition, more network capacity can be used for 100% rated capacity Sg considering different load
active power transfer. This additional benefit is not power factors cos(φ) with active power flows P and
included in the following considerations. reactive power flows Q. The reactive power flow is
Different load power factors cos(φ) and different compensated by WECs with 50% of their rated
average network losses dPL (in %) are looked at capacity. Their installed capacity Pw is assumed to
with constant active power flow P. A quadratic be 5%, 20% and 50% of the network capacity Sg.
correlation (at constant voltage: ~I²) is assumed The reduction of apparent power ΔS (in %
between losses PL and the apparent power flow S: meaning [kVA/kVAr]) relative to reactive power
compensation with the reactive power supply Qw
PL = dPL ⋅ S 2 = dPL ⋅ P2 + Q2 ) (6) by the WECs can be calculated by:

with S g − P 2 + (Q − Qw )

ΔS =
2 Qw
⎛ 1 ⎞ (7) (9)
Q = P ⋅ ⎜⎜ ⎟⎟ − 1 > 0.
⎝ cos(ϕ ) ⎠ S g − (S g ⋅ cos(ϕ )) + (S g ⋅ sin(ϕ ) − Qw )
2 2

The reduction of active power losses by reactive
power compensation Q relative to Q [kW/kVAr] is Figure 9 shows that the loading can be reduced by
then defined by: 15% (cos(φ)=0.98), 30% (cos(φ)=0.94) or 45%
(cos(φ)=0.87) of the WEC’s reactive power supply
[( )
dPL ⋅ P 2 + Q 2 − P 2 ]
= dPL ⋅ Q at a penetration level of 20%. This reduction is
Q (8) significant. With the range of ΔS = 15-45% and
2 network costs of 30-60 €/kVAa [20,25] the benefit
⎛ 1 ⎞ can be calculated as 4.5-27 €/kVAra which is by
= dPL ⋅ P ⋅ ⎜⎜ ⎟⎟ − 1
⎝ cos(ϕ ) ⎠ far greater than the investment costs in Table 2.
The operational costs can be neglected because
With costs for the compensation of active power some hours of reactive power compensation, say
losses of 5 c€/kWh [24] the benefit of the loss 10-30 h/a for solving the congestions, result in only
reduction is given in Table 3. 1-3 c€/kVAra with 0.1 c€/kVArh according to
A comparison with the costs in Figure 6 shows that Figure 6.
it can be economically attractive to use WECs for The calculated benefit is by far higher than the
reactive power compensation in network situations costs of reactive power compensation by WECs.
with high network losses and low load power However, most networks operate below 100%
factors (high reactive power flow). capacity. In such state the described congestion
management does not have any benefit. However,
in the future with a more optimised network
operation and design, the reactive power
compensation capability of distributed generation losses in the order of 5 c€/kWh [24] we get to a
can be applied effectively for using the network value of approx. 240 Mio € of loss reduction. This
infrastructure more effectively at higher loading calculation does not take into account the value of
levels. The peak load normally occurs on winter the increased network capacity and further
evenings in Europe [26] or under emergency benefits for network operation (e.g. voltage
network situations. control).
The overall benefits and costs of reactive power
60% supply are often considered as minor cost factors
Pw = 5%Sg
in the total electricity supply turnover.
Relative Reduction of Loading by

50% Pw = 20%Sg
Nevertheless, it is very important from an
Reactive Power Supply

Pw = 50%Sg
40% economic perspective because it allows operating
the network more stable and secure, e.g. by
keeping the voltage limits, solving congestions,
20% supporting stability in case of faults and flexible
islanded operation (Microgrid concept [27]). As
stated in [22]: “inadequate reactive power leading
0% to voltage collapse has been a causal factor in
0.99 0.97 0.95 0.93 0.91 0.89 0.87 0.85 major power outages worldwide”.

Figure 9: Relative reduction of network loading due 6 CONCLUSIONS

to reactive power compensation by WECs
considering different WEC penetration levels Pw/Sg This paper describes the capabilities and
and different load power factors cos(φ) availabilities of reactive power supply by WECs
showing an interesting potential. This potential is
studied concerning its economic usability with an
5 Economic Impact approach of allocating costs of additional losses as
well as cost due to oversizing to reactive power
The cost-benefit analysis shows that the benefit supply and assessing the benefits for network
is in most cases greater than the costs of reactive operation.
power supply by WECs. Although seeing costs in The cost-benefit-analysis shows that reactive
the order of some 0.01 c€/kVArh might result in a power supply by WECs can be cheaper than
statement like: “negligible”. It is correct that reactive power supply by conventional devices.
reactive power supply has relatively seen no major Reactive power supply by WECs for voltage
cost influence on the profitability of WECs. control can be an economic attractive supplement.
However, in absolute terms we are discussing It can also be economically attractive for reducing
about costs which should be taken into account. network losses and congestions as well as
The following two examples should give an idea providing better security of supply in case of faults.
about the relevance. One advantageous characteristic of reactive power
We consider a 1 MW WEC with average reactive supply by WECs is its distribution in the network
power supply costs of 0.1 c€/kVArh, secured and its location which is often next to loads. This
reactive power capacity of 0.5 MVAr, and full load dispersion of reactive power sources can reduce
hours of 1000 h/a (for reactive power supply). The the overall network losses considerably.
operational costs of reactive power supply of this The paper presents an economic potential of using
single WEC are then 500 €/a. In addition, an reactive power supplied by WECs. This potential
oversizing to secured 0.5 MVAr results in should be used to optimize the quality, economy
additional investment costs of 2.9-5.7 €/kVAra or and security of network operation. Further on,
1,450-2,850 €/a. The total costs due to reactive regulatory issues have to be analysed to design
power supply are then 1,950-3,350 €/a. This is a appropriate market frameworks based on real
minor cost factor (approx. 1%) for a 1 MW WEC costs of reactive power and giving reasonable
with active power generation revenues of 225,000 incentives to operators of WECs for providing a
€/a (full load hours for active power supply of 2,500 benefit for network operators. These frameworks
h/a and 9 c€/kWh). But if we are looking at 50 GW should lead to a win-win-situation: for the operators
of WEC installed in Europe (beginning of 2007) we of WECs as well as for network operators.
are talking about annual reactive power supply
costs of 97.5-167.5 Mio €.
From the network perspective we can have a look
at the total reactive power demand in the electricity
network which has been estimated in [17] to be
1759 TVArh annually for the EU-25 in 2002.
Further estimations in [17] result in 1069 TVArh to
be compensated and a corresponding network
loss reduction of 48 TWh. With costs of network
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT [15] BMU: “Mindestvergütungssätze nach dem
This work was supported by the European neuen Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG)”,
Commission in the framework of the FENIX project 21 July 2004.
(SES6 – 518272, see [16] A. Richmann: “Impulse für mehr Wettbewerb
as well as by the German Federal Ministry for the in der Energiewirtschaft”, Presentation on
Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Energiesymposium der Industrie- und
Safety in the framework of the national project Handelskammer, Dortmund, 21 November
“Multifunktionale Photovoltaik-Stromrichter – 2006.
Optimierung von Industrienetzen und öffentlichen [17] R. Hänßler, P. Knoll, J.Stein: „ Position Paper
Netzen” (FKZ 0329943, see http://www.multi- on the Green Paper on Energy Efficiency - Only the author is responsible for the Improving Energy Efficiency by Power Factor
content of this publication. Correction “, ZVEI (Zentralverband
Elektrotechnik und Elektronikindustrie) e.V.,
March 2006
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