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Automatic Transfer System (ATS) Explained

in Details
The Role of the Automatic Transfer System
Using the basic building blocks of utility power, system topology, on-site generation, and uninterruptible power
supplies, the basic role of the automatic transfer system may now be defined.

Requirments of Automatic Transfer System (photo credit:
In this role, the Automatic Transfer System must display the following characteristics:

1. Robustness – it must operate as intended, even under abnormal power system conditions, without human
intervention. Just as importantly, it must be able to distinguish when a system condition does not warrant
transfer to the alternate power source.

to signal a generator when to start. the main-main topology arrangement used. Simply stated.2. a more detailed representation of the system is required. such as a utility service. It must be able to control the switchgear as required and. in the event the normal source fails. such as standby generation. For this purpose. the role of the automatic transfer system is to provide the automatic transfer of power for its associated load group from a normal power source. Example System Description To fully illustrate the operational requirements ofa typical automatic transfer system. must be able to pass the proper signals to the alternate power source if necessary (for example. to an alternate power source. but with the details of the automatic transfer system shown: . additionally.

Figure 1 – Main-Main .

are: . In a given mode of operation. the transfer system will respond differently. <="" ins="" data-adsbygoogle-status="done" style="box-sizing: border-box. and updates the user onthe status of the system. It also can initiate generator startup for the alternate power source.Automatic Transfer Scheme Detail In Figure 1. A user interface allows the adjustment of certain operating parameters of the system. and receives status inputs from those breakers."> Modes of Operation // An essential requirement of anyautomatic transfer system is the ability to have different modes of operation. Two basic modes of operation. CB-UM and CB-GM. Voltage transformers. For a different mode of operation. and when. It controls the operation of the two transfer circuit breakers. which any automatic transfer system must have. the automatic transfer logic provides the decision-making for what automatic operations are to happen. the operational requirements of a typical automatic transfer system will be examined. step the system voltages down to instrumentation levels that can be used by these relays. width: 336px. height: 280px. or VT’s. a frequency relay (device 81) is present for frequency indication of the alternate power source. the transfer system will respond in a given way to changing system conditions. Undervoltage (device 27) and negative sequence voltage (device 47) relays on each power source give the transfer logic indication of their condition. Using this example system. In addition. display: block.

the automatic transfer system does not perform any automatic operations. On the surface. this appears to be a simple arrangement. All circuit breaker operations must be manually performed. if an automatically-controlled circuit breaker is manually tripped or trips due to a fault) Such questions are not always easy to answer. if an automatically-controlled circuit breaker is in the withdrawn position or not present in the circuit breaker cell)? 2. Manual mode 2. typically known as auto mode failure. Can the system be placed into automatic mode if system conditions are not correct (for example. it does not respond to changing system conditions. Auto mode failure 1. Manual Mode . they necessitate.e. and to some extent this is true. i. good automatic transfer system design has well-thought-out mode logic that answers the following questions: 1. and the system will respond automatically to changing system conditions. In fact. Conversely.1. Automatic mode 3. the inclusion of a third mode of operation.. in the automatic mode of operation all operations. Manual Mode 2. manual opening of circuit breakers)? 3. What manual operations are allowed in automatic mode (for example. Automatic Mode In the manual mode. What happens if an allowed manual operation is performed on an automatically controlled device (for example. The three modes of operation then typically work as follows: 1. with a few emergency exceptions. in a well-designed automatic transfer system. Good ATS design // However. are automatic.

Auto Mode Failure // No automatic operations occur. In Automatic Mode. Automatic Mode // Selected via a selector switch position or other pre-determined user input via the user interface. Attempting to enter automatic mode if the system conditions are not correct places the system into Auto Mode Failure. however manual tripping (or breaker trip due to a fault) of automatically-controlled circuit breakers is allowed. enhancing safety.Selected via a selector switch position or other pre-determined user input via the user interface.. and reliability of the system. Go back to ATS Operation Modes ↑ 3. i. Go back to ATS Operation Modes ↑ 2. This arrangement provides a high level of security for the transfer scheme.e. undesired or “nuisance” operations are minimized. No automatic operations occur. Such manual or fault-driven operations will result in the system being placed into Auto Mode Failure. To leave this mode of operation. maintainability. operations for certain circuit breakers (such as main and tie circuit breakers) are automatic. the system must be placed into manual mode. For automatically-controlled circuit breakers. only manual tripping (or trip due to a fault) is allowed. .

automatic mode and auto mode failure. For the same reason overcurrent trip switches for low-voltage circuit breakers or lockout relays for medium-voltage circuit breakers are also required. this is usually most expediently handled via voltage failure simulation test switches whilethe system is the automatic mode.Of necessity. Another question that frequently arises is that of a “test” mode of operation. circuit breaker cell switch indication. Circuit breaker cell switches are a feature which must not be overlooked as they are essential for the proper function of an automatic transfer scheme with drawout circuit breakers. Go back to ATS Operation Modes ↑ Read the next part 2 // ATS operational requirements In previous article I explained the role of the automatic transfer system and the operational requirements – three modes of operation: manual mode. . to make this mode logic arrangement function properly the breaker statusmust consist both of breaker open-closed indication and. for drawout circuit breakers. While this could be made into a separate mode of operation.

Operational requirements (photo credit: Now let’s cover the following topics and try to explain the concept of transfering power in details // 1. Automatic transfer system explained in details . Dead-Bus Considerations . Initiation of Transfer 2.

Generator Starting 4. Open-Transition Re-Transfer 7. For this purpose. it is necessary for the mode logic to know the condition of the normal and alternate power sources. the transfer system must be able to react to source failure by initiating transfer. This is typically accomplished via undervoltage (device 27) and negative-sequence voltage (device 47) relays. Initiation of Transfer In the automatic mode.3. as shown in Figure 1. Completion of Transfer 5. . Re-Transfer to Normal Source 6. Closed-Transition Re-Transfer and 8. Unusual Conditions 1.

Figure 1 – Main-Main .

Because overvoltage can be an issue when operating on generator power (for example. but may be adjustable. The pickup and time delay levels for these relays are functions of the system itself and the amount of time that abnormal conditions can be tolerated. the undervoltage relays are typically set to pick up when the voltage level falls to 80% of nominal. under. however. and are separate from the relays or generator control package functions which provide protection for the generator.and negative-sequence voltage relays. The negativesequence voltage relays are typically pre-set to respond to loss of a single phase.Automatic Transfer Scheme Detail Frequency relaying is usually not required for utility sources as the frequency isquite stable. and not affected by changing load conditions within the facility. overvoltage (device 59) relays are occasionally used as well (not shown in Figure 1). Careful coordination is required to . and will ramp up to the nominal frequency (typically 60Hz) as part of the startup process.For these reasons. For standby generators. It should be noted that these relays are typically for use by the automatic transfer system only. at the beginning of the startup cycle of a generator the frequency is zero. although they are typically controlled via isochronous governors there is a limit to the amount of power (and to sudden changes in power) that they can supply without frequency changes. Frequency relays must be set very carefully to avoid nuisance operations on normal load swings. For example. Also.(and possibly over-) frequency relays (device 81) are used for generator sources in addition to the under. if the voltage regulator fails or the generator is called upon to absorb an excessive amount of reactive power).

a suitable time delay must be given to allow the residual voltage from spinning motors to decay before the system is transferred to the alternate source.e. Once the source failure time delay has expired. this response is delayed to insure that the abnormality is not a transient condition. . When the system is supplied via utility power this will allow the utility system to attempt clear the fault through reclosing.. “source normal” or “source abnormal”. via a time delay built into the automatic transfer logic. known as a source failure delay. Dead-Bus Considerations Once a transfer operation has been initiated and the system has been disconnected from its normal source of supply. more that the automatic transfer relays will always react before generator protective relays. may be via inverse-time characteristics built into the relays or. This delay is typically 5-10 seconds and is a function of what type of utility reclosing is used and how long the abnormal voltage condition can be allowed to persist.the automatic transfer system opens the circuit breaker for the affected source. in order to prevent an unnecessary transfer. The time delay. starting the automatic transfer process. Typically. Upon receipt of a “source abnormal” signal when operating on utility power. i. the automatic transfer logic must respond. The indication from these relays to the automatic transfer logic is typically in the form of a single binary input. Go back to ATS Operational Requirements ↑ 2.

Go back to ATS Operational Requirements ↑ . there is a significant risk of both shaft and winding damage to connected motors due to the energy transfer that can occur. Typically. Generator Starting For the example system of Figure 1. In general. once the contact is closed the generator(s) will start up and will run until the contact is opened. a signal is provided to initiate generator starting. at which time the generator will begin a cool-down cycle. however the logic should incorporate controls to insure this. Go back to ATS Operational Requirements ↑ 3. Other variations exist.This time delay is known dead-bus time. any time a system bus is de-energized due to automatic transfer action a dead-bus delay should be coded into the transfer logic. unless the generator(s) is used for cogeneration aswell as standby power. this will be a requirement any time one of the sources of power is a generator or generators. this signal is a contact closure. however in general the management of the generator cool-down cycle should remain under control of the generator(s) control system rather than the automatic transfer system. Typical dead-bus delays are 2 – 5s. For the example system of Figure 1. In general. this will almost always be inherently be accounted for due to the generator start-up time. If this is not done. and it is vital that this be taken into account in the transfer scheme design.

the secondary bus tie circuit breaker would be the circuit breaker that is closed. Completion of Transfer After the alternate source is available and the required dead-bus delay has expired. In the example system of Figure 1. For a main-tie-main system as shown in Figure 2.. . the alternate-source circuit breaker is CB-GM. the transfer system must close the alternate-source circuit breaker to supply the system from the alternate source.

Figure 2 – Secondary-Selective “Main-Tie-Main” Arrangement .

For the main-main topology arrangement. Once the time delay has expired the return to the normal operating condition may be open-or closed-transition. In the example system of Figure 1. . However. The time delay is known as a return of source time delay and is typically set from 5 – 15 minutes. This timer is present so that re-transfer will not occur until the normal source has been shown to be stable. Re-Transfer to Normal Source The normal source. and the second tie circuit breaker would be the circuit breaker that is closed to complete the transfer. a dead-bus delay would transpire. and may be manually or automatically initiated. when it returns. Go back to ATS Operational Requirements ↑ 6. typically starts a timer in the automatic transfer system. open-transition re-transfer entails de-energizing the system prior to reenergizing it with the normal source. one of the bus tie circuit breakers would normally remain closed all of the time. Open-Transition Re-Transfer As its name implies. Go back to ATS Operational Requirements ↑ 5. the circuit breaker CB-GM would open. and circuit breaker CB-UM would close to complete the re-transfer. it does not require additional equipment to accomplish. The disadvantage to this method of re-transfer is that it requires the system to take a second outage in order to be restored to the normal source. This requires a dead-bus delay as discussed above.

Active synchronization avoids these problems. no more than 2 -3 cycles. . by driving the generator(s)into synchronism with the normal source. or actively. If both the normal and alternate sources are separate utility services the utility may have restrictions on the ability to perform closed-transition re-transfer. this requires synchronizing the generator(s) with the normal power source. by simply waiting for the generator(s) to fall into synchronism with the normal source. but is more expensive since an generator synchronizer and additional control signals between the automatic transfer system and generator control system are required. Closed-Transition Re-Transfer Closed-transition re-transfer requires the paralleling of the normal and alternate power sources for a brief time period prior to separation from the alternate power source. passive synchronization is less expensiveand can be accomplished with a simple synchronism checking relay (device 25). In general. The time period during which the sources are paralleled is usually very brief. This synchronization may be accomplished passively. Where a generator(s) is involved. This heightened exposure results from the elevated fault-current levels that exist with the sources in parallel. however the generator is not guaranteed to fall into synchronism with the utility source and the resulting energy transf er during the transition can damage the generator and other system components. and also due to the exposure of the system to supply a fault on the normal source via the alternate source.Go back to ATS Operational Requirements ↑ 7. in order to keep the heightened exposure of the system which occurs to as brief a time as possible.

circuit breaker CB-UM would close once synchronization is achieved (passive or active). The basic philosophy for automatic transfers in mission-critical environments is to transfer the system if the condition of the normal source is in doubt. For example.The advantage of closed-transition re-transfer is that the system does not have to experience another outage during re-transfer. Unusual Conditions Unusual conditions can occur during the automatic transfer process. the normal power source could fail. How the automatically transfer system responds during such conditions has traditionally been a function of the skill of the transfer system designer and the requirements of the facility. so long as the alternate power source is known to be available and it is safe to do so. .For the example system of Figure 1. and most automatic transfer systems for these environments are designed with this goal in mind. Go back to ATS Operational Requirements ↑ 8. then circuit breaker CB-GM would open to complete the re-transfer. only to be restored during the dead-bus time delay before the alternate source is connected to the system.

Does not exist the connection GENERATOR-POWER UTILITY. 1. As shown in the automatic changeover switch for generator circuit diagram there are two paths: GENERATOR LOAD (BLU color) and POWER UTILITY LOAD (ORANGE color). .Automatic changeover switch for generator circuit diagram An automatic changeover switch for generator together with your backup generator ensures electrical power to your business premises in case of power outage.


The controller will then automatically start the engine when necessary via an interface relay. etc). and then transfers it back once utility power has been restored. Once the generator provides the correct frequency and voltage. the Automatic changeover switch will connect the load to the power utility automatically. The automatic changeover switch for generator comes with a so called ATS (Automatic Transfer Switch) controller. When the engine is cold. The controller that governs the system. The contact of the relay will instruct the engine to start. To read more about GENERATOR AUTO START VISIT THE TUTOTRIAL PAGE. minutes or hours).g. In some cases the generator is requeste to start immediately. the engine is then stopped via the GENERATOR AUTO START MODULE. the AUTO START CONTROLLER will provide a programmable warm up time to run the engine off load. frequency lower that 55Hz. After a time delay. the automatic changeover switch transfers the load from the utility to the generator. This happens after a power failure programmed delay (seconds.As a matter of fact when the utility power is not available the transfer switch transfers the load to the generator. The way that the engine start is controlled by an electronic module called ‘GENERATOR AUTO START’. Once utility power has been restored. The engine in these applications are keeped warm by using electrical systems. which monitors the parameters of power and detects when there are any electrical parameter out of the preset limit (e. They will be able to work immediately to full load without damage. . voltage lower than 100V. ensures that all this is done smoothly and with a short downtime.


The Power Utility (sometimes called ‘MAINS’) [9]. [1]. The two contactors are joined together with a ‘mechanical interlock’ mechanism.The Generator Auto Start Module [5]. It will not allow to both .The backup generator connected via protection FUSES to the ATS controller [4].The Power utility connected via protection FUSES to the ATS controller [3].The automatic changeover switch for generator circuit diagram on the left side illustrates all components of the system.Auxiliary relays to drive the contactors [7]. The drawing indicates a 3-phase system.The Generator Power Connections (usually 3-phase) The controller monitors the electrical parameters of the power utility and generator via the terminals R-S-T-L1-L2-L3. circuit breakers called. It is about two.The Changeover Switch made of two contactors [6]. How is made the automatic changeover switch The changeover switch is made by using two contactors (READ MORE ABOUT CONTACTORS). electrically controlled.Automatic Transfer Switch Controller [2]. but only one at a time. These powerful relays are not allowed to close simultaneously.Auxiliary relays to drive the Generator Auto Start [8].

A contactor. when closed. opens its own auxiliary contact. This contact. This ‘electrical interlock’ add more safety to the system in order to avoid back-feeding. This is the typical behaviour of the automatic transfer switch: BREAK- BEFORE-MAKE. Choosing the AMF or ATS controller . the CONTACTORs of the generator are indicated ‘KG’ and ‘KM’. will not allow the other contactor to close. When switching the Generator to Power Utility the user may observe a short ‘black-out’. In the automatic changeover switch for generator circuit diagram.relays to be in a ‘closed position’. being in series with the coil of the other contactor. Normally it is about 2 seconds.

The crucial issue is the controller selection. The recommended option is a combined AMF / ATS controller like BeK3E. You can insall an Automatic Mains Failure (AMF) or an Automatic Transfer Switch Controller (simply say ATS). PURCHASE ON LINE SAMPLES WITH FREE SHIPPING OPTION . It includes all benefit of AMF and ATS controller.

the contactor of the generator will close only after opening the power utility supply. Automatic changeover switch using contactors We are not familiar with the terms 'CONTACTOR'. Two contactors are assembled together and mechanically joined with a ‘mechanical interlock’ mechanism. It is about a sort of electrically controlled. A smart way to build an automatic changerover switch or automatic transfer switch (ATS) is by using two contactors. This means that you can connect the load to power utility only before opening the generator circuit. opens its own auxiliary contact. In the same way. will not allow the other contactor to close. Lets see how it works out. We are usually using terms like 'circuit breaker'. circuit breaker or power relay that features high voltage and current ratings. as a matter of fact. In the picture an Automatic Changeover Switch made by using two contactors. This ‘electrical interlock’ adds more safety to the system in order to avoid back-feeding. But. READ MORE . This contact. The switching principle is BREAK-BEFORE- MAKE. You can experience with a short black-out (normally about two seconds) when you activate the automatic changeover switch. This will not allow to both contactors to be in a ‘closed position’. A contactor. being in series with the coil of the other contactor. It features a coil (usually in AC) that makes the contactor to close (you energize the coil) or to open (you de-energize the coil). 'changeover switch' or 'switch gear'. when closed. the contactor is the most popular core of an automatic changeover switch.