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Power Factor Correction

What is Power Factor? Power Factor is a characteristic of alternating current, and can be defined as the ratio of working power to total power. Alternating current has the following components Real Power - Power which produces work (kW) Available Power - Power delivered or total volt amps (kVA) Reactive Power - Power needed to generate magnetic fields required for the operation of inductive electrical equipment. (kVAR) No useful work is performed with reactive power. Therefore the unitless Power Factor is obtained from Real Power kW Power Factor = = Available Power kVA Power Factor is generally represented as a percentage or a decimal. Perfect power factor, often referred to as unity power factor would be 100% or 1.0. What is Power Factor Correction? All flowing current causes losses in the supply and distribution system. A load with a power factor of 1.0 results is the most efficient loading for the supply and a load with a power factor of 0.6 will have much higher losses in the supply system. These loses have to be paid for, and result in higher utility bills. It is possible to modify the supply and distribution system to bring the power factor closer to unity. This is called power factor correction. Correcting Power Factors The simplest form of power factor correction, sometimes referred to as static correction, is by the addition of capacitors in parallel with the connected inductive load. The resulting capacitive current is a leading current and is used to cancel the lagging inductive current flowing from the supply. The capacitors can be applied at the starter, or the switchboard or at the distribution panel. Note that power factor correction should not be used when a motor is controlled by a variable speed drive. Rather than correcting each individual load, the total current supplied to the distribution board can be monitored by a controller which switches capacitor banks to maintain the power factor at its predetermined setting. The controller switching in capacitors as new loads come on line, and switching out capacitors as loads go off line. This type of correction is sometimes referred to as bulk correction.

Common Inductive Loads Commonly used electrical equipment that provide an inductive load include lighting circuits, heaters, arc welders, distribution transformers and electric motors. Any Other Benefits? Besides savings in electricity bills, power factor correction offers improved voltage regulation due to reduced lower voltage drop. Also, by considering power factor correction at the design stage it is possible to reduce capital investment through reduction in the size of transformers, switchgear and cable diameters.

Importance of power factor in distribution systems
The significance of power factor lies in the fact that utility companies supply customers with volt-amperes, but bill them for watts. Power factors below 1.0 require a utility to generate more than the minimum volt-amperes necessary to supply the real power (watts). This increases generation and transmission costs. For example, if the load power factor were as low as 0.7, the apparent power would be 1.4 times the real power used by the load. Line current in the circuit would also be 1.4 times the current required at 1.0 power factor, so the losses in the circuit would be doubled (since they are proportional to the square of the current). Alternatively all components of the system such as generators, conductors, transformers, and switchgear would be increased in size (and cost) to carry the extra current. Utilities typically charge additional costs to customers who have a power factor below some limit, which is typically 0.9 to 0.95. Engineers are often interested in the power factor of a load as one of the factors that affect the efficiency of power transmission. With the rising cost of energy and concerns over the efficient delivery of power, active PFC has become more common in consumer electronics.[16] Current Energy Star guidelines for computers (ENERGY STAR® Program Requirements for Computers Version 5.0) call for a power factor of • 0.9 at 100% of rated output in the PC's power supply. According to a white paper authored by Intel and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PCs with internal power supplies will require the use of active power factor correction to meet the ENERGY STAR® 5.0 Program Requirements for Computers.[17] In Europe, IEC 555-2 requires power factor correction be incorporated into consumer products.

Mnemonics
English-language power engineering students are advised to remember: "ELI the ICE man" or "ELI on ICE" ± the voltage E leads the current I in an inductor L, the current leads the voltage in a capacitor C. Or CIVIL ± in a capacitor(C) the current (I) leads voltage(V), voltage(V) leads current(I) in an inductor(L).