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A report on Reactive Power in Power Systems.
Reactive Power AC voltage and current pulsate at the same frequency, they peak at different times. Power is the algebraic product of voltage and current. Over a cycle, power has an average value, called real power, measured in volt-amperes, or watts. There is also a portion of power with zero average value that is called reactive power, measured in volt-amperes reactive, or vars. The total power is called apparent power, measured in volt-amperes, or VA. Reactive power has zero average value because it pulsates up and down, averaging to zero; reactive power is measured as the maximum of the pulsating power over a cycle. Reactive power can be positive or negative, depending on whether current peaks before or after voltage. By convention, reactive power, like real power, is positive when it is “supplied” and negative when it is “consumed.” Consuming reactive power lowers voltage magnitudes, while supplying reactive power increases voltage magnitudes. Because voltage and current are pulsating, the power on a transmission line also pulsates. In a transmission system, this pulsating transfer of stored energy results in a loss of power called line losses. The letter Q is commonly used to designate reactive power. Real power is commonly designated as P. Sources of Reactive Power Reactive power is an inherent part of the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. Inductance and capacitance are inherent properties of the electric power system elements such as transmission lines, transformers and capacitors. Inductance consumes reactive power and capacitance supplies reactive power. Most of the electric power loads are inductive in nature. Induction motors and transformers consume reactive power. Common examples of applications of induction motors include air conditioners, household appliances, mining, industrial equipment and manufacturing processes. Underground and overhead transmission lines have inductance and capacitance, and can either supply reactive power or
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consume reactive power depending on the line loading. Generators can supply or consume reactive power within limits. Reactive power needs to be managed or compensated in a way to ensure sufficient amounts are being produced to meet demand and so that the electric power system can run efficiently. Significant problems (e.g., abnormal voltages and system instability) can occur if reactive power is not properly managed. Capacitors, which supply reactive power, can be switched into a system in real-time to compensate for the reactive power consumed by the electric power system during periods of heavy loading. Similarly, inductors, which consume reactive power, are added to compensate for the reactive power supplied by the electric power system during periods of light loading. These devices are installed throughout the electric power system to maintain an acceptable voltage profile for a secure and efficient power system operation. Generators can also provide or absorb reactive power. Reactive power compensation can be either static (e.g. capacitors or inductors) or dynamic (e.g. generators) in nature. Most equipment connected to the electricity system will generate or absorb reactive power, but not all can be used economically to control voltage. Principally synchronous generators and specialized compensation equipment are used to set the voltage at particular points in the system, which elsewhere is determined by the reactive power flows. Synchronous Generators - Synchronous machines can be made to generate or absorb reactive power depending upon the excitation (a form of generator control) applied. The output of synchronous machines is continuously variable over the operating range and automatic voltage regulators can be used to control the output so as to maintain a constant system voltage. Synchronous Compensators - Certain smaller generators, once run up to speed and synchronized to the system, can be declutched from their turbine and provide reactive power without producing real power. This mode of operation is called Synchronous Compensation. Capacitive and Inductive Compensators - These are devices that can be connected to the system to adjust voltage levels. A capacitive
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compensator produces an electric field thereby generating reactive power whilst an inductive compensator produces a magnetic field to absorb reactive power. Compensation devices are available as either capacitive or inductive alone or as a hybrid to provide both generation and absorption of reactive power. Overhead Lines and Underground Cables - Overhead lines and underground cables, when operating at the normal system voltage, both produce strong electric fields and so generate reactive power. When current flows through a line or cable it produces a magnetic field which absorbs reactive power. A lightly loaded overhead line is a net generator of reactive power whilst a heavily loaded line is a net absorber of reactive power. In the case of cables designed for use at 275 or 400kV the reactive power generated by the electric field is always greater than the reactive power absorbed by the magnetic field and so cables are always net generators of reactive power. Transformers - Transformers produce magnetic fields and therefore absorb reactive power. The heavier the current loading the higher the absorption. Consumer Loads - Some loads such as motors produce a magnetic field and therefore absorb reactive power but other customer loads, such as fluorescent lighting, generate reactive power. In addition reactive power may be generated or absorbed by the lines and cables of distribution systems. Importance of Reactive Power Voltage control in an electric power system is important for proper operation of electric power equipment to prevent damage such as overheating of generators and motors, to reduce transmission losses and to maintain the ability of the system to withstand disturbances and prevent voltage collapse. In general terms, decreasing reactive power causes voltages to fall, while increasing reactive power causes voltages to rise. A voltage collapse occurs when the system is trying to serve much more load than the voltage can support. Inadequate reactive power supply lowers voltage; as voltage drops, current must increase to maintain the power supplied, causing the lines to consume
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more reactive power and the voltage to drop further. If current increases too much, transmission lines trip, or go off-line, overloading other lines and potentially causing cascading failures. If voltage drops too low, some generators will automatically disconnect to protect themselves. Voltage collapse occurs when an increase in load or loss of generation or transmission facilities causes dropping voltage, which causes a further reduction in reactive power from capacitors and line charging, and still further voltage reductions. If the declines continue, these voltage reductions cause additional elements to trip, leading to further reduction in voltage and loss of load. The result is a progressive and uncontrollable decline in voltage, all because the power system is unable to provide the reactive power required to supply the reactive power demand. Physical characteristics and costs Reactive power may be supplied by several different sources, including transmission equipment (such as capacitors, reactors, static var compensators and static compensators), generators and synchronous condensers. Reactive power does not travel over long distances at high line loadings due to significant losses on the wires. Thus, reactive power usually must be procured from suppliers near where it is needed. This factor limits the geographic scope of the reactive power market and, thus, the number of suppliers that can provide reactive power and the amount of competition at any place and time, at least in the short term before other suppliers can enter the market. But while competition may be limited in reactive power markets, there may be at least some existing alternative sources of reactive power supply in many locations, and new sources may be able to enter the market over the longer term. The goal should be to develop rules that ensure that adequate supplies of reactive power (including reactive reserves) are available in all locations to ensure that operation of the grid is reliable and efficient and that reactive power is procured at least cost over the short and long run. As we discuss below, transparent and nondiscriminatory markets and prices for reactive power have the potential to promote this goal. Generally, reactive power support is divided into two categories: static and dynamic. Static reactive power is produced from equipment that, when connected to the system, cannot quickly change the reactive power level as
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long as the voltage level remains constant, and its reactive power production level drops when the voltage level drops. Capacitors and inductors supply and consume static reactive power. Dynamic reactive power is produced from equipment that can quickly change the Mvar level independent of the voltage level. Thus, the equipment can increase its reactive power production level when voltage drops and prevent a voltage collapse. Static var compensators, synchronous condensers and generators provide dynamic reactive power.
Characteristics of Voltage-Control Equipment
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