Usually hidden from the unaided eye, the blinking of (non-incandescent) lighting powered by AC mains is revealed in this

motion-blurred long exposure of city lights. Light is emitted twice each cycle. Power in an electric circuit is the rate of flow of energy past a given point of the circuit. In alternating current circuits, energy storage elements such as inductance and capacitance may result in periodic reversals of the direction of energy flow. The portion of power that, averaged over a complete cycle of the AC waveform, results in net transfer of energy in one direction is known as real power. The portion of power due to stored energy, which returns to the source in each cycle, is known as reactive power.

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1 Real, reactive, and apparent power 2 Power factor 3 Reactive power 4 Unbalanced polyphase systems 5 Basic calculations using real numbers 6 Multiple frequency systems 7 See also 8 References

[edit] Real, reactive, and apparent power

so both real and reactive power will flow to real loads. the product of voltage and current is positive. and capacitance. Power engineers measure apparent power as the vector sum of real and reactive power. If the load is purely resistive. it heats the wires. If a capacitor and an inductor are placed in parallel. Apparent power is the product of the root-mean-square voltage and current. capacitors (or inductors) are inserted in a circuit to partially cancel reactive power 'consumed' by the load. indicating that on average. There is no net energy flow over one cycle. indicating that the direction of energy flow does not reverse. only reactive energy flows—there is no net transfer of energy to the load. At every instant the product of voltage and current is positive. Practical loads have resistance. capacitors are considered to generate reactive power and inductors to consume it. then the currents flowing through the inductor and the capacitor tend to cancel out rather than adding. inductance.The apparent power is the vector sum of real and reactive power. transformers and generators must be sized to carry the total current. Engineers care about apparent power. In this case. the two quantities reverse their polarity at the same time. If the load is purely reactive. Another consequence is that adding the apparent power for two loads will not accurately give the total apparent power unless they have the same displacement between current and voltage (the same power factor). both the current and voltage are sinusoidal. only real power is transferred. not just the current that does useful work. but on the other half of the cycle. then the voltage and current are 90 degrees out of phase. exactly as much energy flows toward the load as flows back. In this case. This is the fundamental mechanism for controlling the power factor in electric power transmission. because even though the current associated with reactive power does no work at the load. For half of each cycle. wasting energy. Conventionally. Conductors. the product is negative. Real power (P) Reactive power (Q) Complex power (S) Apparent Power (|S|) In a simple alternating current (AC) circuit consisting of a source and a linear load. .

These higher currents produce higher losses and reduce overall transmission efficiency. where leading indicates a negative sign. It is zero when the current leads or lags the voltage by 90 degrees. S is the complex power and the length of S is the apparent power. . The power factor is one when the voltage and current are in phase. It's a practical measure of the efficiency of a power distribution system. it is sometimes called "wattless" power. serve an important function in electrical grids and its lack has been cited as a significant factor in the Northeast Blackout of 2003.[2] Understanding the relationship between these three quantities lies at the heart of understanding power engineering. Purely capacitive circuits cause reactive power with the current waveform leading the voltage wave by 90 degrees. [edit] Power factor Main article: Power factor The ratio between real power and apparent power in a circuit is called the power factor.Engineers use the following terms to describe energy flow in a system (and assign each of them a different unit to differentiate between them):     Real power (P) or active power [1]: watt [W] Reactive power (Q): volt-amperes reactive [var] Complex power (S): volt-ampere [VA] Apparent Power (|S|). Power factors are usually stated as "leading" or "lagging" to show the sign of the phase angle. The unit for reactive power is expressed as VAr. The mathematical relationship among them can be represented by vectors or expressed using complex numbers. however. (where j is the imaginary unit). Apparent power is conventionally expressed in volt-amperes (VA) since it is the product of rms voltage and rms current. Reactive power does not transfer energy. P is the real power. A lower power factor circuit will have a higher apparent power and higher losses for the same amount of real power. Real power moves energy. For two systems transmitting the same amount of real power. that is. the system with the lower power factor will have higher circulating currents due to energy that returns to the source from energy storage in the load. so it is the real axis. the absolute value of complex power S: volt-ampere [VA] In the diagram. It does. The unit for all forms of power is the watt (symbol: W). Q is the reactive power (in this case positive). while purely inductive circuits cause reactive power with the current waveform lagging the voltage waveform by 90 degrees. The result of this is that capacitive and inductive circuit elements tend to cancel each other out. which stands for volt-amperes reactive. but this unit is generally reserved for real power. Since reactive power transfers no net energy to the load. so it is represented as the imaginary axis of the vector diagram.

the power factor is the cosine of the phase angle (φ) between the current and voltage sinusoid waveforms. and by other means. Equipment data sheets and nameplates often will abbreviate power factor as "cosφ" for this reason. [3] [edit] Reactive power In power transmission and distribution. with the development of three phase power distribution. significant effort is made to control the reactive power. it became clear that the definition of apparent power and the power factor could not be applied to unbalanced polyphase systems. They considered two definitions:  that is.6°) = 1000 VA. This is typically done automatically by switching inductors or capacitor banks in and out.  that is. However. The transcripts of . This is particularly relevant to customers operating highly inductive loads such as motors at water pumping stations. by adjusting generator excitation. Major delineations of the concept are attributed to Stanley's Phenomena of Retardation in the Induction Coil (1888) and Steinmetz's Theoretical Elements of Engineering (1915). Originally. apparent power arose merely as a figure of merit. the quotient of the sums of the real powers for each phase over the sum of the apparent power for each phase. Electricity retailers may use electricity meters which measure reactive power to financially penalize customers with low power factor loads. The power factor is cos(45. the definition of apparent power for unbalanced polyphase systems is considered to be one of the most controversial topics in power engineering.6°) = 0.700.Where the waveforms are purely sinusoidal.6°. the quotient of the sums of the real powers for each phase over the magnitude of the sum of the complex powers for each phase. The 1920 committee found no consensus and the topic continued to dominate discussions. Example: The real power is 700 W and the phase angle between voltage and current is 45. a "Special Joint Committee of the AIEE and the National Electric Light Association" met to resolve the issue. In 1920. [edit] Unbalanced polyphase systems While real power and reactive power are well defined in any system. The apparent power is then: 700 W / cos(45. In 1930 another committee formed and once again failed to resolve the question.

so current and voltage are in phase. If X is defined as being positive for an inductor and negative for a capacitor then we can remove the modulus signs from Q and X and get. [edit] Multiple frequency systems Since an RMS value can be calculated for any waveform. Therefore for a perfect capacitor or inductor: Where X is the reactance of the capacitor or inductor. Therefore for a perfect resistor: For a perfect capacitor or inductor there is no net power transfer.their discussions are the lengthiest and most controversial ever published by the AIEE (Emanuel. Therefore there is no reactive power and P = S. 1993). For real power it would at first appear that we would have to calculate loads of product terms and average all of them. . Further resolution of this debate did not come until the late 1990s. [edit] Basic calculations using real numbers A perfect resistor stores no energy. so all power is reactive. However if we look at one of these product terms in more detail we come to a very interesting result. apparent power can be calculated from this.

Therefore the only product terms that have a nonzero average are those where the frequency of voltage and current match. Furthermore. but they will have no effect on the real power transferred. They will increase the rms current (since there will be non-zero terms added) and therefore apparent power. .however the time average of a function of the form cos(ωt+k) is zero provided that ω is nonzero. Harmonic currents can be reduced by a filter placed at the input of the device. this shows that harmonic currents are a bad thing. Hence. Typically this will consist of either just a capacitor (relying on parasitic resistance and inductance in the supply) or a capacitor-inductor network. In other words it is possible to calculate real (average) power by simply treating each frequency separately and adding up the answers. harmonic currents will reduce the power factor. An active power factor correction circuit at the input would generally reduce the harmonic currents further and maintain the power factor closer to unity. if we assume the voltage of the mains supply is a single frequency (which it usually is).

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