reactive power compensation

Reactive power compensation and its impact on power quality management

The quality supply of power to alternating current (AC) products will reduce energy costs and protect equipment. Reactive power compensation equipment will monitor reactive power so as to improve the performance of AC power systems. 

What is reactive power?

For the most part, electrical energy is generated, transmitted, distributed, and used in the form of alternating current (AC). However, a major disadvantage of AC is the need for reactive power which has to be supplied along with active power. Although it is the active power that contributes to the energy consumed or transmitted; reactive power does not contribute to the energy but is an inherent part of the total power.

What is reactive power compensation?

When it comes to reactive power compensation, the two areas of concern are load support and voltage support. 

  • Load support: reactive power compensation is needed to balance the real power drawn from the AC supply to eliminate current harmonic components and enhance voltage regulation.
  • Voltage support: this is needed to reduce voltage fluctuation at a transmission line terminal. Through reactive power compensation, the stability of the AC system is improved for maximum transmission of active power. 

What is power quality management?

This is the measuring of the supply of power to all AC power units. The management of power quality will include the gathering of data and analysing electricity measurement data into useful information that can inform upgrades and changes. 

Power quality management will monitor:

  • Voltage
  • Electrical current
  • Ground quality (if harmonics or unbalanced loads are detected)

If there is a change in power, whether it’s sudden or gradual, the quality of the power can be drastically affected, reducing the overall efficiency and leading to many other issues (listed below).

Issues caused by poor power quality 

Poor power quality is a massive concern for users and suppliers of electrical power – particularly with the re-emergence of load shedding – as the reduction in power quality will reduce efficiency in the generation, transport and use of electrical power leading to system breakdowns. Poor power quality will result in power surges, voltage sag, transients, and interruptions causing the voltage to fluctuate outside of the healthy range.

Some of the negative impacts of poor power quality include:

  • Automatic resets
  • Data errors
  • Circuit board failure
  • Corruption of software
  • Equipment failure
  • Memory loss
  • Power supply challenges
  • Overheating of electrical systems

Reactive power compensation types

To decrease the incidence of these aforementioned power challenges, organisations are implementing reactive power compensation equipment. These include:

  • Capacitor banks – to protect against adverse effects of voltage variations by maintaining a sufficiently high voltage level, contributing to the security and reliability of the grid and reduced system losses. 
  • Synchronous condensers – produce reactive power which can be regulated. Synchronous condensers are suitable for correcting the power factor of the system, but this equipment is quite expensive compared to static capacitors.
  •  UPS SYSTEMS – the latest technology in UPS units now offer PFC power factor correction on the front end of the UPS thus offering correction of reactive components and harmonics generated by the UPS load – the impacts of this is that there is a power-saving on the grid supply due to only non-reactive load being drawn and thus saving on supply capacity and cost per kWh.

Benefits of power quality management

There are many benefits associated with reactive power compensation equipment and the resultant power quality management. These include:

  • Prevention of disruptions – constant power disruptions lead to decreases in efficiency and productivity.
  • Protect equipment – power surges and dips can cause malfunctioning of equipment while management of power quality prevents this and saves on costs and downtime.  
  • New machinery – power quality studies can inform you of the need for upgrades or enhanced panel needs. 
  • Increased safety – incorrect power supply can result in overheating, which not only causes equipment malfunction but possible fires. 

It’s worth consulting with industry professionals about reactive power compensation solutions to protect valuable equipment and prevent production loss through the delivery of quality power. 

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