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IEE Colloquium on "Issues in Power Quality" Warwick - 28th November 1995

N Jenkins and G Strbac

Manchester Centre for Electrical Energy, UMIST, Manchester, UK


This short paper considers the impact of embedded generators on the power quality of distribution networks. The various types of embedded generation are discussed and their impact on the network reviewed. The potential for improvement of network power quality using embedded generators is addressed and the barriers to implementation briefly considered.
In the early days of public electricity supply small local generators were used to supply local loads. However, for the last forty years the electricity supply system in the UK has been developed using large central generating stations transmitting power to loads via the National Grid; often over considerable distances. There are now indications that, in some circUmstances, the use of small-scale local generation embedded i n distribution systems may be becoming attractive once again.
A number of reasons for this resurgence in interest in embedded generation may be identified. Technical advances in small reciprocating engines and gas turbines have encouraged the development of small-scale combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Considerable research effort is being expended in the investigation of fuel-cells; one application of which is small-scale CHP. Techniques to extract and utilise land-fill gas have been developed and the generation of electricity from waste, using a variety of technologies, is now well established. Wind turbine and photovoltaic technologies have made rapid progress over the last ten years to allow the exploitation of the distributed renewable energy resource.

These technical advances have been accompanied by institutional and administrative changes which are probably even more significant for the development of embedded generation. The UK Government has set a target of 5000 MW of CHP and 1500 MW of new renewable schemes to be in service by the year 2000 but a number of the CHP schemes will be too large to be considered as embedded. The support mechanism for renewable energy, the NFFO (Non Fossil Fuel Obligation) scheme, appears to be working effectively although there have been some recent reports to indicate that the rate of installation of CHP schemes has dropped due to adverse changes in the commercial environment. There is also a growing awareness that real and reactive power flows through the distribution system need not be unidirectional, ie from the high voltage networks towards the customer,


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but can be bidirei=tionaldepending on the levels of embedded generation and local loads. This change is illustrated in Figures 1 and 2. Bidirectional power flow poses obvious technical challenges, as most distribution networks were not configure4 for significant penetrations of embedded generation, but also raises comercial difficulties. The commercial framework of distribution system charges was developed in an environment of unidirectional power flows and rather simple passive loads and m y not prove adequate for embedded generation schemes, especially those which have an ability to both improve or reduce the power quality of the network El].

E f f e c t s of Embedded Generation on Power Q d t y

Embedded generation may have a very considemble effect on the quality of power received by customers. The impact depends on the relative size of the generator with respect to the network fault level and X/R ratio, and the design and characteristics of the generator and prime mover installed. The effects may include: Steacky state voltage excursions Transient voltage variations (flicker) Phase voltage unbalance Voltage waveform distortion (harmonics) Engine driven schemes, eg CHP or land-fill gas, can use either synchronous or induction generators. Clearly the frequency of the dstribution system is fixed by that of the National Grid but the generators and customer loads will have a considerable act on the local voltage. A synchronous machine can be configured to attempt to contr local busbar but only at the cost of reactive power flows, and hence losses, in the network. This problem is compounded if there are multiple generators on a circuit. This is illustrated in Figure 3. Multiple operation of synchronous generators on a netwo a new problem. However, in this case there are a number of complicat generators may be owned and operated by organisationswithout a direct quality of the distribution network. The real power output of the determined by the demand for heat or electricity of the premises in whi and not by conditions on the distribution network. At present the ma is the connection agreement which cannot easily be modified and, for small ge sort of overall real time control of reactive power and hence voltage is prohibitively expensive. In general the owner of the generator will be charged for reactive power and lasses which are incurred in the distribution network but receive no benefit for voltage control. Thus it is common for the excitation system of the synchronou to be arranged to give operation either at a fixed, high, power factor or at reactive power flow. Induction generators have no direct means of controlling reactive power flow but may be equipped with local power factor correction capacitors to reduce the demand for reactive power [4]. Decause of the contra-flow of real and reactive power the voltage change at the generator busbar is determined by the X/R ratio of the system and so careful choice of power factor correction can result in small voltage changes but, again, at the expense of reactive power flows. Induction generators will draw a large energising current on connecti can be controlled very effectively using anti-parallel thyristor soft-start equipment Therefore, in the presence of generators have a low negative phase sequence impedan~.

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network voltage unbalance they will draw negative phase sequence current and so reduce the voltage unbalance, Figure 5. Some forms of renewable energy schemes, eg wind turbines, use induction generators to provide damping in response to a varying torque input. The torque input to a wind turbine generator varies with the site wind conditions but also has a cyclic component at the frequency at which the blades pass in front of the tower. These torque variations result in cyclic real and reactive power flows which then may cause voltage variations on the distribution system. There is some evidence to suggest that, under certain conditions, the rotors of some wind turbines fall into synchronism for short periods and so lead to larger power flows than would be expected. However, it should be emphasised that no practical problems have been reported due to this effect. There is emerging use of power electronic convertors to connect embedded generators to the network. The use of thyristor based naturally commutating convertors leads to the well h o w n problems of low power factor and the injection of large low order harmonic currents. This technology is now being superseded by the use of IGBT or GTO based network side invertors. These can be operated at any desired power factor and, if a suitable switching frequency is chosen, do not produce low order harmonics. In principle they can be used as active filters and so improve the system power quality. They may also be used to provide support to the network under abnormal conditions and ameliorate the effect of voltage sags. Although embedded generation using advanced power electronic network side convertors has the potential to improve distribution system power quality, at this time, it is not clear how action of this kind may be rewarded and hence encouraged.

Embedded generation is now emerging as a significant source of electricity in the UK as well as in a number of European countries. This development has been stimulated by both technical advances and changes in the commercial and institutional environment. In a number of technologies proven equipment is now available and it is the non-technical issues which will determine the rate at which embedded generation develops. Embedded generation does have an impact on power quality and, under the present arrangements, the operators of such plant have obligations to remain within particular limits eg voltage and harmonics. However, this ignores the possible improvements which embedded generators can make to the power quality of distribution networks by their ability to control dynamically both real and reactive power injections. Revised institutional and technical approaches are required if the operators of embedded generation are to be encouraged to improve actively the power quality of distribution networks.
1) Strbac G and Jenkins N, "Wind energy in a competitive supply environment", paper presented at the European Wind Energy Association Conference on Economics of Wind Energy, Helsinki, 5th-7th September 1995.
2) Jenkins N and Vaudin A, "The electrical systems of five wind farms", IMechE Proceedings A, Vol209, August 1995.

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igure 1 ..Conventional -Distribution Network


I I F i g u r e 2 DistributionSystem

with Embedded Generation

. D

._.____ _._.__.__ _.__. Voltage Control

I Figure 3 Multiple generators on a circuit.

0 1 0
1 2 3 4 5 6 1

Wind f m expofi


Figure 4
t .4

Power factor of a wind farm E21




0.4 I

0.2 0-1

Wind farm power outpcd


Figure 5 Effect of wind farm output on negative-phase sequence voltage 621


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