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IMPORTANCE OF UNBALANCE PROTECTION FOR CAPACITOR BANKS

AJAY SINGH,
DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF MINES SAFETY (ELECTRICAL)
DIRECTORATE GENERAL OF MINES SAFETY,
MINISTRY OF LABOUR & EMPLOYMENT
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

PREAMBLE: The DISCOMs (Distribution Companies) levy serious penalty charges to the
consumers, failing to maintain power factor to a certain limit i.e. around 0.9(lagging) in most of
the cases. At the same time they offer incentive in the tariff to the consumers who are able to
maintain the same to a reasonably good value i.e. 0.95(lagging) or more.

The easiest way to improve the power factor is to use shunt capacitors either at the sending end
i.e. distribution sub-station or in parallel with the load i.e. receiving end. The maximum benefit
is derived only when the capacitors are installed at the receiving end, as in addition to improving
the power factor they help in minimizing the line losses (I2R losses). In short, the installation of
capacitor banks for improving the power factor results in increased power factor, reduced losses,
improved system, capacity and better voltage level at load points.

As compared to other electrical loads, the protective scheme of a typical capacitor bank
has to be different as in case of capacitor banks a lot of impetus is given to unbalance protection
in addition to over-current and earth fault protections. The faulty capacitor bank may severely
stress the power system if remained connected during abnormal system conditions possibly
causing over-voltages that may damage both the capacitor bank and other components of the
system.

Through this paper, the importance of unbalance protection and various schemes of
unbalance protections are discussed.

HOW THE UNBALANCE IS CAUSED IN A CAPACITOR BANK: A typical capacitor bank of rated KVAr,
consists of number of individual capacitors in series and parallel combinations. The failure of few
of the capacitors leads to an increase in voltage across remaining healthy elements/ units,
causing a voltage unbalance. If this situation is allowed to persist, may result in introduction of
harmonics in the network and also unbalance voltage or over-voltage which is highly detrimental
to electrical loads like, motors, etc.

This situation may also arise due to blowing of one of the fuses connected in series with
capacitor bank for protection against short-circuit.

The loose connections in a capacitor bank, leading to disconnection/isolation of some of


the units of bank also lead to the condition of unbalance/over-voltage.
If the over-voltage across healthy units of a capacitor bank is allowed to persist beyond
certain duration of time, there is every possibility that, the remaining units also fail in due course
of time. Hence, in the event of unbalance, the bank shall be isolated from the scene as soon as
possible in order to protect it from complete damage.

VARIOUS SCHEMES OF UNBALANCE PROTECTION: This is one of the most important protections
for capacitor banks.

A typical schematic diagram, showing various voltage and current operated schemes of
unbalance protection of capacitor bank, is shown hereunder. Based on the rating of bank,
convenience and economics involved, one or more protections among shown in the diagram, can
be selected.

As shown in scheme-1, the resultant line voltages at the star points of two capacitor banks
are continuously monitored. This resultant voltage remains zero in the event of all the individual
units of banks remaining in order as the vectorial sum of line voltages remain zero but the
balance gets disturbed, the moments some of units fail. This abnormal situation is sensed by the
voltage operated relay through P.T.so as to disconnect the faulty capacitor bank.

Same explanation holds good for the scheme-2 and scheme-3 respectively.

In addition to above schemes, the services of special purpose micro-processor/static type


relays, which are specifically designed for the protection of capacitor banks and equipped with
all the protections like, earth fault, over-current, unbalance and over-voltage protections, can
also be taken.

Conclusion: Through this paper, an effort is made to highlight the importance of unbalance
protection of capacitor banks and various schemes to achieve the same.