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Reactive Power Support and Voltage Regulation in

Power System Part I

 Published on April 23, 2017

 Ahmed Faizan

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 Electrical Power Engineer | Fulbright Alumnus | Technical Writer10 articles
 Reactive power and voltage regulation are major issues in power system operation. In order to maintain the
stability of the power system, reactive power and voltage must be controlled and managed to provide adequate
service quality. Voltage drop depends on many factors, including the distance between a source and the load, and
the level of the load on the feeder. In power system operation, voltage control is indispensable for reducing
transmission line losses and to retain the ability of the system to survive and to prevent damages such as
overheating of the generator and motors. Voltage can be controlled by maintaining the reactive power. Reactive
power is formed when there is a phase shift in the waveform of current and voltage due to inductive or capacitive
loads and that phase shift is measured in vars (Volt-Ampere Reactive). Transmission and distribution lines,
transformers and cables also have characteristics that contribute to this phase shift.
 Reactive power is used to provide the voltage levels necessary for active power to do useful work. It is necessary
to move a real power through the transmission and distribution system to the customer.It is required to maintain
the voltage to deliver a real power through transmission lines. Motor and other loads require reactive power to
convert the flow of electrons into useful work. If there is not enough reactive power, then the system will not
have enough voltage and will cause the voltage to sag down. And at low voltage, electrical equipment’s perform
poorly, the light will not be illuminating as bright, and motors will overheat and damage and some types of
equipment will not operate at all.
 In power system, the most effective way to improve voltage stability and power transfer capability is by reactive
power compensation. The control of voltage levels is accomplished by controlling the absorption and production
of reactive power. The generating units provide the basic means of voltage control because the automatic voltage
regulators (AVR) control field excitation to maintain the planned voltage level at the terminals of the generators.
Additional devices are needed to control voltage throughout the system by compensating reactive power. And
they are categorized into two types, active and passive compensation.The passive compensation involves shunt
capacitor, shunt reactor, and series capacitor compensator. The active type includes synchronous generator, static
VAR compensator (SVC), Synchronous condensers (SC), and STATCOM.
 Shunt Capacitor increases voltage level and compensates for reactive power caused by inductive loads and shunt
reactor is mainly used to keep the voltage down by absorbing the reactive power. Series compensation is used to
reduce transfer reactance between buses, decreases the effective real power losses and increases the maximum
power that would be transmitted and increases voltage stability in a transmission system. Static VAR
compensators (SVCs), Static Synchronous Compensator (STATCOM), and synchronous condensers (SC) are
part of the flexible AC transmission systems (FACTS) equipment family using power electronics to control
power flow and they supply a fast-acting to the reactive power demand that is needed in the system.They regulate
voltage by controlling the amount of reactive power injected or absorbed from the power system. Voltage
regulators and Load tap changer (LTC) are devices that control the voltage by adjusting the voltage as load
changes. Voltage regulator regulates the voltage farther from the substation and installed at substations and along
distribution feeders. Load tap Changer (LTC) function is the same as voltage regulators, it increases the voltage
when it’s needed and decrease the voltage when it’s not needed, however, LTC can only be installed along the
distribution feeder.
 Reactive Power Capability
 MVAR Generation is an ultimate necessity of our system because of following reasons:
 Ø The reactive power is required to maintain voltage within acceptable range
 Ø Optimizes system losses by taking reactive power into account
 Ø uses reactive power in order to support the flow of active power in transmission lines
 MVARs are supplied and absorbed by all major components of our modern power system. Some of them are
discussed below:
 Synchronous Generators
 Synchronous generators which we mostly use in power systems produce active power mainly. Additionally, they
support voltage by producing reactive power when over-excited, absorbing reactive power when under-excited.
In this way, reactive power is continuously under control. The ability of a synchronous machine to provide
reactive power is mainly dependent upon active power production. The following figure shows how MWs and
MVARs are inter-related with each other.

 The control over generator reactive power output and terminal voltage are performed through DC current in the
rotor of the generator. At any field setting, the generator has to meet some specified terminal voltage at any cost.
If the system voltage is going down, the generator will supply more reactive in order to raise the voltage at a
specific value. If the voltage of system going up then the generator will absorb reactive power to drop the voltage
to a certain value. Automatic Voltage Regulator would take care of this generator behavior by driving the field
current in a certain direction to main the system voltage. It actually controls the DC Excitation level in the
generator, therefore, reactive power output as well as the terminal voltage of the generator.
 Reactive power source – Capacitors
 They are other major sources of reactive power in power transmission system. We use capacitors in various
configurations in transmission lines as follow:
 Shunt capacitors
 The basic purpose of using shunt capacitors near load areas is to control voltage and stabilize the load. In other
words, shunt capacitors compensate I2X losses of transmission lines and maintain voltage within limits during
heavy loadings. They are also widely used for power factor correction as well. The main objective of power
factor correction is to supply reactive power at a point where it is being used rather than supplied from the
original source. Mainly, they are installed at major substations near load areas in order to produce reactive power
and thus keep the voltage within prescribed limits. In order to keep the voltage stable, shunt capacitors allow a
nearby generator to operate near unity power factor. They always connected to the bus rather than a line either
directly or by a tertiary winding of a transformer.
 The biggest disadvantage of using shunt capacitors is that reactive power output drops with the square of voltage
so during severe voltage collapse; these devices are not much efficient.
 Q=V^2/R
 Series capacitors
 Series capacitors are usually applied on long transmission lines. They reduce line inductive reactance. The
capacitive reactive power generation I2XC compensates for the inductive reactive power consumption I2XL of
the transmission line. Series capacitor reactive power generation increases with the current squared, so,
generating reactive power when it is required the most. At light loads, they have a minor effect on the
transmission line.
 Q=I^2 X
 Reactive power source – Transformer taps
 In tap changing transformer we tap primary and secondary at various points in order to adjust voltage. Taps can
be fixed or adjustable under load through the use of LTC (load tap changer). Taps are used to control voltage
level either on the high side or low side. Reactive power needed to raise bus voltage is forced to flow through the
 LTC’s are used when adjustments are made rapidly in a system that is mainly related to daily load curve. They
potentially provide rapid voltage control according to load demand changes. Since LTC’s are quite expensive so
most of the tap changers with transformers are of the off-load type that satisfies the range of reactive power
output demanded from the generator. They can be operated automatically, manually, locally or remotely.
 In substations, high voltage side has usually no-load taps so they may be changed manually when a transformer is
de-energized while low voltage side does have LTC’s because it’s carrying the load so frequent change in turns
ratio is required.
 Reactive Power Capability of Wind Generators
 Wind generators which are associated with converter interface ae usually manufactured within operating range of
90 to 100 percent of rated terminal voltage.

 Lagging power factor range may diminish if terminal voltage increases or decrease on account of internal voltage
constraints or current constraints of converter respectively whereas leading capability of wind generator goes up
as terminal voltage increases. Doubly fed and full converter wind generators come with various reactive
capability characteristics such as D-shape, triangular or rectangular as shown in the figure. These characteristic
curves show the reactive power capability of a particular wind generator.

 At low wind speed, when wind generators are not producing enough active power, D-shape or triangular reactive
power characteristics are being employed in order to regulate the voltage while operating in an STATCOM
 Reactive Power Capability of PV Inverters
 PV inverters have a comparable technological layout to full-converter wind generators and are progressively
being sold with comparable reactive power ability. PV inverters are normally intended to function inside 90% to
110% of rated terminal voltage and these limits affect the reactive power capability significantly. The inverter
reactive power capability varies as terminal voltage changes. At 110 % rated voltage, No extra reactive power
may be injected into the grid. Moreover, DC input voltage could likewise influence reactive power ability where
single-stage inverters are being utilized. With the expanded utilization of PV inverters on the transmission
system, the industry is increasing the ability to deliver the reactive power capability. Some PV inverters are
capable of absorbing or injecting reactive power given that current and voltage ratings are not surpassed.
 Distribution-connected PV structures are commonly operated at unity power factor over their complete active
power output range. Most inverters intended for residential and industrial usage are not measured to give any
reactive current at the full output. Nevertheless, PV inverters utilized as a part of utility-scale PV structure
frequently have the ability to offer reactive power support at full active power or even at partial output level. The
reactive power capability, at lower active power output levels, contingent upon inverter current limits relying
upon grid voltage conditions. The reactive power capability for inverters contrasts from those of synchronous
machines since they are ordinarily restricted by internal voltage and current limitations. The following figure
shows the typical reactive power capability curve of PV inverter.

 Conclusions
 Reactive power support and voltage regulation are important in power system operation and play an essential role
in reducing transmission losses and increasing efficiency, minimizing power losses, provide adequate service
quality and maintain the proper stability of the power system. The control of voltage levels is accomplished by
controlling the absorption and production of reactive power. Synchronous generators and different type of
reactive power compensator are used to maintain voltage throughout the transmission system. Injecting reactive
power into the system raises the voltage while absorbing reactive power lowers the voltage.
 The voltage control can be accomplished by providing adequate reactive power resources to keep the voltage
level at a desired nominal value regardless of how much reactive power it takes. Alternatively, adjusting the total
reactive power injection at every node can be achieved through the regulation of the voltage at the node. The
control of the voltage by the reactive power is confined to the impediments of reactive power sources in the
system whereas the reactive power control through the voltage is restrained to the achievable limits of a voltage
at every node. Whenever the concern of control is the reactive power resources, the aim could be either voltage or
reactive power control.

 Ahmed Faizan, M.Sc.

Reactive Power Support and Voltage Regulation in

Power System Part 2
 Published on April 25, 2017

Ahmed Faizan


Electrical Power Engineer | Fulbright Alumnus | Technical Writer10 articles

Reactive Power System – Typical Equipment

In order to design power system network, including transmission lines, substations, and distribution lines, it is
necessary to use proper equipment suitable for the purpose intended. The reactive power control and voltage support
features are some of the critical components of the power system design. This article addresses the selection and
application of major equipment and subsystems required to design reactive power control systems for the power

There are different types of equipment’s and methodologies which are used to control reactive power, but the most
common ones are discussed in this article, including [1]:

Ø Synchronous generators - with AVR

Ø Synchronous condensers

Ø Static VAR Compensators (SVC)

Ø Static synchronous compensators (STATCOM)

Ø Online load tap changer (OLTC) – for transformers

The description of these reactive power equipments is summarized as follows:

Synchronous generators with AVR

Synchronous generators can supply real power and reactive power with the use of automatic voltage regulators

Synchronous Generator
Automatic Voltage Regulator

The generator automatic voltage regulator (AVR) is indispensable to the synchronous machine functioning under
Steady-state and transitory conditions and ensures the generator excitation level, and thus the terminal electric potential
and reactive power production of the generator [2]. The terminal voltage of the synchronous machine is steady through
the infinite bus bar and the modification in the AVR setting alters excitation and so the reactive power output of the
synchronous machine, in much the equivalent way that the governor alters the real power output. Whenever desirable,
the calculated synchronous machine terminal potential is varied by an electric current injection proportionate to the
reactive power loading; this assures that the synchronous machine responds to an increment in reactive power loading
by maximizing the excitation, so supplying some measure of reactive power support for the power system with
increased load. This distinguishing characteristic is recognized as quadrature droop compensation. Whenever the
machine reactive power output is to stay steady, this characteristic is not utilized. In practice, there will always be an
electrical impedance between the machine terminals and the point of supply. Whatever modification in the AVR
configuration will alter both the synchronous machine terminal voltage and the reactive power output Q.

Synchronous condensers

It's a synchronous machine operating without mechanical loading and providing or assimilating reactive power to or
from the power system.

Every synchronous machine (either in motor or generator mode) possesses the reactive power capabilities just like
synchronous generators. Synchronous machines that are configured solely to offer reactive supporting are named
synchronous condensers. Synchronous condensers possess entirely the response speed and controllability advantages of
synchronous generators without the demand to fabricate the rest of the power station (e.g., fuel-handling elements and
steam boilers). Since they're revolving machines with moving parts and ancillary arrangements, they need importantly
additional upkeep than static compensators. They as well exhaust real power up to about 3% of the machine’s reactive-
power peak rating. Synchronous condensers are employed in transmission network: at the receiving end of lengthy
transmissions, in crucial substations and injunction with HVDC converter bases. Dozen small-scale synchronous
condensers have as well been utilized in high-powered industrialized networks to step-up the short circuit power. The
reactive power production is continuously governable. The reaction time with closed loop potential control is from a
couple of seconds and upwards, contingent on diverse factors. In past years the synchronous condensers have been
eliminated by the thyristor controlled static VAR compensators, as those are a lot cheaper and possess regulating
characteristics analogous to synchronous condensers.

Static VAR Compensators (SVC)

Static VAR Compensator (SVC) is a power quality device, which utilizes power electronics to control the reactive
power flow of the power system where it is linked. As a result, it is capable of supplying fast-acting reactive power
compensation on electrical power systems. Static var compensators have their reactive power output adapted to
interchange inductive or capacitive current in order to control a power system variable quantity such as the bus voltage
An SVC aggregates traditional capacitors and inductors with fast switching capacity. Switching passes off in the sub-
cycle timeframe (i.e., in less than 1/50 of a second), offering a continual range of control. The range can be contrived to
span out from assimilating to yielding reactive power. Advantages include fast, accurate regularization of voltage and
unrestricted, for the most part, transient-free, capacitor bank switching. Voltage is governed according to a slope
(droop) feature.

Static VAR compensator could be fabricated from:

Thyristor-controlled reactor
Thyristor-switched capacitor

Thyristor-switched reactor

Fixed capacitor

Harmonic filter

Because SVCs employ capacitors they suffer from the identical degradation in reactive capableness as electric potential
drops. They also do not possess the short-term overload potentiality of generators and synchronous condensers. SVC
practical application generally demands harmonic filters to cut down the number of harmonics injected into the power
system by the thyristor switching.

Static synchronous compensators (STATCOM)

STATCOM or Static Synchronous Compensator is an electrical shunt device, which employs force-commutated power
electronics (i.e. GTO, IGBT) to control power flow and ameliorate transient stability on electrical power networks. It is
also a member of the Flexible AC Transmission System (FACTS) devices. The STATCOM fundamentally executes the
same function as the static VAR compensators but with some advantages.
The term Static Synchronous Compensator is originated from its abilities and working principle, which is comparable
to those of rotating synchronous compensators (i.e. generators), but with the relatively rapid operation.

The STATCOM is a solid-state electrical shunt device that yields or takes in reactive power and is one member of a
category of devices recognized as flexible AC transmission system (FACTS) devices. The STATCOM is same as the
SVC in response speed, control capableness, and the utilization of power electronics. Instead of using traditional
capacitors and inductors aggregated with the thyristor, the STATCOM employs self-commutated power electronics to
synthesize the reactive power production. The solid-state nature of the STATCOM implies that analogous to the SVC,
the controls can be configured to offer very fast and efficient voltage control.

On Load Tap changer (OLTC) – for transformers

Often, generators providing an electrical network may be linked through a step-up power transformer so that the
optimal design voltage can be selected for the size of the generator. Almost invariably, these transformers possess tap
changers that can be adjusted to adapt a desirable range of reactive power settings ascertained by the electrical network
necessities for changing load conditions. Because of price restrictions, most tap changers are the off-load case and,
ordinarily, it is doable to choose a tap that will gratify the demanded range of reactive power output needed from the
In a realistic case, the alteration in reactive power output also hinges on the aggregate of the transformer impedance
from the transformer high voltage terminals to the infinite bus. A tap shift will effect in some variation of the generator
voltage. To ascertain that a fixed tap positioning selected is adequate of supplying the range of reactive power required
to sustain the electrical network reactive power demand, a series of load flow analyses is required total real and reactive
power loading levels.

Standards, Requirements, and Recommended Practices

North American Reliability Corporation (NERC)

In order to preserve the stability of large power system and territorial power networks, it is inevitable to have a
definitive process of controlling real and reactive power generation and distribution. In the United States, most of the
power systems, including transmission system lines, distribution lines, and power generation systems are governed by a
number of nationwide rules and ordinances. The major rules that put on to reactive power control and compensation are
NERC standards, VAR-001 and VAR-002. [4] [5]

NERC Standards VAR-001-3, Voltage, and Reactive Control offer requirements and standards for monitoring,
control and maintenance on Real-time footing the voltage levels, reactive flows and reactive resources. These standards
also guarantee that the protective equipment and systems are decently functioned to assure reliable operation of the
interconnection facilities. [4]

NERC Standard VAR-002-1.1b, Generator Operation for preserving Network Voltage Schedules, guarantees
that the generator supplies reactive power and voltage control to uphold voltage levels, reactive flows and reactive
resources within the installed Facility Rating. [4]

The intention of VAR-002-1 is to certify generators deliver reactive and voltage control essential to guarantee voltage
levels, reactive flows, and reactive resources are preserved with practical Facility Ratings to protect equipment and the
reliable operation of the Interconnection. [5]

Requirements R1 and R2 of the Reliability Standard provide [5]:

R1. The Generator Operator shall run each generator linked up to the interconnected transmission system in the
automatic voltage control mode (automatic voltage regulator in service and controlling voltage) unless the Generator
Operator has advised the Transmission Operator.
R2. Unless letting off by the Transmission Operator, each Generator Operator shall uphold the generator voltage or
Reactive Power (within applicable Facility Ratings) as headed by the Transmission Operator.

R2.1 When a generator’s automatic voltage regulator is out of commission, the Generator Operator shall exercise an
alternate way to control the generator voltage and Reactive Power Schedule guided by the Transmission Operator.

Western Electricity Coordination Council (WECC)

WECC preserves particular standards VAR-STD-002a-1, Automatic Voltage Regulators (AVRs), to guarantee that
automatic voltage control equipment on synchronous generators are kept in commission at all times during
functioning.[6] [7] WECC has also constituted planning guidebooks which complement NERC’s planning standards
proportionate to voltage support and reactive power [6].

WECC Standard VAR-STD-002a-1 enforces to all generating operators of synchronous units furnished with
AVRs within Western Interconnection. Each synchronous equipment provided with AVR shall have AVR in service
once the unit is one, except [6]:

a) Maintenance and testing, uppermost seven calendar days per quarter.

b) AVR demonstrates instability due to unacceptable transmission line configuration.

c) AVR does not function right due to a failed component part in the AVR or resulting from an alteration in
neighboring equipment, whether it is control oriented or physical equipment that specifies system response.
Nevertheless, in no case shall the time period of operation without AVR go past 60 days.

Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)

IEEE administration has brought out a number of guides and standards on the discipline of reactive power control,
VAR controls, and voltage support, a few of which are cited in NERC and WECC rules and regulations. Though there
is no one standard which addresses general subjects of voltage control and regulation, one of the guides that was
critiqued for this Report is IEEE P1860TM/D8 which is a Draft Guide for Voltage Regulation and Reactive
Compensation to 1000 kV AC and above [8]
IEEE P1860/D8 Guide describes elementary principles for voltage regulation and reactive compensation. It also
offers satisfactory voltage deviation boundaries in addition to voltage and reactive power adjustment and allocation in
power systems at 1000 kV AC and above.

Other Industry Standards

In terms of industry criteria and particular voltage control necessities, this section demonstrates a critical review of one
such case where an individual entity (an Independent Power Produces-IPP) addresses the voltage control and support

Low voltages can diminish the reactive power supply capacity of switched capacitors. Satisfactory voltage shall
be offered to all customers, as specified within ANSI standard C84.1-2006 [9].

The automatic voltage regulating devices such as transformer Load Tap Changers, voltage regulators, and
automatically-controlled capacitor banks are counted to be governing when employing the above system planning
criteria. Between the first outage contingency or line-out condition and before the second or maintenance outage
contingency, the operator action, and/or voltage control devices are demanded to take suitable curative action to adjust
unfavorable voltage conditions.


[1] Reactive Voltage Valuation, Lund University, 2001

[2] Sandia NL, Reactive Power Interconnection Requirements for PV and Wind Plants (SAND2012-
1098), February 2012

[3] ERCOT Planning Guides

[4] NERC Standard _ VAR-001-3 – Voltage and Reactive Control

[5] NERC Standard _VAR-002-1.1b – Generator Operation for Maintaining Voltage Schedule

[6] WECC Standard_ VAR-STD-002a-1 – Automatic Voltage Regulators

[7] WECC/NERC Planning Standard-Voltage Support and Reactive Power,

WECC, March 30, 2006

[8] IEEE P1860tm/D8, Draft Guide for Voltage Compensation at 1000 kV AC

and Above

[9] ANSI Std. C84.1-2006

Ahmed Faizan, M.Sc.