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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Section E04

Synchronising and paralleling


alternators

© Cobalt Systems ver 1.0 1


Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Synchronising and paralleling alternators....................................................................3


Adding waveforms together.....................................................................................3
Terminology.............................................................................................................4
Frequency and voltage.............................................................................................4
Frequency control....................................................................................................5
Incoming machine frquency.....................................................................................5
Voltage.....................................................................................................................6
AVR controls............................................................................................................6
Power factor.............................................................................................................6
Automatic voltage regulator (AVR)...........................................................................6
Performance of AVR................................................................................................6
Synchroscope..........................................................................................................9
Rated motor...........................................................................................................11
Synchronising lamps..............................................................................................11
Closing the breaker................................................................................................12
Check synchroniser...............................................................................................12
Load sharing..........................................................................................................12
Manual start up, synchronizing and paralleling alternators........................................14
Diesel engine preparation......................................................................................14
Diesel engine starting............................................................................................14
Bus bar connection................................................................................................14
Automatic synchronising............................................................................................16
Power management system...................................................................................16

© Cobalt Systems ver 1.0 2


Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Synchronising and paralleling alternators.


When the output of two (or more) alternators are electrically connected together, the
alternators are said to be running in parallel.
Before two alternators can be connected electrically they have to be synchronised, that is
their electrical output waves must be in step, or in phase, together. The process of
achieving this state is known as synchronising.

Alternators would be paralleled when:


• The ship is manoeuvring (extra load for safety);
• When working cargo (winches, cranes etc);
• Emergency situations;
• Safety and damage control situations.

Adding waveforms together

When waveforms are added together in phase, the output equals the total of both
alternators. When the waveforms are added together out of phase, each wave opposes
the other, resulting in no output.
Thus the first process when connecting two alternators electrically is to synchronise the
alternators, or put them into phase.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Terminology
The alternator already connected to the busbars is called the reference machine, or the
busbar machine.
The alternator being paralleled is called the incoming machine.

The diagram above shows a typical arrangement with the busbar machine on the left and
the incoming machine to the right.

Frequency and voltage


Before alternators can be paralleled the following conditions must be met:
• The frequency of the machines must be the same;
Ideally, the incoming machine frequency should be within 0.2% of the bus bar
frequency, which is indicated by one revolution of the synchroscope every ten
seconds. In practice this maybe impossible to achieve if the busbar frequency may be
fluctuating with load changes. It is usual to synchronize with the incoming machine
slightly fast so that the synchronising surge does not operate the reverse power trip.
• The voltages must be the same.
For manual synchronising, the operator should ensure that the incoming voltage is
within 5% of the busbar voltage.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Frequency control
Frequency is directly proportional to the speed of the prime mover (diesel engine). By
controlling the engine speed, the frequency can be raised or lowered.
This is achieved using spring loaded switches on the switchboard that operate an electric
motor mounted on top of the diesel engine governor, as shown in the diagram below.

Incoming machine frquency


• It is virtually impossible to get the frequency of the incoming machine exactly the same
as the busbar.
• The frequency of the incoming machine should be slightly higher than that of the
busbar frequency. This is to ensure that when the main breaker is closed the incoming
machine will tend to take load, which will hold the breaker on the board.
• The frequency of the incoming machine should not be lower than the busbar
frequency. This is because when the main breaker is closed the incoming machine will
tend to resist taking any load, and the breaker may trip out on reverse power.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04
Voltage
The voltage of the incoming machine should be checked. If the voltage is low then there
are several possible causes, that includes:
• The voltmeter is not reading correctly;
• The automatic voltage regulator (AVR) has a malfunction;
• The AVR is not set correctly;
• There is a failure with the exciter.

AVR controls
Besides the prime mover speed control alternators have voltage control (rotor field current
control) using the automatic voltage regulators (AVR).
The effects of adjusting the controls differs depending upon the operating conditions of the
generators i.e. single operation or parallel operation.

For single generator operation the speed control varies the generator speed and hence
the frequency of the stator output voltage:
Frequency, f = p.n
Where: p = pairs of poles n = speed in revs/sec

For single generator operation the voltage control varies the strength of rotor magnetic
field and hence the magnitude of the stator output voltage.

Power factor
The power factor of the system is dependent on the type of external load.
Filament lighting, heating and gallery supplies will be at unity power factor, but induction
motors, fluorescent lighting and transformers will be a lagging power factor (commonly
about 0.8).

Automatic voltage regulator (AVR)


It is important that the voltage of a supply system be maintained constant otherwise the
performance of motors etc will be affected. Unfortunately, the voltage of an unregulated
ac. generator can vary by 30% or more from no-load to full-load. Close control of
generator voltage can only be achieved by regulating the voltage automatically by means
of an AVR unit.

Performance of AVR
If load is connected to a generator then the voltage will suddenly fall to a low value then
slowly recover.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

© Cobalt Systems ver 1.0 7


Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

The real need for an AVR is to deal with the voltage dip following the sudden connection
of extra load and to restore the voltage quickly without undue overshooting or
regeneration (voltage hunting).
Two stages occur:
1. a transient stage - followed by recovery to
2. steady state conditions.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Synchroscope
The synchroscope is an instrument designed and constructed to indicate when an
alternator is in phase and frequency (within limits) with the busbars onto which it is
proposed to connect the alternator.

The synchroscope will indicate whether the incoming machine is running too fast or too
slow relative to the busbar condition:
• If the synchroscope is rotating clockwise the incoming machine is running faster
than the busbar.
• If the synchroscope is rotating anti-clockwise the incoming machine is running
slower than the busbar.

The operation of synchronising an alternator before paralleling with another machine


could be carried out with the synchroscope. Two phases of the incoming machine can be
matched with the same two switchboard phases.

The synchroscope is connected across two phases of the main busbar and the bus of the
incoming machine, as shown in the circuit above. Any pair of phases may be used, as
long as they are the same pair on either side.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

The synchroscope is a
small motor with coils on
the two poles connected
across two phases of the
incoming machine and the
armature windings supplied
from two phases of the
switchboard busbars.
An armature, ‘A’, carries
two windings at right
angles.
One winding is connected
to one of the busbars (e.g.
red) via a non-inductive
resistance. The other
winding is connected to the
same busbar (e.g. red) via
a high inductive resistance.
The other ends of the
windings are common
connected to another
busbar (e.g. blue).
The dual currents are fed, via slip rings, to the two armature windings and produce in
them a rotating magnetic field. A 2-pole 2-phase field is produced that rotates relative to
the armature windings at a speed that is determined by the busbar frequency.
The armature rotates between the poles of a 2-pole field, the frequency of which is
determined by the frequency of the incoming machine.
Polarity of the poles will alternate north/south, with changes in red and yellow phases of
the incoming machine, and the rotating field will react with the poles by turning the rotor
clockwise or anticlockwise.
Direction is dictated by whether the incoming machine is running too fast or too slow.
Normal procedure is to adjust alternator speed until it is running very slightly fast and the
synchroscope pointer turning slowly clockwise.

The breaker is closed just before the pointer reaches the twelve o’clock position (at
the 10 to 12 position) at which the incoming machine is in phase with the
switchboard busbars.
The breaker closing switch must be operated at the 10 to 12 position to allow the
breaker mechanism time to react and move, to engage at 12’o’clock.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Rated motor

This motor driven type of synchroscope


has a limited life, the motor being termed
a rated motor.
This means it can only turn at a certain
speed for a certain time, before failing.
The faster the rotation, the shorter the
motor life. Commonly the motor is rated
for 20 minutes operation, and should
only be used when required.
The problem with the rated motor is overcome with the electronic rotating LED type
synchroscope, that has an unlimited running life period.

Synchronising lamps
Rules require two independent methods of synchronising alternators. Besides the use of a
synchroscope, the alternative is the use of synchronising lamps.
The possibility of failure of the synchroscope requires that there is a standby arrangement.
A system of lights connected to the switchboard bus bars and three-phase output of
incoming alternator may be used.

Lamp 1 is connected across the


same phase. Lamps 2 and 3 are
cross-connected across the
other two phases.

At the point where incoming


machine is synchronised,
lamp 1 will be unlit and lamps
2 and 3 will show equal
brightness.

The lamps will give the


appearance of clockwise rotation
when the machine is running too
fast and anticlockwise rotation
when it is running too slow.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Closing the breaker


Closing the incoming machine circuit breaker when the two voltages are out of phase will
result in severe mechanical torques to be exerted on the rotors to bring them into
synchronism.
It is essential that the circuit breaker be closed at the instant the incoming machine
voltage is in phase with the bus bar voltage to limit this synchronising torque. This
condition is indicated by the ‘12 o’clock’ position on the synchroscope.
The circuit breaker is operated slightly before this position to take into account the circuit
breaker closing time.
To avoid eventual damage to generators synchronising should also be carried out with
incoming machine voltage, frequency and phase angle as close as possible to the bus bar
conditions.

Check synchroniser
Check synchroniser units are important safety devices, usually fitted to prevent faulty
manual synchronising. This unit prevents the incoming circuit breaker from closing unless
the voltage, frequency and phase angle differences are within pre-set limits.
Check synchronisers are often provided with an override switch for use in an emergency,
this can lead to problems if the override is left activated after the emergency.

Load sharing
After the incoming generator has been synchronised, it is now ready to take up load.

For 3 phase alternators to operate in parallel, the following conditions should be fulfilled:
1. Sharing of kW power load by individual speed regulator adjustment of the prime
movers.
2. Division of the kVAr wattless load between the generators by appropriate
adjustments of the individual voltage regulators.

Following the synchronising procedure, further adjustments must be carried out to make
the alternator supply its fair share of the load.
• The speed regulator controls the power (kW meter) supplied by the generator.
• The voltage regulator controls the power factor (ammeter and power factor
indicator) at which the generator operates.

1. Adjust speed regulator of incoming machine in “raise-speed” direction and adjust


speed regulators of other connected generators in “lower-speed” direction until kW
meters indicate that all generators are supplying their fair share of the load, and that
the frequency meter indicates rated frequency.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04
2. Adjust voltage regulator of incoming machine in “raise-voltage” direction and adjust
voltage regulators of other connected generators in “lower-voltage” direction until the
power factor indicators indicate that all generators are operating at the same power
factor, and that the voltmeter indicates rated voltage.
3. If power factor controls are not fitted then adjustments are carried out until the
ammeters indicate that all generators are supplying their fair share of the load current.

Automatic voltage regulator (AVR)


When AVRs are fitted then there may, or may not, be a hand operated voltage regulator.
In either case, power factor adjustment is carried out automatically by the AVRs.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Manual start up, synchronizing and paralleling alternators

Diesel engine preparation


Carry out the normal watchkeeping pre-start checks prior to starting the alternator set.
• Check sump oil and header tank coolant levels, ensure cooling water is opened to the
fresh water, charge air, lube oil coolers and AVR coolers (if fitted).
• Check fuel tank is full.
• Visually check over engine for leaks.
• Ensure that bilges beneath the flywheel are dry.
• Ensure that the turning gear, if fitted, is disengaged.
• Prime the lube oil and rotate the engine through at least one full revolution.
• If the engine has indicator cocks these should be open whilst the engine is being
rotated manually and escaping air observed for water/fuel/oil contamination.
• If air start, check starting air bottles are pressed up.
• If battery start, check the batteries are charged.

The lube oil priming pump may be a manual or remotely mounted electric device or, in
some cases, the engine will be reliant upon the rotation of the crankshaft to self prime the
engine from the main oil gallery upon turning.

Diesel engine starting


The engine should be initially started locally that all operating parameters can be
observed and immediate steps taken to stop the machine should an early malfunction
become evident.
Whilst the engine is warming up to operating temperature and prior to connection to the
busbars the engineer should take time to walk around and inspect all external elements of
the engine before proceeding to the switchboard.

When the incoming engine is stable in off load operation, procedures to connect it to the
switchboard busbars may be commenced.

Bus bar connection


• Check voltage
Ensure the incoming machine has been excited, by observing the voltage generated.
Any minor deviations can be corrected by the exciter circuit adjustment. Care should

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04
be exercised when making these initial adjustments in case the variation of incoming
voltage has been caused by a reduction of incoming generator speed.
• Auto voltage regulator (AVR)
Failure to generate excitation voltage may indicate an automatic voltage regulator
(AVR) fault. Sometimes this fault may be a circuit fuse failure, which may be indicated
by a warning lamp on the AVR pcb card. The AVR may be mounted on top or remote
from the alternator dependent on size, make and alternator design.
• Trips
Check the reverse power and overload trips are reset. Always check these devices in
case they were the cause of the last alternator shut down, or the previous operator
reduced the generator speed to activate the reverse power trip before disconnecting
the main breaker.
• Frequency
Check the incoming machine frequency. It should be adjusted to be slightly higher
than the busbar frequency.
The frequency can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the speed of the diesel
driving the alternator.
Care should be exercised to ensure that the generated voltage remains within limits
whilst the frequency is adjusted. The AVR should account for small incremental
changes over a narrow speed range.
• Switch on check synchroniser
• Switch on synchroscope
• Close breaker
When the incoming machine is settled close the main breaker when the synchroscope
is at 10 to 12 position. Ensure the breaker has closed and that load is taken by the
incoming machine.
• Switch off synchroscope
• Balance load
Balance the load (load share) by gradually transferring the load from the busbar
machine to the incoming machine by raising the speed of the incoming machine and
lowering the speed of the busbar machine.
The load should be balanced initially by using the kW power meters.
A check should then be made that the load is also balanced in current by using the
ammeters.
• Periodic checks
Periodic checks should be made on the load sharing and the temperatures and
pressures of the diesel prime mover.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04

Automatic synchronising
Some vessels have a fully automatic operation of the switchboard. A load sensor monitors
the load on the busbar of the running alternator. If the load reaches a set value for a set
period of time the stand-by alternator will be automatically started, synchronised and
paralleled to the running machine.
If the load reduces to a minimum set value the stand-by alternator will take itself off the
board and shut itself down.

Power management system


Run-up, synchronising, load sharing and shutdown of main generators on modern ships is
now being handled by a power management system. This is a computerised control
system (usually based on programmable logic controllers [PLC]) that sense the loading on
each machine as well as monitoring for fault conditions on the generators and their prime
movers. The function of a power management system is to initiate run-up, control and
shut-down of the power plant in response to the changing load demands.

The figure shows the arrangement of an automatic synchronising unit. Before the
incoming generator can be connected to the live system three conditions must be met to
ensure synchronisation:
1. The frequency of the incoming generator and the bus bars must be within acceptable
limits.
2. The incomer and bus bar voltages must be within acceptable limits
3. The phase difference between the incomer voltage and the bus bar voltage must be
within acceptable limits.

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Synchronising + paralleling – Section E04
When the incoming generator circuit breaker is closed a surge of current and power
circulates to lock the machines at the same frequency, voltage and phase angle. To avoid
generator damage due to excessive surge torque during synchronising it is important that
the synchronising unit is correctly commissioned and periodically checked.

The types of damage due to incorrect synchronising include:


• deformation of stator windings,
• movement between stator core and frame,
• failure of rotor diodes on brushless machines,
• twisted rotor shafts,
• localised crushing of shaft end keyway
• broken couplings.

© Cobalt Systems ver 1.0 17