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Copyright P. Kundur
This material should not be used without the author's consent


Excitation Systems
1. Functions and Performance

2. Elements of an Excitation System

3. Types of Excitation Systems
4. Control and Protection Functions
5. Modeling of Excitation Systems

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Functions and Performance

Requirements of Excitation Systems

The functions of an excitation system are

to provide direct current to the synchronous

generator field winding, and

to perform control and protective functions

essential to the satisfactory operation of the
power system

The performance requirements of the excitation

system are determined by
a) Generator considerations:
supply and adjust field current as the generator
output varies within its continuous capability
respond to transient disturbances with field forcing
consistent with the generator short term capabilities:

rotor insulation failure due to high field voltage

rotor heating due to high field current
stator heating due to high VAR loading
heating due to excess flux (volts/Hz)

b) Power system considerations:

contribute to effective control of system voltage and
improvement of system stability

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Elements of an Excitation System

Exciter: provides dc power to the generator field winding

Regulator: processes and amplifies input control signals

to a level and form appropriate for control of the exciter

Terminal voltage transducer and load compensator:

senses generator terminal voltage, rectifies and filters it
to dc quantity and compares with a reference; load comp
may be provided if desired to hold voltage at a remote

Power system stabilizer: provides additional input signal

to the regulator to damp power system oscillations

Limiters and protective circuits: ensure that the

capability limits of exciter and generator are not

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Types of Excitation Systems

Classified into three broad categories based on the

excitation power source:

DC excitation systems

AC excitation systems

Static excitation systems

1. DC Excitation Systems:

utilize dc generators as source of power;

driven by a motor or the shaft of main generator;
self or separately excited

represent early systems (1920s to 1960s);

lost favor in the mid-1960s because of large size;
superseded by ac exciters

voltage regulators range from the early noncontinuous rheostatic type to the later system
using magnetic rotating amplifiers

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Figure 8-2 shows a simplified schematic of a typical dc

excitation system with an amplidyne voltage regulator

self-excited dc exciter supplies current to the main

generator field through slip rings

exciter field controlled by an amplidyne which

provides incremental changes to the field in a buckboost scheme

the exciter output provides rest of its own field by


2. AC Excitation Systems:

use ac machines (alternators) as source of power

usually, the exciter is on the same shaft as the


the ac output of exciter is rectified by either

controlled or non-controlled rectifiers

rectifiers may be stationary or rotating

early systems used a combination of magnetic and

rotating amplifiers as regulators; most new systems
use electronic amplifier regulators

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Figure 8.2: DC excitation system with amplidyne voltage


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Stationary rectifier systems:

dc output to the main generator field supplied

through slip rings

when non-controlled rectifiers are used, the

regulator controls the field of the ac exciter; Fig.
8.3 shows such a system which is representative
of GE-ALTERREX system

When controlled rectifiers are used, the regulator

directly controls the dc output voltage of the
exciter; Fig. 8.4 shows such a system which is
representative of GE-ALTHYREX system

2.2 Rotating rectifier systems:

the need for slip rings and brushes is eliminated;

such systems are called brushless excitation

they were developed to avoid problems with the

use of brushes perceived to exist when supplying
the high field currents of large generators

they do not allow direct measurement of

generator field current or voltage

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Figure 8.3: Field controlled alternator rectifier excitation


Figure 8.4: Alternator supplied controlled-rectifier

excitation system

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Figure 8.5: Brushless excitation system

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3. Static Excitation Systems:

all components are static or stationary

supply dc directly to the field of the main

generator through slip rings

the power supply to the rectifiers is from the main

generator or the station auxiliary bus

3.1 Potential-source controlled rectifier system:

excitation power is supplied through a

transformer from the main generator terminals

regulated by a controlled rectifier

commonly known as bus-fed or transformer-fed

static excitation system

very small inherent time constant

maximum exciter output voltage is dependent on

input ac voltage; during system faults the
available ceiling voltage is reduced

Figure 8.6: Potential-source controlled-rectifier excitation system

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3.2 Compound-source rectifier system:

power to the exciter is formed by utilizing current

as well as voltage of the main generator

achieved through a power potential transformer

(PPT) and a saturable current transformer (SCT)

the regulator controls the exciter output through

controlled saturation of excitation transformer

during a system fault, with depressed generator

voltage, the current input enables the exciter to
provide high field forcing capability

An example is the GE SCT-PPT.

3.3 Compound-controlled rectifier system:

utilizes controlled rectifiers in the exciter output

circuits and the compounding of voltage and
current within the generator stator

result is a high initial response static system with

full "fault-on" forcing capability

An example is the GE GENERREX system.

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Fig. 8.7: Compound-source rectifier excitation system

Figure 8.8: GENERREX compound-controlled rectifier

excitation system IEEE1976 [16]
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Control and Protective Functions

A modern excitation control system is much more

than a simple voltage regulator

It includes a number of control, limiting and

protective functions which assist in fulfilling the
performance requirements identified earlier

Figure 8.14 illustrates the nature of these functions

and the manner in which they interface with each

any given system may include only some or all of

these functions depending on the specific
application and the type of exciter

control functions regulate specific quantities at

the desired level

limiting functions prevent certain quantities from

exceeding set limits

if any of the limiters fail, then protective functions

remove appropriate components or the unit from

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Figure 8.14: Excitation system control and protective


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AC Regulator:

basic function is to maintain generator stator voltage

in addition, other auxiliaries act through the ac


DC Regulator:

holds constant generator field voltage (manual


used for testing and startup, and when ac regulator is


Excitation System Stabilizing Circuits:

excitation systems with significant time delays have

poor inherent dynamic performance

unless very low steady-state regulator gain is used,

the control action is unstable when generator is on

series or feedback compensation is used to improve

the dynamic response

most commonly used form of compensation is a

derivative feedback (Figure 8.15)

Figure 8.15: Derivative feedback excitation control system

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Power System Stabilizer (PSS):

uses auxiliary stabilizing signals (such as shaft

speed, frequency, power) to modulate the
generator field voltage so as to damp system

Load Compensator:

used to regulate a voltage at a point either within

or external to the generator

achieved by building additional circuitry into the

AVR loop (see Fig. 8.16)

with RC and XC positive, the compensator regulates

a voltage at a point within the generator;
used to ensure proper sharing VARs between generators
bussed together at their terminals
commonly used with hydro units and cross-compound
thermal units

with RC and XC negative, the compensator

regulates voltage at a point beyond the generator
commonly used to compensate for voltage drop across
step-up transformer when generators are connected
through individual transformers

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Figure 8.16: Schematic diagram of a load compensator

The magnitude of the resulting compensated voltage (Vc), which is

fed to the AVR, is given by

Vc Et R c jX c I t

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Underexcitation Limiter (UEL):

intended to prevent reduction of generator

excitation to a level where steady-state (smallsignal) stability limit or stator core end-region
heating limit is exceeded
control signal derived from a combination of
either voltage and current or active and reactive
power of the generator
a wide variety of forms used for implementation
should be coordinated with the loss-of-excitation
protection (see Figure 8.17)

Overexcitation Limiter (OXL)

purpose is to protect the generator from

overheating due to prolonged field overcurrent
Fig. 8.18 shows thermal overload capability of
the field winding
OXL detects the high field current condition and,
after a time delay, acts through the ac regulator
to ramp down the excitation to about 110% of
rated field current; if unsuccessful, trips the ac
regulator, transfers to dc regulator, and
repositions the set point corresponding to rated
two types of time delays used: (a) fixed time, and
(b) inverse time
with inverse time, the delay matches the thermal
capability as shown in Figure 8.18

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Figure 8.17: Coordination between UEL, LOE relay and

stability limit

Figure 8.18: Coordination of over-excitation limiting with

field thermal capability
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Volts per Hertz Limiter and Protection:

used to protect generator and step-up transformer

from damage due to excessive magnetic flux
resulting from low frequency and/or overvoltage

excessive magnetic flux, if sustained, can cause

overheating and damage the unit transformer and
the generator core

Typical V/Hz limitations:

V/Hz (p.u.)
Damage Time in















V/Hz limiter (or regulator) controls the field

voltage so as to limit the generator voltage when
V/Hz exceeds a preset value

V/Hz protection trips the generator when V/Hz

exceeds the preset value for a specified time
Note: The unit step-up transformer low voltage
rating is frequently 5% below the generator
voltage rating

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Modeling of Excitation Systems

Detail of the model required depends on the

purpose of study:

the control and protective features that impact

on transient and small-signal stability studies are
the voltage regulator, PSS and excitation control

the limiter and protective circuits normally need

to be considered only for long-term and voltage
stability studies

Per Unit System:

Several choices available:
a) per unit system used for the main generator field

chosen to simplify machine equations but not

considered suitable for exciter quantities; under
normal operating conditions field voltage in the order
of 0.001 (too small)

b) per unit system used for excitation system


rated load filed voltage as one per unit

not convenient for system studies

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8.6.2 Modeling of Excitation System Components

The basic elements which form different types of excitation
systems are the dc exciters (self or separately excited); ac
exciters; rectifiers (controlled or non-controlled);
magnetic, rotating, or electronic amplifiers; excitation
system stabilizing feedback circuits; signal sensing and
processing circuits
Separately excited dc exciter

Figure 8.26: Block diagram of a dc exciter

Self-excited dc exciter
The block diagram of Fig. 8.26 also applies to the selfexcited dc exciter. The value of KE, however, is now equal
to Ref/Rg-1 as compared to Ref/Rg for the separately excited
The station operators usually track the voltage regulator by
periodically adjusting the rheostat setpoint so as to make
the voltage regulator output zero. This is accounted for by
selecting the value of KE so that the initial value of VR is
equal to zero. The parameter KE is therefore not fixed, but
varies with the operating condition.
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AC Exciter and Rectifier

Figure 8.28: Block diagram of an ac exciter

Figure 8.30: Rectifier regulation model

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Windup and Non-Windup Limits


System equation:
Limiting action:

Figure 8.34: (a) Integrator with windup limits

System equation:
Limiting action:

Figure 8.34: (b) Integrator with non-windup limits

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8.6.3 Modeling of Complete Excitation Systems

Figure 8.39 depicts the general structure of a detailed
excitation system model having a one-to-one
correspondence with the physical equipment. While this
model structure has the advantage of retaining a direct
relationship between model parameters and physical
parameters, such detail is considered too great for general
system studies. Therefore, model reduction techniques are
used to simplify and obtain a practical model appropriate for
the type of study for which it is intended.
The parameters of the reduced model are selected such that
the gain and phase characteristics of the reduced model
match those of the detailed model over the frequency range
of 0 to 3 Hz. In addition, all significant nonlinearities that
impact on system stability are accounted for. With a
reduced model, however, direct correspondence between
the model parameters and the actual system parameters is
generally lost.

Figure 8.39: Structure of a detailed excitation system model

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Standard IEEE Models

IEEE has standardized 12 model structures for

representing the wide variety of excitation systems
currently in use (see IEEE Standard 421.5-1992):

these models are intended for use in transient

and small-signal stability studies

Figures 8.40 to 8.43 show four examples

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1. Type DC1A Exciter model

Figure 8.40: IEEE type DC1A excitation system model. IEEE 1991[8]
The type DC1A exciter model represents field controlled dc
communtator exciters, with continuously acting voltage regulators.
2. Type AC1A Exciter model
The exciter may be separately excited or self excited, the latter type
being more common. When self excited, KE is selected so that initially
VR=0, representing operator action of tracking the voltage regulator by
periodically trimming the shunt field rheostat set point.

Figure 8.41: IEEE type AC1A excitation system model. IEEE 1991[8]
The type AC1A exciter model represents a field controlled alternator
excitation system with non-controlled rectifiers, applicable to a
brushless excitation system. The diode rectifier characteristic
imposes a lower limit of zero on the exciter output voltage. The
exciter field supplied by a pilot exciter, and the voltage regulator
power supply is not affected by external transients.
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3. Type AC4A exciter model

Figure 8.42: IEEE type AC4A excitation system model IEEE 1991 [8]
The type AC4A exciter model represents an alternator supplied controlled
system - a high initial response excitation system
Type ST1A
exciter model
utilizing full wave thyristor bridge circuit. Excitation system stabilization is
usually provided in the form of a series lag-lead network (transient gain
reduction). The time constant associated with the regulator and firing of
thyristors is represented by TA. The overall gain is represented by KA. The
rectifier operation is confined to mode 1 region. Rectifier regulation effects
on exciter output limits are accounted for by constant KC.

Figure 8.43: IEEE type ST1A excitation system model IEEE 1991 [8]
The type ST1A exciter model represents potential-source controlled-rectifier
systems. The excitation power is supplied through a transformer from
generator terminals; therefore, the exciter ceiling voltage is directly
proportional to generator terminal voltage. The effect of rectifier regulation
on ceiling voltage is represented by KC. The model provides flexibility to
represent series lag-lead or rate feedback stabilization. Because of very
high field forcing capability of the system, a field current limiter is
sometimes employed; the limit is defined by lLR and the gain by KLR.
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Modeling of Limiters

Standard models do not include limiting circuits;

these do not come into play under normal

These are, however, important for long-term and

voltage stability studies

Implementation of these circuits varies widely

models have to be established on a case by case


Figure 8.47 shows as an example the model of a

field current limiter

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(a) Block diagram representation

(b) Limiting characteristics

Figure 8.47: Field-current limiter model

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