Power quality – What is it and how can it provide savings?

Power quality is a term used to describe the condition of the electrical current and voltage in an installation. Harmonic and reactive currents cause distortion in the internal infrastructure in all installations. This can result in disruptions, damage to the equipment and a reduced lifespan. Last but not least, poor power quality also leads to an unnecessary rise in costs.

Asymmetry and unnecessarily high voltages increase the consumption of equipment and result in poor power quality. The main causes of poor power quality are harmonic distortion and reactive power. The first generates extra heat in cables and pipelines, and can also result in equipment disruptions. Possible solutions include the application of larger transformers or generators, installing a thicker neutral conductor, and/or using an active harmonic filter. Reactive power is power that must be purchased and that runs through cables and pipelines but which can’t be used to feed lights or machinery. Possible solutions are replacing the causes of high levels of reactive power, using a Cos Phi battery, and/or placing an active dynamic filter.

Measuring and monitoring the quality of the internal electrotechnical infrastructure of a system can be a useful tool to identify and prevent these issues. Every specific power quality issue comes with its own solution – there is no general resolution available. In many cases, the solutions can strengthen each other, however, which means that various issues can be resolved at once.

Over the past months, Piet Brouwer Electrotechnology carried out measurements on behalf of a client to determine the status of its power quality and whether any savings could be made. The results showed that there were benefits to be gained in the field of harmonic distortion and reactive power. Installing a combination of an active and dynamic filter resulted in total savings amounting to 14,000 kg CO2 a year, 3.7% less energy consumption (kWh) and 14% less peak consumption. All this was possible in a cost recovery time of just 2.17 years and both the client and Piet Brouwer Electrotechnology are pleased at the success of these activities.

For more information, measurements and/or independent advice, contact Piet Brouwer Electrotechnology.