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June 22, 2022

Correcting Power Factors for the Entire Grid

Correcting Power Factors for the Entire Grid

If you are a decision maker in your business, deciding what things take priority in your facility is integral to making maximum impact and positive change. When it comes to improving efficiency and saving money, one of the most impactful things you can do is correct your power factor. Correcting your power factor improves the way electricity is used within your machinery, but did you know that correcting your power factor can also correct the entire grid? Read on for more about how this can benefit your business.

What is Power Factor?

Power factor measures the effectiveness of electrical power usage. A high power factor means the power is being used efficiently, whereas a low power factor indicates that the electrical power is being poorly used. Most loads in modern electrical machinery is called "inductive". Examples of inductive loads would include things like motors, transformers, tube lighting ballasts, or induction furnaces. These kinds of inductive loads need magnetic fields to operate successfully. Inductive loads require two different types of current: working power (which is noted as kW) which does all the proverbial heavy lifting of creating light, motion, and output, and reactive power, which circulates between the generator and the load. Reactive power places more drain on the primary power source, and is measured in kilovolt-amperes-reactive (kVAR). 

Together the working power and reactive power make up something called "apparent power". It's measured in kilovolt-amperes (kVA). The power factor is the ratio of working power to apparent power, and is the number that measures the overall efficiency of electrical power use. 

What does the power factor have to do with the power grid? 

An AC power grid depends on the supply of reactive power. The amount of reactive power that is being produced by generators must closely match the amount of power that is being used. If the power factor is too leading due to capacitive loads (capacitive loads include energy stored in materials and devices, such as capacitors, and cause changes in voltage to lag behind changes in current), then the voltage will rise. An aging power factor due to inductive loads will cause the voltage to fall. Basically, if the reactive power is over or under supplied, the voltage can cause the generators to switch off in order to protect itself. Power factor is best corrected locally, and can be done using banks of capacitors or installing synchronous motors. 

Engineers have long since struggled with the challenges of power factor issues since the AC grid was first being used. If too many loads are plugged into a grid and they all have a poor power factor, the operations of the grid become compromised. This can cause uneven voltage for the reasons listed above, and can cause lights to flicker and equipment to break down or stop running.

How does a better power factor help the grid and my company?

Having a higher power factor can create savings opportunities for companies, including:

  • Higher power factor eliminates the utility penalty charge
  • Higher power factor reduces the load on transformers and distributors
  • Higher power factor decreases the loss of power in transformers, cables, and equipment
  • A high power factor keeps the voltage steady and even

What can I do to improve my power grid?

To improve the power factor and protect the grid from voltage surges, the reactive load needs to be reduced. One way to reduce this load is to introduce a reactive power component that leads the power component by 90 electrical degrees. The term 'leading' refers to the way the current is leading the voltage, or if it's 'lagging', it means the way the voltage is sluggishly behind the current. The amount and placement of the corrective capacitors would depend on the measurements and surveys of the current low power factor loads. To best decrease the system losses, these capacitors must be placed as close to the low-power factor loads as possible. For motors with high horsepower speeds, the capacitors can be connected close to the motor terminals for maximum impact. 

A second way to decrease the reactive load is to utilize synchronous motors to drive lower speed loads that operate continuously. One example of this would be using a synchronous motor to drive a low-speed air compressor. Air compressors are common in industrial settings like beverage bottling or manufacturing plants. Using a synchronous motor to drive the compressors provides compressed air for the plant, and operates on a leading power factor. This offsets any lag that might be present. An ideal number would be to aim for operating at an 80% leading power factor to draw an appropriate amount of current. Making a change like this with an air compressor could result in reducing the amount of lag by up to 15%.

How does the Maxeff Motor help my power factor and the grid? 

As confirmed by third-party validation, Maxeff products can correct the entire grid power factor and therefore lower the operating costs. The general side of a Maxeff generator is 180 degrees from the incoming power, and produces power in the other direction. It sends a leading power source into the system, and corrects the power factor of the line that feeds it. Whatever power that is not being used (because there is no perpetual movement), then goes down the line and gets absorbed by the induction demands.

To learn more about power factor and the impact on your facility, click HERE

To learn more about what Adventech does, and how you can begin switching your industrial motors to something more efficient, click HERE



Find out if Maxeff Technology is right for you.

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