Electric power generation

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The production of bulk electric power for industrial, residential, and rural use. Although limited amounts of electricity can be generated by many means, including chemical reaction (as in batteries) and engine-driven generators (as in automobiles and airplanes), electric power generation generally implies large-scale production of electric power in stationary plants designed for that purpose. The generating units in these plants convert energy from falling water, coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear fuels to electric energy. Most electric generators are driven either by hydraulic turbines, for conversion of falling water energy; or by steam or gas turbines, for conversion of fuel energy. Limited use is being made of geothermal energy, and developmental work is progressing in the use of solar energy in its various forms.

An electric load (or demand) is the power requirement of any device or equipment that converts electric energy into light, heat, or mechanical energy, or otherwise consumes electric energy as in aluminum reduction, or the power requirement of electronic and control devices. The total load on any power system is seldom constant; rather, it varies widely with hourly, weekly, monthly, or annual changes in the requirements of the area served. The minimum system load for a given period is termed the base load or the unity load-factor component. Maximum loads, resulting usually from temporary conditions, are called peak loads, and the operation of the generating plants must be closely coordinated with fluctuations in the load. The peaks, usually being of only a few hours’ duration, are frequently served by gas or oil combustion-turbine or pumped-storage hydro-generating units. The pumped-storage type utilizes the most economical off-peak (typically 10 PM. to 7 A.M. ) surplus generating capacity to pump and store water in elevated reservoirs to be released through hydraulic turbine generators during peak periods. This type of operation improves the capacity factors or relative energy outputs of base-load generating units and hence their economy of operation.

The size or capacity of electric utility generating units varies widely, depending upon type of unit; duty required, that is, base-, intermediate-, or peak-load service; and system size and degree of interconnection with neighboring systems. Base-load nuclear or coal-fired units may be as large as 1200 MW each, or more. Intermediate-duty generators, usually coal-, oil-, or gas-fueled steam units, are of 200 to 600 MW capacity each. Peaking units, combustion turbines or hydro, range from several tens of megawatts for the former to hundreds of megawatts for the latter. Hydro units, in both base-load and intermediate service, range in size up to 825 MW.

The total installed generating capacity of a system is typically 20 to 30% greater than the annual predicted peak load in order to provide reserves for maintenance and contingencies.

Voltage regulation is the change in voltage for specific change in load (usually from full load to no load) expressed as percent age of normal rated voltage. The voltage of an electric generator varies with the load and power factor; consequently, some form of regulating equipment is required to maintain a reasonably constant and predetermined potential at the distribution stations or load centers. Since the inherent regulation of most alternating- current (ac) generators is rather poor (that is, high percentage- wise), it is necessary to provide automatic voltage control. The rotating or magnetic amplifiers and voltage-sensitive circuits of the automatic regulators, together with the exciters, are all specially designed to respond quickly to changes in the alternator voltage and to make the necessary changes in the main exciter or excitation system output, thus providing the required adjustments in voltage. A properly designed automatic regulator acts rapidly, so that it is possible to maintain desired voltage with a rapidly fluctuating load without causing more than a momentary change in voltage even when heavy loads are thrown on or off.

In general, most modern synchronous generators have excitation systems that involve rectification of an ac output of the main or auxiliary stator windings, or other appropriate supply, using silicon controlled rectifiers or thyristors. These systems enable very precise control and high rates of response.

Computer-assisted (or on-line controlled) load and frequency control and economic dispatch systems of generation supervision are being widely adopted, particularly for the larger new plants. Strong system interconnections greatly improve bulk power supply reliability but require special automatic controls to ensure adequate generation and transmission stability. Among the refinements found necessary in large, long-distance inter connections are special feedback controls applied to generator high-speed excitation and voltage regulator systems.

Synchronization of a generator to a power system is the act of matching, over an appreciable period of time, the instantaneous voltage of an alternating-current generator (incoming source) to the instantaneous voltage of a power system of one or more other generators (running source), then connecting them together. In order to accomplish this ideally the following conditions must be met:

1. The effective voltage of the incoming generator must be substantially the same as that of the system.

2. In relation to each other the generator voltage and the system voltage should be essentially 180° out of phase; however, in relation to the bus to which they are connected, their voltages should be in phase.

3. The frequency of the incoming machine must be near that of the running system.

4. The voltage wave shapes should be similar.

5. The phase sequence of the incoming polyphase machine must be the same as that of the system.

Synchronizing of ac generators can be done manually or automatically. In manual synchronizing an operator controls the in coming generator while observing synchronizing lamps or meters and a synchroscope, or both. The operator closes the connecting switch or circuit breaker as the synchroscope needle slowly approaches the in-phase position.

Automatic synchronizing provides for automatically closing the breaker to connect the incoming machine to the system, after the operator has properly adjusted voltage (field current), frequency (speed), and phasing (by lamps or synchro-scope). A fully automatic synchronizer will initiate speed changes as required and may also balance voltages as required, then close the breaker at the proper time, all without attention of the operator. Automatic synchronizers can be used in unattended stations or in automatic control systems where units may be started, synchronized, and loaded on a single operator command.

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