Mitigating the Negative Effects of Electrical Harmonics

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In a recent interview for i-SCOOP, Jean-Pascal Riss and Nicolas Larue teamed up to share their insights about the best ways to manage the harmonics created by variable frequency drives. As Schneider Electric’s Offer Category Director for the Low Voltage Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) end user market and Global Offer Manager for the AccuSine range of active power correction harmonic filters respectively, they had a lot of expertise to share with companies looking to meet harmonic compliance requirements and avoid network-wide failures and equipment shutdowns caused by harmonics exceeding equipment tolerances. 

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The growing problem of harmonics disruptions stems from the expanding integration of VFDs (variable frequency drives) in industrial IoT and critical power environments. The types of devices that generate harmonics include anything with a non-linear load and a switch-mode power supply. This included items such as personal computers, LED lighting, and AC and DC motor drives. 

VFDs are used in almost all electrical industrial motors to precisely regulate the motors to help reduce energy in order to both save money and deliver a greener operational approach. The risk is that using VFDs can impact electrical reliability because, when you add such a device to an electrical network, the perfect sign wave of the fundamental frequency gets distorted.

Riss and Larue explain that there are two ways to help mitigate this issue. One is using drives that have embedded mitigation technology. The other is taking a proactive approach to mitigate harmonics at the systems level. While many people assume that mitigation won’t pose much of a problem since new products include embedded mitigation technologies, Riss and Larue caution that such an assumption doesn’t take all the relevant variables into consideration. The core issue is that changing the speed of a motor requires changing the current or frequency. 

For this reason, it’s wise to also consider the option of mitigating harmonics at the systems level. Whether embedded at the drive-level or through a standalone power factor correction filter—such as AccuSine— the best choice depends on a number of factors including the number of drives and their distribution, the level of power used, and which levels of compliance need to be met. 

Read the full interview at i-SCOOP for more details and examples about this important topic for end customers, panel builders, contractors, and system integrators. And learn more about Schneider Electric’s solutions including variable frequency drives and active power correction filters to address potential power quality issues and more.

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