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Home / Technical Articles / Capacitor banks protection, cautions and maintenance tips

Power Quality and Cost Savings

It would not be wrong to say that humanity has never consumed so much electricity, and to make the paradox bigger, there is still a lack of energy. The sharp increase in consumption in the last couple of decades has created a lot of problems in electrical networks around the world. The optimization of costs and reducing transmission and distribution losses are urgently needed. Here we come to the main topic of this article, how to handle all these problems using capacitor banks.

Capacitor banks protection, cautions and maintenance
Capacitor banks protection, cautions and maintenance

Requests for reactive power compensation, voltage stability, and harmonic filter mitigation have increased as a result of the integration of renewable energies many other technologies into the electrical system. Capacitor banks are abundantly utilized in substations for improving overall power quality.

Due to the neck-to-neck competition, every industry aims to reduce production expenses and better control and optimize electrical energy by employing power quality improvement.

Nowadays, in the light of the coming global crisis, this is important more than ever. Let’s talk about capacitor banks.

Table of Contents:

  1. The Purpose of Capacitor Bank
  2. Capacitor Bank Connections
  3. Failure of Capacitor Banks
    1. Harmonics and Detuned Capacitors
    2. Resonance
    3. Relevant Load Changes
    4. Capacitors in Poor Condition
    5. Equipment Damage
  4. Protection of Capacitor Banks
    1. Internal Resistors
    2. External Discharge Devices
    3. Internal Fault Protection for Capacitor Bank
    4. Element Protection
    5. Group of Element Protection
    6. Different Types of External Fault Protection
  5. Maintenance of Capacitor Banks
  6. Cautions to be Taken Care With Capacitor Banks
  7. Case Study
  8. Conclusion

1. Capacitor Bank Purpose

Let’s start with some basics. In a few words, capacitor banks provide stable voltage level, reactive power support, and increasing power transfer capability in the power system. They are also used to compensate for the losses in transmission systems. Capacitor banks reduce the phase difference between the voltage and current.

A capacitor bank is used for reactive power compensation and power factor correction in the power substations. Capacitor banks are mainly used to enhance the electrical supply quality and enhance the power systems efficiency.

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2. Capacitor Banks Connections

The capacitor bank is connected in two ways – star and delta, but most of the time, delta connection is used. Both of these two connections have their benefits and drawbacks. The main application is power factor correction because, in a 3-phase system, a 3-phase capacitor bank is used for the power factor correction which may be connected in star or delta.

Figure 1 – Delta-Connected Capacitor Bank

Delta-Connected Capacitor Bank
Figure 1 – Delta-Connected Capacitor Bank

The star-connected capacitor bank is used for medium to high voltage applications. In star connection, the voltage across each capacitor is root 3 times lesser than the phase voltage, so the voltage stress across the capacitors is low even in high voltage applications.

There are two types of star connections in the capacitor bank:

  1. Grounded star connection
  2. Ungrounded star connection

Grounded star connection: The neutral point is grounded. In this type of connection, the unbiased point of the bank is stably earthed, which means the neutral should not be insulated toward the BIL level of the complete system.

An error on the 1-phase of the bank will not affect the rise of voltage within the remaining legs of the bank. So, a fault on one phase of the capacitor will not affect other phases.

Figure 2 – Grounded star connection of capacitor bank

Grounded star connection of capacitor bank
Figure 2 – Grounded star connection of capacitor bank

Ungrounded Star Connection: The neutral point is isolated from the earth or ground. In this kind of connection, the capacitor bank’s neutral point is not connected toward earthing. So, this type of connection does not allow the supply of GND currents & zero series harmonic currents

Figure 3 – Ungrounded star connection of capacitor bank

Ungrounded star connection of capacitor bank
Figure 3 – Ungrounded star connection of capacitor bank

Go back to the Contents Table ↑


3. Failure of Capacitor Banks

Nowadays, modern capacitors use a “self-healing, safety disconnect” technology, in which the integrity of the capacitor dielectric is maintained very effectively. Under minor fault conditions, gases are released within the capacitor element to effectively weld and close any hole caused by the dielectric fault.

Under major fault conditions, the gas is released with such force that the capacitor disconnects itself from the supply before further damage is caused by raising the top of the preformed canister and mechanically breaking the internal fuses. In some oil-filled capacitors, the oil can be seen to leak out of the top of the capacitor.

Typical failures of power factor correction capacitors can be attributed to several reasons as detailed below:


3.1 Harmonics and Detuned Capacitors

Harmonics are currents or voltages that are a multiple of the fundamental power frequency, harmonics are generated by some non-linear loads like variable speed drives, capacitors are particularly sensitive to harmonic currents since their impedance decreases proportionally to the order of the harmonics present.

This can result in a capacitor overload, shortening steadily its operating life.

Suggested Video – Using Harmonic Analysis Software


3.2 Resonance

Resonance is a situation where the capacitors and supply transformer creates a low impedance path for the circulating harmonic currents, when this happens, the electrical system could tune to the most dominant specific harmonic frequency thus increasing current flow through the electrical system.

Amplification of harmonic currents is very high when the natural resonance frequency of the capacitor and the network combined happens to be close to any of the harmonic frequencies present.

There is no safe rule to avoid such resonant currents, but resonances above 1000 Hz will probably not cause problems except interference with telephone circuits.

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Rahmatullah Alam

Bachelors in Electrical Engineering with specialization in Electrical Items inspection. Extensively experienced in inspections, review of test plans, procedures, and standards requirements. A lifelong learner with a focus on in-depth learning and sharing knowledge gained during my professional career. The ultimate goal is to ensure the utmost level of quality standards, focus on implementing digitalization and optimization in the Electrical Engineering field.

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