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Home / Technical Articles / 12 essential parameters required for rating large generators

Describing the generator’s soul

When specifying generators, the first thing that comes to mind is a rating. The machine’s rating is a set of parameters that, simply speaking in engineering terms, describe the generator. These values indicate the generator’s available power output as well as its capability in terms of electrical, thermal, and mechanical constraints.

12 essential parameters required for rating large generators
12 essential parameters required for rating large generators

With enough practice, a qualified person can frequently deduce further information regarding the generator’s size and basic design aspects.

The most common way to describe a generator is to assign it a rating. The generator’s rating is supplied at the machine’s maximum continuous power output capability point. Each of the below parameters is a design quantity that describes the generator’s capabilities or limitations. In some situations, they also specify operational restrictions that, if exceeded, will result in excessive stress on one or more of the generator’s components (mechanical, thermal, or electrical).

These parameters and some others not mentioned here (stator/rotor winding insulation and temperature class, overspeed capability, etc.) are considered in the design of all major generators, and they are all represented in the design standards for generators.

Large generator ratings have risen substantially in the last decade as designers have learned to include newer and better materials into their designs while also optimizing the use of existing materials. It’s worth noting that over time, the rate of increase in generator ratings has been a logarithmic increase (see Figure 1).

Currently, gas-turbine generators with ratings of up to 400-500 MVA are being developed. Currently, steam-turbine generators with ratings of up to 1700 MVA are being produced, but there are designs with ratings of up to 2000 MVA.

Figure 1 – Trend in MVA rating of large turbogenerators

Trend in MVA rating of large turbogenerators
Figure 1 – Trend in MVA rating of large turbogenerators

The below-listed parameters have precise ranges that are outlined in design specifications and discussed in publications about proper operating practices for large generators.

The following are the terms commonly used to indicate the rating:

  1. Apparent power (in MVA, or Mega volt-amperes)
  2. Real power (in MW, or Megawatts)
  3. Power factor pf (dimensionless quantity) and Reactive power (in MVARs, or Mega volt-amps reactance)
  4. Stator terminal voltage Vt (alternating voltage)
  5. Stator current Ia (alternating current, in amperes)
  6. Field voltage Vf (direct voltage)
  7. Field current If (direct current, in amperes)
  8. Speed rpm (revolutions per minute)
  9. Hydrogen pressure psi (pounds per square inch)
  10. Hydrogen temperature (°C)
  11. Short-circuit ratio
  12. Volts per Hertz and Overfluxing

1. Apparent Power

The rating of a turbine generator is referred to as apparent power. It is generally always indicated in mega-volt-ampere (MVA) units in big generators, though it can alternatively be stated in kVA. Although real power (usually always expressed in megawatts [MW], though it can also be expressed in kilowatts [kW]) is commonly used to describe equipment, it is the apparent power that better represents the rating.

This is because the physical size of a machine is mostly determined by the product of voltage and current (MVA). The MVA in a three-phase power system is calculated using the following formula:

  • MVA = √3 (Generator’s line current in kA) × (Line voltage in kV), or
  • MVA = 3 (Generator’s line current in kA) × (Phase voltage in kV)

Also, MVA = MW / Power factor

The maximum current that a generator can supply at a given system voltage can be calculated using the formulae above. This is necessary for sizing the conductors or buses that must transport the generator’s energy into the system, as well as configuring protection relays.

Figure 2 depicts an example of a nameplate that might be placed on a large generator.

Figure 2 – Steam turbine power generator nameplate

Steam turbine power generator nameplate
Figure 2 – Steam turbine power generator nameplate

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2. Real Power

The product of the generator’s rated apparent power (in MVA) and rated power factor is the rated power (in MW). The rated power of the turbogenerator as a whole is determined by the turbine. To take advantage of additional output that may become available from the turbine, boiler, or reactor, the rated power of the generator is frequently set and constructed to be slightly higher than that of the turbine.

This parameter is measured and monitored in order to maintain track of the machine’s load point and to allow the operator to adjust the generator’s functioning.

The MW overload of the generator is always a very serious concern! MW overload indicates that the stator current limit has most likely been exceeded, affecting the stator winding’s condition. Depending on the main transformer tap settings, the stator terminal voltage may have been exceeded during overload, but stator current overload is more typical. The excess terminal voltage will have an impact on core heating.

Transient MW events from the system or internally in the machine will also show up as transients in the stator current and/or terminal voltage.

Suggested course – Electrical Machines Course: DC, Synchronous and Induction Machines and Transformers

Electrical Machines Course: DC, Synchronous and Induction Machines and Transformers

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3. Power Factor

It was shown in many previously published articles, that the power factor is a measure of the angle between the current and the voltage in a particular branch or a circuit. In mathematical terms, the power factor is the cosine of that angle. Within the context of a generator connected to a system, the power factor describes the existing angle between the voltage at the terminals of the generator (Vt), and the current flowing through those terminals (I1).

The angle between the current and the voltage is characterized as positive in the workings of generators when the current lags behind the voltage, and negative when the current leads behind the voltage. As a result, the power factor is used to characterize whether the generator is “lagging” or “leading” in terms of power factor.

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Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.

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