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Home / Technical Articles / Important Guidelines To Startup and Shutdown a Large Generator

Operating Conditions

The purpose of this guidelines is to ensure the continuing operational integrity of generators.

Important Guidelines To Startup and Shutdown a Large Generator
Important Guidelines To Startup and Shutdown a Large Generator (on photo: Turbo generator hall – NPP Cernavoda; credit:

Operating conditions (startup and shutdown) that have forced units off-line or have damaged or shortened the life of turbine (or generator) components in the past are highlighted in the guideline to prevent recurrences in the future.

Startup Operation

In addition to monitoring the various generator support systems for cooling and lubrication, electrical parameters, temperatures, and vibration, inattention to the following areas has caused problems in the past:

Problem #1

At no time should excitation interlocks or protective relay functions be bypassed or disabled for the purpose of energizing a generator’s direct current (DC) field winding.

Problem #2

For generators requiring field pre-warming, the manufacturer instructions and established procedures should be followed relative to the allowable field currents.

Problem #3

A generator field should not be applied or maintained at turbine speeds above or below that recommended by the manufacturer. On cross-compound units where a field is applied at low speeds or while on turning gear, extreme caution must be exercised.

Should either or both shafts come to a stop, the field current should immediately be removed to prevent overheating damage to the collector or slip rings.

Problem #4

After the field breaker is closed, the generator field indications should be closely monitored. If a rapid abnormal increase occurs in field current, terminal voltage, or both, immediately open the field breaker and inspect the related equipment for proper working condition before reestablishing a field.

Problem #5

During off-line conditions, at no time should the field current be greater than 105% of that normally required to obtain rated terminal voltage at rated speed in an unloaded condition.

Typically, turbo-generators are designed to withstand a full load field with no load on the machine for only 12 seconds; after that, severe damage can occur to the stator core iron laminations.

Problem #6

When synchronizing a generator to the system, the synchroscope should be rotating less than one revolution every 20 seconds Phase angle differences should be minimized and no more than 5 degrees out of phase when the circuit breaker contacts close.

Phase angle differences as little as 12 degrees can develop shaft torques as high as 150% of full load and damage shaft couplings and other turbine and generator components. Manufacturers usually recommend limiting maximum phase angle differences to 10 degrees.

It is also desirable that incoming and running voltages are matched as closely as possible to minimize reactive power flow to or from the electrical system.

In general, the voltages should be matched within 2% at the time of synchronization. The speed of the turbine should be slightly greater than synchronous speed prior to breaker closure to help ensure that the unit will not be in a motoring condition following connection to the electrical system, and the generator voltage should be slightly higher to ensure var flow into the system instead of into the generator.

NOTE: Under no circumstances should operators allow a unit to be synchronized using the sync-check relay as the breaker-closing device (i e , holding a circuit breaker control switch in the closed position and allowing the sync-check relay to close the breaker). Some sync-check relays can fail in a “closed” state, allowing the circuit breaker to be closed at any time.

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Shutdown Operation

Normally, units are removed from service through operator initiation of distributed control system (DCS) commands or turbine trip buttons that shut down the prime mover.

Closure of steam or fuel valves will then initiate anti-motoring or reverse power control circuits that isolate the unit electrically by opening the generator circuit breakers, field breakers, and, depending on the design, unit auxiliary transformer (UAT) low side breakers. If limit switch circuitry or anti-motoring/reverse power relays fail to operate properly, the unit may stay electrically connected to the system in a motoring condition.

If excitation is maintained, this condition is not harmful to the generator. However, the turbine blades may overheat from windage.
On steam units, the low pressure turbine blades are impacted the most, with typical withstands of 10 minutes before damage.

However, the unit can be safely removed from service with the following operating steps:

Operating step #1

Verify that there is no steam flow or fuel flow in the case of combustion turbine units to ensure that the unit will not overspeed when the generator circuit breaker(s) are opened.

Operating step #2

Transfer the unit auxiliary power to the alternate source if opening the unit breakers will de-energize the UAT.

Operating step #3

Reduce or adjust the generator’s output voltage (voltage regulator) until the field current is at the no load value, and transfer from automatic voltage regulator mode to the manual mode of operation.

Operating step #4

Open the generator circuit breaker(s).

Operating step #5

Open the generator field breaker.

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Reference // Electrical Calculations and Guidelines for Generating Stations and Industrial Plants – Thomas E. Baker (Purchase from Amazon)

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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.


  1. Elvis Tonamo
    Oct 07, 2015

    This program is great it has helped me run the plant so well .

  2. Daniel Akanbawe
    May 28, 2015

    i like the site

    May 20, 2015

    Today most of the power stations are using Auto-synchronizers and the job is no more done manually. The limits indicated for phase angle (namely 10 degrees) is too liberal for the rating of generators being installed in modern power plants.

  4. Ahmed Zubair
    May 19, 2015

    Please include some case studies on systems engineering/designs of running power plants , grids and substations.

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