Despite recent advances in renewable energy, electric vehicles and medical technology, these areas face an ongoing challenge with power quality. Variations in voltage and frequency can result in power fluctuations, interruptions and transients that can cause damage to networks. Here, Steve Hughes, managing director of power quality specialist REO UK, explains current trends in power quality.
One of the most consistently positive news stories of 2018 has been the UK’s growing reliance on renewable energy. Early last year, wind power was responsible for generating 14 gigawatt hours of electricity in the UK. This meant that, for the first time in a century, Britain was able to go more than two days without using any coal-fired power.
While we hope this trend continues, our growing reliance on wind and solar energy poses many issues, not least of all pertaining to power quality. The nature of wind generation and the process of using step-up transformers means these networks can experience variable loading characteristics and duty cycles of wind power, which can lead to harmonic currents, non-sinusoidal loads, transients and over-voltages.
For renewable energy applications, engineers should consider the use of rugged high frequency (HF) transformers capable of operating across wide frequency ranges.
AI in power quality
The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to become ingrained in all facets of industry, and now it offers some key benefits for power electronics. Although isolated cases of poor power quality can be rectified where they manifest as damage or downtime, not all aspects of it are obvious or apparent.
This is where automatic power quality characterisation and classification will become an invaluable tool to fight disturbances. While signal processing techniques have been used for many years to analyse voltage and current issues, AI will take this to the next stage by monitoring the entire network to find patterns in disturbances no matter how fleeting or transitory.
Complexity is perhaps one of the biggest issues facing the medical sector. Devices with switch mode power supplies, such as laptop and mobile phone chargers, are increasingly being used in clinical settings. These are environments where sensitive medical electronics can be extremely susceptible to electromagnetic interference (EMI) propagated through the mains network.
To tackle this issue, REO UK offers medical isolation transformers that isolate sensitive equipment from the likes of power surges, EMI and overload. The transformers conform to the latest EN IEC 60601-1 third edition international standards.
The author is Steve Hughes, managing director of power quality specialist REO UK.