Power system harmonics are not a new topic, but the proliferation of high-power electronics used in motor drives and power controllers has necessitated increased research and development in many areas relating to harmonics.

For many years, high-voltage direct current (HVDC) stations have been a major focus area for the study of power system harmonics due to their rectifier and inverter stations. Roughly two decades ago, electronic devices that could handle several kW up to several MW became commercially viable and reliable products.

This technological advance in electronics led to the widespread use of numerous converter topologies, all of which represent nonlinear elements in the power system.

Even though the power semiconductor converter is largely responsible for the large-scale interest in power system harmonics, other types of equipment also present a nonlinear characteristic to the power system. In broad terms, loads that produce harmonics can be grouped into three main categories covering (1) arcing loads, (2) semiconductor converter loads, and (3) loads with magnetic saturation of iron cores.

Arcing loads, like electric arc furnaces and florescent lamps, tend to produce harmonics across a wide range of frequencies with a generally decreasing relationship with frequency. Semiconductor loads, such as adjustable-speed motor drives, tend to produce certain harmonic patterns with relatively predictable amplitudes at known harmonics.

Saturated magnetic elements, like overexcited transformers, also tend to produce certain ‘‘characteristic’’ harmonics. Like arcing loads, both semiconductor converters and saturated magnetics produce harmonics that generally decrease with frequency.

Regardless of the load category, the same fundamental theory can be used to study power quality problems associated with harmonics. In most cases, any periodic distorted power system waveform (voltage, current, flux, etc.) can be represented as a series consisting of a DC term and an infinite sum of sinusoidal terms.

A vast amount of theoretical mathematics has been devoted to the evaluation of the terms in the infinite sum, but It is reasonable to presume that instrumentation is available that will provide both the magnitude Fi and the phase angle ui for each term in the series. Taken together, the magnitude and phase of the ith term completely describe the ith harmonic.

It should be noted that not all loads produce harmonics that are integer multiples of the power frequency. These noninteger multiple harmonics are generally referred to as interharmonics and are commonly produced by arcing loads and cycloconverters.

All harmonic terms, both integer and noninteger multiples of the power frequency, are analytically treated in the same manner, usually based on the principle of superposition.

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