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Electricity generation is normally produced at constant frequencies of
50 Hz or 60 Hz and the generators e.m.f. can be considered
practically sinusoidal. However, when a source of sinusoidal voltage is
applied to a nonlinear device or load, the resulting current is not
perfectly sinusoidal. In the presence of system impedance this current
causes a non-sinusoidal voltage drop and, therefore, produces voltage
distortion at the load terminals, i.e. the latter contains harmonics.
Power system harmonics are defined as sinusoidal voltage and
currents at frequencies that are integer multiples of the main
generated (or fundamental) frequency. They constitute the major
distorting components of the mains voltage and load current
In the early 1800s, French mathematician, Jean Baptiste Fourier
formulated that a periodic nonsinusoidal function of a fundamental
frequency f may be expressed as the sum of sinusoidal functions of
frequencies which are multiples of the fundamental frequency.
For the periodic nonsinusoidal voltage wave form, the simplified
Fourier expression states:
v(t) = V0 + V1 sin(t) + V2 sin(2t) + + Vn sin(nt) +. (1)
V0 represents the constant or the DC component of the waveform.
V1, V2, V3, , Vn are the peak values of the successive terms of the
expression. The terms are known as the harmonics of the periodic

FIGURE 1 Nonsinusoidal voltage waveform

FIGURE 2 Creation of Nonsinusoidal waveform by adding the fundamental and third
harmonic frequency waveforms.

The fundamental (or rst harmonic) frequency has a frequency of f,
the second harmonic has a frequency of 2f, the third harmonic has a
frequency of 3f, and the nth harmonic has a frequency of nf. If the
fundamental frequency is 50 Hz (as in the India), the second harmonic
frequency is 100 Hz, and the third harmonic frequency is 150 Hz.

The ability to express a nonsinusoidal waveform as a sum of
sinusoidal waves allows us to use the more common mathematical
expressions and formulas to solve power system problems. In order to
nd the effect of a nonsinusoidal voltage or current on a piece of
equipment, we only need to determine the effect of the individual
harmonics and then vectorially sum the results to derive the net
effect. Figure 2 illustrates how individual harmonics that are
sinusoidal can be added to form a nonsinusoidal wave form.

The Fourier expression in Eq. (1) has been simplied to clarify the
concept behind harmonic frequency components in a nonlinear
periodic function.

) ( ) ( )




where an and bn are the coefcients of the individual harmonic terms
or components. Under certain conditions, the cosine or sine terms can
vanish, giving us a simpler expression.

If the function is an even function, meaning f(t) = f (t), then the sine
terms vanish from the expression. If the function is odd, with
f(t) = f(t), then the cosine terms disappear.

Half Wave Symmetry:
From figure 3, we can say that () , system (main) voltage, possesses
half-wave symmetry. i.e.,
() (

) Or () (

i.e. the shape of the waveform over a period t + T /2 to t + T is the
negative of the shape of the waveform over the period t to t + T /2.
Consequently ,the voltage waveform of figure below has half wave

FIGURE 3 Nonlinear waveform with halfwave symmetry by adding the fundamental
and third harmonic frequency waveforms.
From the following derivation, it is shown that the Fourier series of
any function which has half-wave symmetry contains only odd
Let us consider the Coefficients



() +
Which we may represent as

Now we substitute the new variable

in the integral

() (

But is , and thus,


After noting the form of

, we therefore may write

( )

The factor ( )indicates that

is zero if n is even.


A similar investigation shows that

is also zero for all even n, and



Thus, For symmetrical waveforms, with half wave symmetry, all
the even numbered harmonics are nullified.
As their names imply, odd harmonics have odd numbers (e.g., 3, 5, 7,
9, 11), and even harmonics have even numbers (e.g., 2, 4, 6, 8, 10).
Harmonic number 1 is assigned to the fundamental frequency
component of the periodic wave.
Harmonic number 0 represents the constant or DC component of the
waveform. The DC component is the net difference between the
positive and negative halves of one complete waveform cycle. The DC
component of a waveform has undesirable effects, particularly on
transformers, due to the phenomenon of core saturation.
The majority of nonlinear loads produce harmonics that are odd
multiples of the fundamental frequency. Certain conditions need to
exist for production of even harmonics. Uneven current draw between
the positive and negative halves of one cycle of operation can generate
even harmonics. The uneven operation may be due to the nature of
the application or could indicate problems with the load circuitry.

In a balanced three-phase electrical system, the voltages and currents
have a positional relationship as shown in Figure 4. The three voltages
are 120 apart and so are the three currents. The normal phase
rotation or sequence is acb, which is counter clockwise and
designated as the positive-phase sequence.
For harmonic analyses, these relationships are still applicable, but the
fundamental components of voltages and currents are used as
reference. All other harmonics use the fundamental frequency as the
The fundamental frequency current components in a three-phase
power system have a positive-phase sequence (counter clockwise).

ia1 = Ia1 sin wt
ib1 = Ib1 sin (wt-120)
ic1 = Ic1 sin (wt-240)
The negative displacement angles indicate that the fundamental
phasors ib1 and ic1 trail the ia1 phasor by the indicated angle. Figure 5a
shows the fundamental current phasors.
The expressions for the third harmonic currents are:
ia3 = Ia3 sin 3wt
ib3 = Ib3 sin 3(wt-120) = Ib3 sin (3wt-360) = Ib3 sin 3wt
ic3 = Ic3 sin 3(wt-240) = Ic3 sin (3wt-720) = Ic3 sin 3wt

The expressions for the third harmonics show that they are in phase
and have zero displacement angle between them. Figure 5b shows the
third harmonic phasors. The third harmonic currents are known as
zero sequence harmonics due to the zero displacement angle between
the three phasors.
The expressions for the fth harmonic currents are:
ia5 = Ia5 sin 5wt
ib5 = Ib5 sin 5(wt-120) = Ib5 sin(5wt-600) = Ib5 sin(5wt-240)
ic5 = Ic5 sin 5(wt-240) = Ic5 sin(5wt-1200) = Ic5 sin(5wt-120)
Figure 5c shows the fth harmonic phasors. Note that the phase
sequence of the fth harmonic currents is clockwise and opposite to
that of the fundamental. The fth harmonics are negative sequence

FIGURE 5 (a) Fundamental phasors. (b) Third harmonic phasors. (c) Fifth harmonic phasors.
(d) Seventh harmonic phasors.

Similarly the expressions for the seventh harmonic currents are:
ia7 = Ia7 sin 7wt
ib7 = Ib7 sin 7(wt-120) = Ib7 sin(7wt-840) = Ib7 sin(7wt-120)
ic7 = Ic7 sin 7(wt-240) = Ic7 sin(7wt-1680) = Ic7 sin(7wt-240)
Figure 5d shows the seventh harmonic current phasors. The seventh
harmonics have the same phase sequence as the fundamental and are
positive sequence harmonics. Similar way phase sequence of even
harmonics current phasors can be calculated.
Table 1 categorizes the harmonics in terms of their respective
sequence orders.

A pure sinusoidal waveform with zero harmonic distortion is a
hypothetical quantity and not a practical one. The voltage waveform,
even at the point of generation, contains a small amount of distortion
due to nonuniformity in the excitation magnetic eld and discrete
spatial distribution of coils around the generator stator slots. The
distortion at the point of generation is usually very low, typically less
than 1.0%.
The generated voltage is transmitted many hundreds of miles,
transformed to several levels, and ultimately distributed to the power
user. The user equipment generates currents that are rich in
harmonic frequency components, especially in large commercial or
industrial installations.
As harmonic currents travel to the power source, the current
distortion results in additional voltage distortion due to impedance
voltages associated with the various power distribution equipment,
such as transmission and distribution lines, transformers, cables,
buses, and so on.
Figure 6 illustrates how current distortion is transformed into voltage
distortion. Not all voltage distortion, however, is due to the ow of
distorted current through the power system impedance.
Static uninterruptible power source (UPS) systems can generate
appreciable voltage distortion due to the nature of their operation.
Normal AC voltage is converted to DC and then reconverted to AC in
the inverter section of the UPS. Unless waveform shaping circuitry is
provided, the voltage waveforms generated in UPS units tend to be
As nonlinear loads are propagated into the power system, voltage
distortions are introduced which become greater moving from the
source to the load because of the circuit impedances. Current
distortions for the most part are caused by loads. Even loads that are
linear will generate nonlinear currents if the supply voltage waveform
is signicantly distorted.
When several power users share a common power line, the voltage
distortion produced by harmonic current injection of one user can
affect the other users. This is why standards are being issued that will
limit the amount of harmonic currents that individual power users
can feed into the source.
The major causes of current distortion are nonlinear loads due to
adjustable speed drives, fluorescent lighting, rectier banks, computer
and data-processing loads, arc furnaces, and so on. One can easily
visualize an environment where a wide spectrum of harmonic
frequencies are generated and transmitted to other loads or other
power users, thereby producing undesirable results throughout the

FIGURE 6 Voltage distortion due to current distortion. The gradient graph indicates how
distortion changes from source to load.


Many of the loads installed in present-day power systems are
harmonic current generators. Combined with the impedance of the
electrical system, the loads also produce harmonic voltages. The
nonlinear loads may therefore be viewed as both harmonic current
generators and harmonic voltage generators. Prior to the 1970s, speed
control of AC motors was primarily achieved using belts and pulleys.
Now, adjustable speed drives (ASDs) perform speed control functions
very efciently. ASDs are generators of large harmonic currents.
Fluorescent lights use less electrical energy for the same light output
as incandescent lighting but produce substantial harmonic currents
in the process. The explosion of personal computer use has resulted
in harmonic current proliferation in commercial buildings.

Figure 8 shows a current waveform at a distribution panel supplying
exclusively uorescent lights. The waveform is primarily comprised of
the third and the fth harmonic frequencies. The individual current
harmonic distortion makeup is provided in Table 2. The waveform also
contains slight traces of even harmonics, especially of the higher
frequency order. The current waveform is at topped due to initiation
of arc within the gas tube, which causes the voltage across the tube
and the current to become essentially unchanged for a portion of each
half of a cycle.

FIGURE 8 Nonlinear current drawn by uorescent lighting

Figures 10 show the nonlinear current characteristics of a personal
computer. Tables 3 provide the harmonic content of the currents. The
predominance of the third and fth harmonics is evident. The current
THD for both devices exceeds 100%, as the result of high levels of
individual distortions introduced by the third and fth harmonics. The
total current drawn by a personal computer and its monitor is less
than 2 A, but a typical high-rise building can contain several hundred
computers and monitors. The net effect of this on the total current
harmonic distortion of a facility is not difcult to visualize. So far we
have examined some of the more common harmonic current
generators. The examples illustrate that a wide spectrum of harmonic
currents is generated. Depending on the size of the power source and
the harmonic current makeup, the composite harmonic picture will be
different from facility to facility.

FIGURE 10 Nonlinear current drawn by single personal computer.

C. Variable Speed Drives / UPS:
Variable speed controllers, UPS units and DC converters in general
are usually based on the three-phase bridge, also known as the six-
pulse bridge because there are six pulses per cycle (one per half cycle
per phase) on the DC output.
The six pulse bridge produces harmonics at (6n 1), i.e. at one more
and one less than each multiple of six. In theory, the magnitude of
each harmonic is the reciprocal of the harmonic number, so there
would be 20% fifth harmonic and 9% eleventh harmonic, etc.
The magnitude of the harmonics is significantly reduced by the use of
a twelve-pulse bridge. This is effectively two six-pulse bridges, fed
from a star and a delta transformer winding, providing a 30 degrees
phase shift between them.
The 6n harmonics are theoretically removed, but in practice, the
amount of reduction depends on the matching of the converters and is
typically by a factor between 20 and 50. The 12n harmonics remain
unchanged. Not only is the total harmonic current reduced, but also
those that remain are of a higher order making the design of the filter
much easier.
Often the equipment manufacturer will have taken some steps to
reduce the magnitudes of the harmonic currents, perhaps by the
addition of a filter or series inductors. In the past this has led some
manufacturers to claim that their equipment is G5/3 compliant.
Since G5/3 is a planning standard applicable to a complete
installation, it cannot be said to have been met without knowledge of
every piece of equipment on the site.
A further increase in the number of pulses to 24, achieved by using
two parallel twelve-pulse units with a phase shift of 15 degrees,
reduces the total harmonic current to about 4.5%. The extra
sophistication increases cost, of course, so this type of controller
would be used only when absolutely necessary to comply with the
electricity suppliers limits.

Harmonics can affect transformers in two ways.

Voltage harmonics produce additional losses in the transformer core
as the higher frequency harmonic voltages set up hysteresis loops,
which super impose on the fundamental loop.

Each loop represents higher magnetization power requirement and
higher core losses.

The harmonic currents increase the net RMS current flowing in the
transformer winding which results in additional


Winding eddy current losses are also increased winding eddy current
are circulating current s induced in the conductor by the leakage
magnetic flux.

Eddy current due to harmonics an significantly increase the
transformer winding temperature.

Transformer that are required to supply large nonlinear loads must be
derated to handle the harmonics.

This derated factor is based on the percentage of the harmonic current
in the load and the rated winding eddy current losses.

Also, transformers that supply large third harmonic generated loads
should have neutral oversized.
In alternators, the primary source orcause, of harmonics in the emf
wave form is due to the non-sinusoidal field flux wave form.

Due to non-uniform distribution of the field flux and armature
reaction in ac machines, the current and voltage waves may get
distorted. Such wave forms are referred to as non-sinusoidal or
complex wave forms.

The sinusoidal components of a complex wave are called harmonics.

In an alternator field flux wave is symmetrical, i.e. field flux wave has
equal positive and negative half cycles and as a consequence field flux
wave cant contain even field space harmonics.

Thus no even harmonics can be generated-hence the output emf is
free from even harmonics.

Since the negative of the wave is a reproductionof the positive half, the
even harmonics are absent.

AC Motors

Application of distorted voltage to a motor results additional losses in
the magnetic core of the motor.

Hysteresis and eddy current losses in core increase as higher
frequency harmonic voltages are impressed on the motor windings.

Hysteresis losses increase with frequency and eddy current losses
increase as the square of the frequency.

Also harmonic currents produce additional

losses in the motor

windings which must be accounted for.

Large motors supplied from adjustable speed drives (ASD,s) are
usually provided with harmonic filters to prevent motor damage due to

Capacitor Banks
Capacitor banks are designed to operate at a maximum voltage of 110
% of their rated voltages and at 135% of their rated kVARS.

When large levels of voltage and current harmonics are present, the
ratings are quite often exceeded, resulting in failures.

Because the reactance of a capacitor bank is inversely proportion to
frequency, harmonic currents can find their way into a capacitor

Capacitor bank acts as sink, absorbing stray harmonic currents and
causing over loads and subsequent failure of the bank.

A more serious condition with potential for substantial damage occurs
due to a phenomenon called harmonic resonance.

Resonant conditions are created when the inductive and capacitive
reactances become equal at one of the harmonic frequencies.

If a high level of harmonic voltage or current corresponding to the
resonance frequency exists in a power system, considerable damage to
the capacitor bank as well as other power system devices can result.


Current flowing in a cable produces

losses. When the load current

contains harmonic current, additional losses are introduced.

The effective resistance of the cable increases with frequency because
of the phenomenon known as skin effect.

Skin effect is due to unequal flux linkage across the cross section of
the conductor which causes AC currents to flow only on the outer
periphery of the conductor.

Protective Devices

Harmonic currents influence the operation of protective devices.

Fuses and motor thermal overload devices are prone to nuisance
operation when subjected to nonlinear currents.

This factor should be given due consideration when sizing protective
devices for use in a harmonic environment.

Electromechanical relays are also affected by harmonics.

Depending on the design an electromechanical relay may operate
faster oy slower than the expected times for operation at the
fundamental frequency alone.
Neutral conductor over-heating in distridution system
In a three-phase system, when each phase is equally loaded, current
in the neutral is zero. When the loads are not balanced only the net
out of balance current flows in the neutral. In the past, installers have
taken advantage of this fact by installing half-sized neutral
However, the positive sequence and negative sequence harmonics as
categorized in above table 1 cancel out, the harmonic currents that
are an odd multiple of three times the fundamental, the triple-N
harmonics, add in the neutral as these are zero sequence currents.
70% third harmonic current in each phase results in 210% current in
the neutral.
Case studies in commercial buildings generally show neutral currents
between 150% and 210% of the phase currents, often in a half-sized

(1) Over sizing Neutral Conductors
In three phase circuits with shared neutrals, it is common to oversize
the neutral conductor up to 200% when the load served consists of
non-linear loads. For example, most manufacturers of system
furniture provide a 10 AWG conductor with 35 amp terminations for a
neutral shared with the three 12 AWG phase conductors.
In feeders that have a large amount of non-linear load, the feeder
neutral conductor and panel board bus bar should also be oversized.

(2) Using Separate Neutral Conductors
On three phase branch circuits, another philosophy is to not combine
neutrals, but to run separate neutral conductors for each phase
conductor. This increases the copper use by 33%. While this
successfully eliminates the addition of the harmonic currents on the
branch circuit neutrals, the panel board neutral bus and feeder
neutral conductor still must be oversized.
Oversizing Transformers and Generators: The oversizing of equipment
for increased thermal capacity should also be used for transformers
and generators which serve harmonics-producing loads. The larger
equipment contains more copper.

(3) Passive filters
Passive filters are used to provide a low impedance path for harmonic
currents so that they flow in the filter and not the supply. The filter
may be designed for a single harmonic or for a broad band depending
on requirements.
Simple series band stop filters are sometimes proposed, either in the
phase or in the neutral. A series filter is intended to block harmonic
currents rather than provide a controlled path for them so there is a
large harmonic voltage drop across it.
This harmonic voltage appears across the supply on the load side.
Since the supply voltage is heavily distorted it is no longer within the
standards for which equipment was designed and warranted. Some
equipment is relatively insensitive to this distortion, but some is very
sensitive. Series filters can be useful in certain circumstances, but
should be carefully applied; they cannot be recommended as a general
purpose solution.

(4) Isolation transformers
As mentioned previously, triple-N currents circulate in the delta
windings of transformers. Although this is a problem for transformer
manufacturers and specifiers the extra load has to be taken into
account it is beneficial to systems designers because it isolates triple-
N harmonics from the supply.
The same effect can be obtained by using a zig-zag wound
transformer. Zig-zag transformers are star configuration auto
transformers with a particular phase relationship between the
windings that are connected in shunt with the supply.

(5) Active Filters
The solutions mentioned so far have been suited only to particular
harmonics, the isolating transformer being useful only for triple-N
harmonics and passive filters only for their designed harmonic
frequency. In some installations the harmonic content is less
In many IT installations for example, the equipment mix and location
is constantly changing so that the harmonic culture is also constantly
changing. A convenient solution is the active filter or active
The active filter is a shunt device. A current transformer measures the
harmonic content of the load current, and controls a current
generator to produce an exact replica that is fed back onto the supply
on the next cycle. Since the harmonic current is sourced from the
active conditioner, only fundamental current is drawn from the
supply. In practice, harmonic current magnitudes are reduced by
90%, and, because the source impedance at harmonic frequencies is
reduced, voltage distortion is reduced.

(6) K-Rated Transformers
Special transformers have been developed to accommodate the
additional heating caused by these harmonic currents. These types of
transformers are now commonly specified for new computer rooms
and computer lab facilities.

(7) Special Transformers
There are several special types of transformer connections which can
cancel harmonics. For example, the traditional delta-wye transformer
connection will trap all the triplen harmonics (third, ninth, fifteenth,
twenty-first, etc.) in the delta.
Additional special winding connections can be used to cancel other
harmonics on balanced loads. These systems also use more copper.
These special transformers are often specified in computer rooms with
well balanced harmonic producing loads such as multiple input
mainframes or matched DASD peripherals.

(8) Filtering
While many filters do not work particularly well at this frequency
range, special electronic tracking filters can work very well to
eliminate harmonics.
These filters are presently relatively expensive but should be
considered for thorough harmonic elimination.

(9) Special Metering
Standard clamp-on ammeters are only sensitive to 50 Hertz current,
so they only tell part of the story. New true RMS meters will sense
current up to the kilohertz range. These meters should be used to
detect harmonic currents. The difference between a reading on an old
style clamp-on ammeter and a true RMS ammeter will give you an
indication of the amount of harmonic current present.
The measures described above only solve the symptoms of the
problem. To solve the problem we must specify low harmonic
equipment. This is most easily done when specifying electronic
ballasts. Several manufacturers make electronic ballasts which
produce less than 15 % harmonics. These ballasts should be
considered for any ballast retrofit or any new project. Until low
harmonics computers are available, segregating these harmonic loads
on different circuits, different panel boards or the use of transformers
should be considered. This segregation of dirty and clean loads is
fundamental to electrical design today. This equates to more branch
circuits and more panel boards, thus more copper usage.

Reference Books:
1. Power Quality by C Sankaran
2. Power System Harmonics, Second Edition J. Arrillaga, N.R. Watson
3. Engineering Circuit Analysis, Seventh Edition, William H.Hayt,Jr,
Jack E.Kemmerly, Steven M. Durbin