Standby Generator Working Principle

A standby generator system is composed of two basic subsystems: (1) the generator, which is made up of the prime mover, the alternator, and the governor, and (2) the distribution system, which is made up of the Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) and associated switchgear and distribution. Figure 1 illustrates a typical standby generator. This paper explains these major subsystems and their basic function, however, it is an introductory paper from a suite of related APC papers on more advanced generator system topics, and provides references for readers interested in a more complete treatment of the subject.

When investing in a generator system one should be aware of the technological advantages afforded by today’s systems, and the significant advances in reliability and functionality that have been made over the past 10-15years.

picture 1. standby generator system

The system design must also take into account appropriate over-current protection. The contacts of the switching mechanism must be able to withstand inrush currents without welding. It is also important that the switch avoids overheating at full load current and is able to deliver appropriate short circuit current (current required to trip overcurrent protection devices such as circuit breakers). Different switching schemes exist for re-transfer back to utility, known as open transition and closed transition. Open transition means that the load is first disconnected from utility before being connected to the generator. Closed transition means that the load is first connected to the generator and then disconnected from utility. This means that for a short period of time both the utility and generator are connected simultaneously. The closed transition type is more elaborate and minimizes momentary transfer interruptions.

The prime mover supplies the energy to the generator system, and requires an accurate governor to produce stable frequency under changing loads. The alternator, voltage regulator, and other controls are required to create and deliver quality AC to the transfer switch to be fed to the critical loads. Traditional generator systems can be complex in nature, leading to more costly engineering work and greater potential for failures. Alternative pre-engineered systems provide increased reliability through standardized manufacturing techniques.

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