Success in Long Distance Power Transmission in California

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas

San Francisco, CA, United States
vol. 13, no. 1, p. 46-55, col. 1-2




TWO elements make success in the long-distance electrical transmission of PoweróContinuity and Regulation. Perhaps these are the most important elements in any electrical undertaking and are the most obvious, but in attaining our ideal in long-distance work, there lurk pitfalls about these two elements unknown in other fields of the art. From the outset in the original studies, and down the line to the last switch and insulation, lie unknown problems and problems known, but unsolved. It is the field of the thoughtful, independent engineer; the ground is stony and fit traveling only to the most resourceful.


Diagram of Connections of the Bullock Type F Sychronizing Indicator Used in the 10,000-Volt Motor-Generator at Colton.


Hydraulic development is one of the oldest arts, but the amount of human ignorance concerning hydraulic problems and conditions is appalling. Records may have been kept of the rivers whose waters are navigable, or whose rapids and falls are along the railroad lines, or in the manufacturing villages; but an investigation of the records available concerning important powers, even a few miles out of the regular lines of travel, would surprise you by their lack of accuracy and detail. Rainfall has been kept for generations for the benefit of agriculturists, but the watershed of no one power steam of my acquaintance has ever been completely covered in its essential details by rainfall records. The water available at any one point where the rainfall can be approximated will be estimated by different engineers from 15 per cent, to 70 per cent, of the total fall, and, apparently, each will be justified by engineering precedents. Such possible variations call for the exercise of caution, judgment, and experience in reaching conclusions.


The 10,000 Volt Bullock Motor-Generator Set Operating the Railway System of the San Bernardino Valley Traction Company.


Nor is there less uncertainty in regard to hydraulic construction. The present year has seen the failure of dams built by engineers of the highest reputation and at water pressures for which they were supposed safe. The flow in canals, ditches, flumes, and pipes are still subjects of dispute, and errors in design are continually leading to serious results for the investor. The one lesson to be drawn from all this being that, if continuity only means success, the studies in water-power location must be made with unusual care, and ample, though never ridiculous, margins allowed in the estimates.


Method of Taking 10,000-Volt Lines Into Building.


Perhaps the day may come when the civil engineers will establish their empirical equation in hydraulics on a sure basis, but until that day is reached, and it is not near, the hydraulic engineer can never cease to be a student and most careful observer. In almost all cases the formula; of engineering have a sound experimental foundation, but the error has actually been made of attempting to apply results obtained from the gaugings of the Mississippi to small rapid rivers, and even in some cases to lined canals and timber flumes, and an equal error committed of attempting to apply the results obtained from the flow of water in eight and ten inch pipes to great conduits and even open flumes. No smile should arise over the absurdity of these errors, for every State in the Union has instances of them, and no year in the past twenty but has seen them committed to the waste of thousands and hundred of thousands of dollars. The records for the past five years at one of our most respected testing flumes are at fault on account of an altered pressure pipe and an unconnected formula. Success comes to the cultured engineer who keeps close to his borrowed data and who solves for himself the unforeseen problems.

I mean by "culture" what Matthew Arnold means when he says that culture is "A pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world." Such an engineer with such an ideal will be a safe guide and his studies will establish on a firm basis our transmission undertaking.


Type of Substation for Less Than 100 Kilowatts Capacity on 10,000-Volt Systems of the Edison Electric Company


But we are not concerned at the present moment with the errors of the civil engineer, or with his unsolved problems, so much as with what is new and with what is gradually getting to Ire known in electrical problems. While these are no more important nor more interesting than the hydraulic problems, they are attracting more attention, and perhaps it is in apology for our electrical ignorance that I call attention to hydraulic difficulties and ignorance. It is true that in no other art can so accurate calculations be made as in electrical engineering, but there are many facts and constants for our equations still unknown. Even in the electrical art there is still an unknown, and I suppose that no one of us will live to see the discovery of even all the knowable our art contains. I am reminded now of the beautiful equation for the dynamo machine presented twenty years ago by Clausius, which contained a round dozen of unknown constants, others have been found to have been variables, and we are still studying the problem and searching for the others.

Regulation in direct current work is a simple problem. Its laws are all known; at every lamp it is quite easy to predict the variation of voltage. The same laws control whether the lines lie long or short. In his transmission plants Thury has met no new difficulties but has effected regulation at ten or twenty miles, just as he would have done had the delivers' been made only in the next room to his dynamos. Resistance is always resistance and his dynamo characteristics remain unaltered by its increase. He deals only with current, voltage, and resistance and encounters problems simple even to Faraday, Henry, or Ohm.

It has been said very truly that the introduction of the alternating current raised the electrician above the rank of the artisan. With these currents he is no longer dealing with a few simple independent quantities connected by a primary rule, but must now consider many new elements, some constants and some variables. At every step capacities and self-inductions enter in the solution in complex and involved relations. Regulations can no longer be simply determined for each part of the system independently, and the regulation of the whole obtained by a consideration of the parts separately. Self-inductions and capacities affect each other, and the generators and lines, as well as the transformers and motors must be chosen or designed with this independent relation in view. A simple case illustrates this beautifully.

When the operation of the transmission supplying current to the city of Stockton, California, from the power plant at Mokelumne Hill, forty-six miles away, was first begun, a curious state of affairs was observed. In the operation of the lines alone, the current required on the 2200-volt side of the step-up transformers was sixty amperes; with the step-down transformers connected, the current fell to about fifty amperes, and when a 100-kilowatt motor was put into operation the current was only fifty-five amperes. The transmission was designed to be at 25,000 volts, but at the delivery end of the line the voltage was found to be 27,200 volts, and finally the motors consumed full current when running at no load and not much more when operating with full load applied. I think that all will agree that here are problems enough for one small instance of the difficulties in the regulation of a long-distance transmission plant. The lines in this case had been calculated for an 8 per cent, loss of energy for transmission of 1000 kilowatts and capacity played the most important part in these pranks as to absorb an apparent energy of over 130 kilovolt-amperes. This is reduced when the transformers are connected and some real energy logins to flow and the self-induction of the step-down transformers neutralizes some of the capacity of the line. When the motors are connected, the energy is increased and the self-inductances of the various parts of the system become more important.

The apparent rise of voltage along the line illustrates the interdependence of the whole system even more clearly, for it is only in a very small part due to the line itself, or rather, while due to the line, it occurs in the step-up transformers and not to any extent along the line.


Type of Substation Fob Less Than 100 Kilowatts Capacity on 10,000-Volt Systems of the Edison Electric Company


It is not uncommon to attribute such an effect to resonance, which really only rarely becomes important; in reality, the regulation of the transformer produces this effect. With any transformer fed with a constant voltage at the primary, the secondary voltage falls with non-inductive load and falls still further if an inductive load is applied, but if the load is a capacity load, the secondary voltage rises instead of falls. In this case, therefore, the step-up transformers were delivering a 10 per cent, higher voltage to the line than their transformation ratio accounted for, which necessarily disturbed the regulation seriously. This trouble became even more serious when a heavy induction motor was later operated by the same plant. The load on the motor accounted for a fall of potential amounting to 4 per cent, but the inductance produced a drop of 10 per cent, at least; and, as the rise of voltage on the line at no load was as much as 10 per cent., it may at once be seen that the voltage varied when the motor was connected from 10 per cent, above normal to 10 per cent, below, and thus a variation exceeding 20 per cent, was produced in place of a variation of 4 per cent, for which the load allowed.

The effect upon the synchronous motor was also due to this ever troublesome capacity. The generators were giving nearly a true sine wave of electromotive force while the motors were designed for a peaked wave, the line capacity so affected the generator wave that the difference between the motor and generator became great, and for part of each wave the motor was absorbing power, and for its remainder delivering power, so that always a great current was flowing.

In this particular case these troubles were corrected by the introduction of a heavy self-induction across the ends of the line which neutralized the line capacity; and this self-induction was used until an inductive load was connected in the shape of induction motors, which rendered the use of an extra self-induction unnecessary. Whenever this arrangement can be thoroughly carried out and the capacities and self-inductions connected to any line be evenly balanced, the alternating problem can be reduced to the simplicity of the direct current problem and long algebraic equation abandoned in determination of the expectations. This possibility is beginning to be appreciated and regulation attained in long-distance transmissions which could not otherwise be hoped for.

There is little service which calls for absolutely continuous power. Most plants, which are said to be operating "day and night," shut down at meal times and are rarely operated more than twenty hours of the twenty-four, and even when the operation is continents through the day, there is a cessation of operation on Sundays and holidays. For this reason, it is difficult to satisfactorily balance the capacity of the line against the inductance of any load. The line capacity current is constant and is continuously in evidence so long as the voltage is applied to the line; indeed it varies only with the voltage and periodicity. Its importance increases as the load diminishes, for when the load is heavy it is not only completely overcome by inductance, but also is rendered unimportant by reason of the presence of a large cur- rent in phase with the electromotive force. During the time when all loads are diminished, the disturbance of regulation by reason of the presence of a line capacity-current is most apparent, and consequently the counteraction of that capacity effect, by a heavily inductive load which is off during these same periods, is a remedy which only accentuates the disease. This was illustrated in the case described above where a severe induction load depressed the voltage and its removal allowed the full rise due to line capacity.

In the case of the Bay Counties Power Company's transmission, where transmission of approximately 150 miles at 50,000 volts and 60 cycles are undertaken, the charging current is approximately 40 amperes; or, in other words, the line requires the full capacity of a 2000-kilowatt machine for charging it as a condenser. The complete neutralization of this great capacity effect would require the continuous working of something in excess of 5000 kilowatts of induction motors with average normal power factors. Up to the present time no load on the Bay Counties lines has ever been applied which is capable of neutralizing this capacity effect. The power house is practically unable to have much knowledge of the loads actually applied on the lines except by observing the wattmeters or the wheel nozzles, since the current from no load up to a load of several thousand kilowatts remains practically constant. As there are many branching lines supplied from this system, it is impossible to operate other than with constant electromotive force at the dynamos, and the regulation of the long lines is affected by the capacity, which influences everything from the step-up transformers to the last motor.


Exterior View of Substation No. 2 of the Edison Electric Company, Los Angeles, Cal.



Interior Views of Substation No. 2 of the Edison Electric Company, Los Angeles, Cal.


In order to overcome the troubles due to this source, the Bay Counties Power Company has arranged to place upon its lines impedance coils capable of practically neutralizing the entire capacity of their long lines; and, as soon as these are installed, one of its greatest difficulties in obtaining satisfactory regulation will be removed. With the capacity of the line neutralized, it then becomes necessary to keep the load as nearly non- inductive as possible by continuous care in the balance of synchronous against induction motors in the operation of loads.

It is a great mistake for an engineer to become an advocate of one motor to the exclusion of the other type. Both synchronous and induction motors have their spheres of usefulness, and practically every long-distance transmission demands for its satisfactory regulation the use of both types. Where the powers are small and the loads easily started, the simplicity of the induction motor and ease of installation renders it especially suitable, but as their numbers increase, the effect of the lagging currents they absorb becomes important in disturbing regulation, so that it soon becomes necessary to neutralize this lagging current either by the introduction of condensers or of synchronous motors.


An Average Chart Showing the Voltage Regulation (9.46 P. M.) During A \"Short\" on the Main Transmission Line


With a synchronous motor it is possible to counteract the effect of large and variable inductive loads, and, when they are installed in the substation at the delivery end of the line, a ready and satisfactory means of controlling the voltage, whether it is disturbed by inductive or non-inductive loads, is provided. Practice with these machines indicates, however, that they are still very useful if installed at points out of control of the substation attendants, provided only that their power of controlling voltage be not used maliciously, since they are generally most useful when the exciting current is adjusted to a minimum; a condition for which instructions are easily issued and of which the reasonableness appeals to the most ignorant attendant.


Arrangement of Strain Insulators


Much has been written and said of the resonant condition of a line, but up to the present time practice in the installation of plants and connection of motors, transformers, and other devices has not led to important interference from this source. What is called the resonant line, or distortionless line, can be obtained in two ways, either by the connection of capacities and inductance in series, or by their connection in p