It’s never been a wise decision to use a product directly without prior tests like in real scenarios. To check product performance, designers used to make simulators to perform different tests by creating artificial working conditions. For example, for thermal power plants or aircraft, simulators are designed for testing purposes and training as well. Simulators depict the real results the same as in real grounds and show outputs in the form of alarms, tripping, numeric values, graphs, etc. and there is no human and material loss but in case the real product comes underutilization without proper tests, serious consequences may arise in the form of both human and material loss.
By definition, load banks are an electric device which acts as a load to a power system for testing purposes. The load bank is a set of different components i.e. a load (resistance, inductive or capacitive); control panel, protection system, and a container built by desired ingress protection (IP) level depending upon the areas where it's going to be used. This device uses power from the power system and dissipates in the form of heat which disperses via cooling fans or cooling water tubing system. In many cases, load banks are permanently installed at site to absorb additional power when there is no need for an electric supply from the power grid. In the market, load banks are available in the range of 100 kW to 6000 kW, however custom made may also be ordered as and when desired from end-users.
Load banks are used to test large wind turbines, solar systems, generators, battery banks and different types of engines. This electronic device is also broadly used in alternate energy as well. Due to the far away erection and commissioning of solar and wind systems from load centers, it’s vital to test the system before connecting it to power grids. For testing purposes, load banks play a pivotal role in fulfilling all desired criteria for commissioning engineers. These are portable and can easily move anywhere in remote areas.
There is a need to perform different tests on power systems and for testing purpose, load banks are used as alternate load due to its flexibility in usage during commissioning especially for power system synchronization, voltage regulations, load sharing when multiple power sources running in parallel, identification of hot spots in cable joints, insulators and bus bars. This device revolutionized the commissioning process because it was near to impossible to connect such newly installed solar / wind power systems without tests with the real load. Voltage fluctuations and frequency instability may cause damage to sensitive devices and cause unrepairable damage to life and property. For testing of generators and switchgear, load banks can also be used. In case of switchgear, different levels of voltage, frequency, and current are used to check its tripping capability during actual operations and this device fits the purpose.
Load rejection is a major phenomenon in the power system, especially whenever the power source is connected to a national/local grid. During operation, many instances occurred when the grid is completely disconnected from its load i.e. in case of transmission line conductor is broken and earthed. In this scenario, the conventional turbine (gas and steam) trips and desynchronizes from the grid. But in the solar and wind power system case, the solar panels and wind turbines keep producing electricity. Now, where to supply the power generation when the grid is disconnected from the load. It's time to introduce load banks to be used as an alternate load to dissipate the power and keep the circuit alive. Same case may also be taken when generator manufacturers e.g. SIEMENS and GE; perform reliability, durability, over/under voltage, over current, etc. tests, for that; load banks play a major role.
There are three types of power loads i.e. resistive, inductive and capacitive. The inductive load is much higher as compared to the remaining two. Almost 90% of the industrial load is inductive in which motors, drives, etc. are dominating. The inductive load includes any device having iron cored coil in it i.e. refrigerator, AC, microwave oven etc. However, resistive-reactive load banks are mostly used for power system testing purposes because this device reflects the ideal load and performs in actual conditions. In a single load bank all three loads may be installed and used as per requirements of tests to behave and produce results in real time.
Safety is a major concern rather than an obligation during project execution irrespective of power plant size and production. In many cases across the globe, incidents happened just because of using low-quality products to save little money. The price of the same rating load bank may vary from company to company and the reason behind this price fluctuation will be the quality of instruments / material being used in it. For example, in the case of resistive load, copper or iron wire / strip may be used but it’s evident that the copper is more heat resistant and absorbs more heat as compared to iron. In case, iron wire is used in large load banks, there will be a high chance to catch fire in comparison to load banks which use copper wire. For tripping purposes, vacuum / SF6 circuit breakers performance is much better as compared to oil and air circuit breakers.
Therefore, load banks make it possible to give a platform in providing real time replicas where the engineers can test the product before commissioning or supply into the market.
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