Analysis of Electrical and Thermal Stresses in the Stress Relief System of Inverter Fed Medium Voltage Induction Motors
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Pulse width modulation (PWM) voltage source converters (VSC) are one type of motor drives that have become popular because they enable precise control of speed and torque in medium voltage motors. However, these drives are known to have adverse effects on the insulation system particularly on conductive armour tape (CAT) and semi-conductive stress grading tape (SGT). These tapes, which are crucial components of the insulation system, control the surface electrical stresses in the stator slot and in the end portion of the form-wound coils outside the grounded stator. The material properties of CAT and SGT and the methods by which they are applied on form-wound motor coils are traditionally designed for power frequency, or a 60 Hz sinusoidal voltage. However, because of the high frequencies associated with the repetition rate and the fast rise time of the PWM pulses, elevated electrical and thermal stresses develop in these tapes, which can lead to premature insulation failure. Little research has been conducted with respect to understanding the mechanism of dielectric heating as a function of frequency and repetitive pulse characteristics. The material characterization of CAT and SGT is a vital part of an investigation of the performance of the stress relief system at high frequencies. In this study, the anisotropic dielectric properties of CAT and SGT have been measured in dc and ac and in low and high electric fields. The laboratory experiments for determining the material characteristics are discussed and the results analyzed. According to the ac space charge limited field (SCLF) theory, the maximum ac tangential component of the electric field in a nonlinear resistive SGT on medium voltage form-wound motor coils can be predicted from the field dependent electrical conductivity and the frequency. However, the SCLF theory cannot predict the total electric field (vector sum of the tangential and normal components) in the air adjacent to the surface of the tapes. Simulations of the electric field using a finite element method (FEM), is one of the best ways of finding the resultant electric field distribution in the air space adjacent to the SGT. However, prior to this study, researchers simplified the modelling of the stress relief system to avoid the convergence problems that develop due to the nonlinearity of the SGT conductivity as a function of the electric field, and also because of the geometry and dimensions of the tapes when their depths are orders of magnitude smaller than the other dimensions associated with form-wound coils. For modelling the stress grading (SG) system at power frequency and at the rated voltage, the dc isotropic conductivity of the SGT and CAT has also been extensively investigated. However, relatively little work has been done with respect to the ac electrical behaviour of these materials and dc modelling cannot reflect the effects of high-frequency stresses on the machine insulation. In this study, comprehensive transient FEM modelling has been developed in order to simulate the insulation system with nonlinear field dependent materials. The actual dimensions of the components are applied in the model, and the appropriate material parameters for the FEM simulations are extracted from the experimental test results. One crucial point that has not been considered in previous studies is the effect of the component of the electric field that is normal to the surface of the coil. In most studies, only the tangential component of the electric field is considered; however, in this study, both components and the resultant electric field are computed. The surface tangential field is calculated with reference to the gradient of the surface potential as measured with an electrostatic voltmeter. It is shown that this technique can provide a reasonable estimate for the tangential field along the SG system, but not without limitations, which are discussed in detail. Based on laboratory work and analytical analysis, this research has successfully determined the relationship between the thermal effect of the PWM voltage and the other repetitive fast pulses, such as square wave and impulse voltages. The influence of the pulse characteristics on the development of stresses has also thoroughly investigated, and the results are presented. A coupled electric and thermal model that incorporates the finite element method (FEM) is used as a means of studying thermal stresses and determining appropriate remedies. However, using transient analysis as an approach for finding the temperature profile associated with high repetitive impulses (1-10 kHz) and fast rise times (~200 ns) is both difficult and impractical. According to these considerations, an alternative method has been developed from stationary analyses based on two sinusoidal voltages of different frequencies. The frequency and amplitude of these sinusoids are measured relative to the switching frequency, signal power, and nonlinearity of the system, and the results of the simulation are then verified experimentally, thus showing the efficacy of this method. This research also concluded that a capacitive SG system with conductive foil embedded in the groundwall insulation can be a practical alternative to a conventional SGT of form-wound coils in inverter fed motors. The performance of the capacitive SG scheme is independent of frequency and can therefore provide the required mitigation of the stress caused by repetitive fast pulses. The results of the evaluation of this system with respect to qualification tests demonstrate the effectiveness of the system.
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