Differential Protection of Generator or Alternator
Any internal fault inside the stator winding is cleared by mainly differential protection scheme of the generator or alternator.The differential protection is provided in the generator by using longitudinal differential relay. Generally instantaneous attracted armature type relays are used for this purpose because all they have high speed operation and also they are free from being affected by any AC transient of the power circuit.
There are two sets of current transformers, one CT is connected to the line side of the generator and other is connected to the neutral side of the generator in each phase. It is needless to say that the characteristics of all current transformers installed against each phase must be matched. If there is any major mismatched in the current transformer’s characteristics of both sides of the generator, there may be high chance of malfunctioning of differential relay during the fault external to the stator winding and also may be during normal operating conditions of the generator. To ensure that the relay does not operate for the faults external to the operated zone of the protection scheme, a stabilizing resistor is fitted in series with the relay operating oil. It also ensures that if one set of CT has been saturated, there will be no possibility of malfunctioning of the differential relay.
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It is always preferable to use dedicated current transformers for differential protection purpose because common current transformers may cause unequal secondary loading for other functionalities imposed on them. It is also always preferable to use all current transformers for differential protection of generators or alternators should be of same characteristics. But practically there may be some difference in characteristics of the current transformers installed at line side to those installed in neutral side of the generator.
These mismatches cause spill current to flow through the relay operating coil. To avoid the effect of spill current, percentage biasing is introduced in differential relay. The percentage biased differential relay comprises two restraint coils and one operating coil per phase. In the relay, the torque produced by operating coil tends to close the relay contacts for instantaneous tripping of circuit breakers but at the same time the torque produced by the restraint coils prevents to close the relay contacts as restraint coils torque is directed opposite of the operating coil torque. Hence during through fault the differential relay would not be operated because the setting of the relay is increased by restraint coils and also it prevents malfunctioning of relay due to spill current. But during internal fault in the winding of the stator, the torque produced by restraint coils is ineffective and the relay closes its contact when setting current flows through the operating coil. Differential current pickup setting/bias setting of the relay is adopted based on the maximum percentage of allowable mismatch adding some safety margin. The spill current level for the relay is to just operate it; is experienced as a percentage of the through fault current causing it. This percentage is defined as bias setting of the relay.