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CASE STUDY: How a Power System Analysis Hatches a Better Plan for Harmonics Compliance At Major Poultry Farm

Commercial farms throughout the U.S. are getting larger. In fact, a record 10 billion animals1 were raised on megafarms in 2022 to support the increasing demand for food worldwide. With this growth comes a huge responsibility to ensure these massive animal populations are well cared for and safe.

Without question, poultry house ventilation is among the top priorities. Farmers invest heavily to ensure air handling systems are well functioning and provide proper air flow and temperature. A large farm commonly operates hundreds of fans around the clock.

Unfortunately, when one poultry operator complied with their ethical responsibilities for ventilation, they ran afoul of the local utility grid compliance standard.

The problem? High harmonics emitted by the barn fans.

When a large business connects to the local grid, their utility permit is usually conditional on their operations meeting IEEE Standard 519-2022. This operating standard imposes limits of voltage and current distortion — harmonics — coming from customer electricity loads, and is meant to protect grid stability and prevent equipment malfunction and damage.

Accordingly, this poultry farm was required to adhere to IEEE 519 as part of its utility permit. However, over time, utility meters detected high levels of harmonic distortion coming from this customer site. The utility offered an extensive grace period for farm managers to identify the source of the distortion and bring the issue back into compliance. After engaging a third-party consultant, they traced the harmonics issue to several hundred electronically commuted motor (ECM)–controlled fans ventilating the barns.

The farm’s consultant specified a Powerside solution. But Powerside said, “Let’s rewind.”

The data analysis performed by the third-party consultant correctly identified the barn fans as the source of the harmonics. However, when the consultant specified the Powerside PowerAct filter to solve the issue, their recommendation was off the mark because it was undersized for this application.

“Part of the challenge for the poultry operation was that their consultant’s data didn’t provide the complete picture needed to spec the right solution,” explains Punit Pandya, Application Specialist at Powerside. “While they were able to show the average THD (Figure 1), this data didn’t provide the granularity needed to comprehend the full harmonic spectrum.”

 Figure 1

PQube® 3 and QubeScan provide a clearer view

To successfully mitigate the harmonics issue, our Powerside team advised starting with a full power system analysis. We placed PQube® 3 analyzers in key locations in the barn and pulled precise data sets through our QubeScan analytics suite. This produced very high-resolution readings that revealed peak harmonic characteristics.

After only one week of data collection and analysis, we moved forward with a recommendation based on better characterization of the source and more precise calculation of harmonic correction required. We modified the original PowerAct spec to update its filtering capacity and meet IEEE 519 compliance.

Harmonics mitigation is a bird of a different feather for electrical engineers

Harmonics pose a special challenge for engineers and facility managers. These distortions are difficult to detect, complicated to solve — and besides failing IEEE 519 compliance, they tend to cause irreparable equipment damage.

As this poultry operation discovered, general load studies offer limited visibility of harmonic distortion, resulting in trial-and-error attempts at mitigation. Getting the solution right the first time requires a properly designed power quality study that digs deep into system characteristics. Think of it as a “physical exam” of your power system that sets the stage for healthy operations and utility relations.

Curious how you’re performing against IEEE 519 thresholds? Wondering if your power systems are running with optimal power quality? Let one of our skilled application engineers perform a Power System Analysis of your facility.

1 Vox, “9 charts that show US factory farming is even bigger than you realize,” February 26, 2024