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What causes Harmonic Distortion?

What causes Harmonic Distortion?

As power utilities continue to be pushed to the limits of supply capability, rising energy costs and decreasing power quality will continue to be an issue for consumers. Users continually search for ways to not only reduce energy costs, but also ensure their processes will continue to operate, no matter the quality of the incoming power. To accomplish this, more and more variable frequency drives, UPS systems, and other non-linear loads are being installed. The usual waveform of an alternating current (AC) is generally that of a sine wave or a sinusoidal waveform. This is considered the fundamental waveform. Linear loads draw current in proportion to the sinusoidal voltage. Non-linear loads, such as drives, change their impedance by conducting current only near the peak of the wave. Switching loads on and off during the waveform results in non-sinusoidal current pulses. These pulses introduce reflective currents (harmonics) back into the power distribution system. The non-sinusoidal waveforms have the fundamental wave plus integral multiples of that fundamental wave.

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