Calculation of apparent power

The calculation of apparent power is done according to the laws of physics. You have to know the current type, voltage value, current value and power factor.

Current type

There are three main types of current:

  • direct current
  • alternating single-phase
  • alternating three-phase

Voltage

Voltage, electric potential difference, electric pressure or electric tension is the difference in electric potential between two points. The difference in electric potential between two points (i.e., voltage) in a static electric field is defined as the work needed per unit of charge to move a test charge between the two points.

In the International System of Units, the derived unit for voltage is named volt. In SI units, work per unit charge is expressed as joules per coulomb, where 1 volt = 1 joule (of work) per 1 coulomb (of charge).

The official SI definition for volt uses power and current, where 1 volt = 1 watt (of power) per 1 ampere (of current). This definition is equivalent to the more commonly used ‘joules per coulomb’. Voltage or electric potential difference is denoted symbolically by ∆V, but more often simply as V, for instance in the context of Ohm’s or Kirchhoff’s circuit laws.

Current

An electric current is the rate of flow of electric charge past a point or region. An electric current is said to exist when there is a net flow of electric charge through a region. In electric circuits this charge is often carried by electrons moving through a wire. It can also be carried by ions in an electrolyte, or by both ions and electrons such as in an ionized gas (plasma).

One ampere is the flow of electric charge across a surface at the rate of one coulomb per second.  Electric current is measured using a device called an ammeter.

The ampere symbol: A, often shortened to “amp”, is the base unit of electric current in the International System of Units (SI). It is named after André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836), French mathematician and physicist, considered the father of electrodynamics.

Power factor

The power factor of an AC electrical power system is defined as the ratio of the real power absorbed by the load to the apparent power flowing in the circuit

The power factor is defined as the ratio of real power to apparent power. As power is transferred along a transmission line, it does not consist purely of real power that can do work once transferred to the load, but rather consists of a combination of real and reactive power, called apparent power. The power factor describes the amount of real power transmitted along a transmission line relative to the total apparent power flowing in the line.

Apparent power

The product of root mean square (RMS) value of voltage and current is known as Apparent Power. This power is measured in volt-ampere (VA), kilo volt-ampere (kVA) or mega volt-ampere( MVA).

Apparent power is taken into account when designing and operating power systems, because although the current associated with reactive power does no work at the load, it still must be supplied by the power source. Conductors, transformers and generators must be sized to carry the total current, not just the current that does useful work.

Failure to provide for the supply of sufficient reactive power in electrical grids can lead to lowered voltage levels and, under certain operating conditions, to the complete collapse of the network or blackout.

Another consequence is that adding the apparent power for two loads will not accurately give the total power unless they have the same phase difference between current and voltage (the same power factor).

The calculation of apparent power is very important when you have to calculate the wire size.

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