The strategies for mitigating harmonic distortion problems differ somewhat by location. The following techniques are ways for controlling harmonic distortion on both the utility distribution feeder and end-user power system.

Control Harmonic Distortion on Utility Distribution Feeders

The X/R ratio of a utility distribution feeder is generally low. Therefore, the magnification of harmonics by resonance with feeder banks is usually minor in comparison to what might be found inside an industrial facility. Utility distribution engineers are accustomed to placing feeder banks where they are needed without concern about harmonics. However, voltage distortion from the resonance of feeder banks may exceed limits in a few cases and require mitigation. When problems do occur, the usual strategy is to first attempt a solution by moving the offending bank or changing the capacitor size or neutral connection.

Some harmonic problems associated with feeder capacitor banks are due to increasing the triplen harmonics in the neutral circuit of the feeder. To change the flow of zero-sequence harmonic currents, changes are made to the neutral connection of wye-connected banks. To block the flow, the neutral is allowed to float. In other cases, it is more advantageous to aid the flow by putting a reactor in the neutral to convert the bank into a tuned resonant shunt for a zero-sequence harmonic.

Harmonic problems on distribution feeders often exist only at light load. The voltage rises, causing the distribution transformers to produce more harmonic currents and there is less load to damp out resonance. Switching the capacitors off at this time frequently solves the problem. Should harmonic currents from widely dispersed sources require filtering on distribution feeders, the general idea is to distribute a few filters toward the ends of the feeder.


While this is not done frequently, the number of feeder filter installations is growing. The filters appear as nearly a short circuit to at least one harmonic component. This keeps the voltage distortion on the feeder to a minimum. With the ends of the feeder “nailed down” by filters with respect to the voltage distortion, it is more difficult for the voltage distortion to rise above limits elsewhere.

Harmonic flow studies should always be performed when large capacitor banks are installed in distribution substations. One cannot count on system losses to damp out resonance at this point on the system, and magnification by resonance can be severe.

Control Harmonic Distortion in End-User Facilities:

When harmonic problems arise in an end-user facility, the first step is to determine if the main cause is resonance with power factor capacitors in the facility. When it is, first attempt a simple solution by using a different capacitor size. With automatic power factor controllers, it may be possible to select a control scheme that avoids the configuration that causes problems. In other cases, there will be so many capacitors switched at random with loads that it will be impossible to avoid resonant conditions. Filtering will be necessary.

Installation of filters on end-user low-voltage systems is generally more practical and economical than on utility distribution systems. The criteria for filter installation are more easily met, and filtering equipment is more readily available on the market. When the magnitude of harmonic currents injected by loads is excessive, industrial users should also investigate means of reducing harmonics by using different transformer connections and line chokes.


In office buildings, zig-zag transformers and triplen harmonic filters can reduce the impact of triplen harmonic currents on neutral circuits. Studies should be performed on all capacitors installed on the main bus in industrial systems. At this location, there are insufficient line losses to dampen resonance. Thus, when resonance coincides with a harmonic frequency that is a strong component in the load current, the resulting voltage distortion is often severe. Resonance problems are often less severe when capacitors are located out on the plant floor on motors and in motor control centers.

This also has the benefit of reducing the losses in the system compared to simply placing the capacitor on the main bus. Of course, this solution can be more costly than use of a single capacitor on the main bus due to the numerous installations required. This assumes that the cables are sufficiently long to introduce enough resistance into the circuit to dampen the resonance. In plants with short cables, it may not be possible to achieve significant harmonic reduction benefit.