Steven McFadyen's Articles

Steven is a Chartered electrical engineering consultant with considerable experience on major internationally recognised and award winning projects in Europe, South East Asia, and the Middle East. His expertise has been called on for numerous technically challenging projects in power systems, airports, rail, mining, pharmaceutical, datacentre, and other industries.

What happened to the cable notes?

If you are wondering what happened to our cable notes, the short answer is that we have moved them to myCableEngineering.com.  The "Knowledge Base" at myCableEgineering.com have tonnes of useful technical information on power cables.  By adding our myElectrical cable notes, this resource, it is now even better. 

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Cable Sizing Software

When sizing cables nearly, everyone uses some form of software. This ranges from homespun spreadsheets to complex network analyses software. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

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Photovoltaic (PV) Panel - Performance Modelling

In an earlier note on the site [Photovoltaic (PV) - Electrical Calculations], the theory of solar (PV) cell calculations was introduced.  In particular the post looked at the PV cell equivalent circuit and the electrical characteristics of the cell.  This note expands on the previous post and shows how we can use tools like MatLab to model the performance of a complete solar panel.

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Load Flow Study – how they work

A load flow study is the analysis of an electrical network carried out by an electrical engineer. The purpose is to understand how power flows around the electrical network. Carrying out a load flow study assists the engineer in designing electrical systems which work correctly, have sufficient power supplied by the power grid, where equipment is correctly sized, reactive power compensation is correctly placed and transformer taps are optimised.

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Tips for a better Low Voltage Protection Discrimination Study

Carrying out a protection system discrimination study is critical to ensure the correct functioning of  the electrical system in the event of faults.  The IEC defines discrimination as:

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What is an Open Delta Transformer

In three phase systems, the use of transformers with three windings (or legs) per side is common.  These three windings are often connected in delta or star, resulting in common transformer configurations such as delta-delta or delta-star.  An open delta transformer is a special arrangement which uses only two windings.

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Star-Delta Motor Starting - Performance

Many questions sent in to the site are in connection with motor starting and in particular star-delta.  For all but the simplest application, there is merit in performing a more detailed study.  Carrying out a software study allows both the electrical performance and that of the connected mechanical systems to be evaluated.

This note illustrates by example one possible approach to studying the performance of a star-delta motor starting circuit.

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Electromagnetic Fields - Exposure Limits

Exposure to time varying magnetic fields, from power frequencies to the gigahertz range can have harmful consequences.  A lot of research has been conducted into identifying these effects and developing recommended safe exposure limits.

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Induction Motor Equivalent Circuit

Induction motors are frequently used in both industrial and domestic applications.  Within the induction motor, an electrical current in the rotor is induced by a varying magnetic field in the stator winding. The rotor current produces it's own magnetic field, which then interacts with the stator field to produce torque and rotation.   

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How D.C. to A.C. Inverters Work

Traditionally generation of electricity has involved rotating machines to produce alternating sinusoidal voltage and current (a.c. systems). With the development of power electronics during the last several decades, semi-conductor devices are now frequently used to convert direct current (d.c.) to a.c. to power conventional alternating current systems.

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How a Digital Substation Works

Traditionally substations have used circuit breakers, current transformers (CT), voltage transformers (VT) and protection relays all wired together using copper cables.  With advances in digital technology, communications and standards, this is now changing to what is known as the digital substation.   This is an introduction to the digital substation and the bits and pieces which go into making up the system.

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A mechanical engineering paper, some history and memories

I was digging in my bookshelf and came across the 80th Anniversary Association of Mine Resident Engineers, Papers and Discussions Commemorative Edition (May 2004). Within it's dark covers, is a paper I wrote many years ago. Reading through the paper, brought memories of my arrival in South Africa. It seemed a shame to lose them all again; so this is my first off-topic post in a while.

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Photovoltaic (PV) - Electrical Calculations

Photovoltaic (PV) cells (sometimes called solar cells) convert solar energy into electrical energy.  Every year more and more PV systems are installed...

Cost Performance and Time

Often us engineers get so bogged down in equations, using software, producing drawings and writing specifications that this becomes the sole focus.   ...

Battery Sizing

This article gives an introduction to IEEE 485 method for the selection and calculation of battery capacity.

Sony Pocket eBook Reader

For the past few years I have reading eBooks on my HTC touch phone. On and off I have debated buying an eReader and recently purchased a Sony PRS-300 ...

Introduction to Current Transformers

Current transformers (CTs) are used to convert high level currents to a smaller more reasonable level for use as inputs to protection relays and metering...

MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare, makes the materials used in teaching all MIT subjects available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world.

How to measure power supply quality

If your are ever called out to troubleshoot something on your electrical system, one of the first things consider is the supply voltage. You want to ensure...

Battery Cars A to Z

Battery powered cars are a hot topic and widely debated. The pros, cons, issues and time frames can be talked about endlessly. An article by the Telegraph...

Magicians of Engineering

The other day I was reading 'Night of the New Magicians' by Mary Pope Osborn with my son.  The story is about a young boy and girl who travel back in time...

Software Usage Guidelines

Using software in our  work is essential for most of us and we are becoming even more dependant on it's use.  While software is a great asset, many times...

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