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The utility frequency, (power) line frequency (
American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English is the m ...
) or mains frequency (
British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial codification of grammar and usage and is employed by a populatio ...
) is the nominal
frequency Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time A unit of time is any particular time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparen ...

frequency
of the oscillations of
alternating current Alternating current (AC) is an electric current An electric current is a stream of charged particle In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'natu ...
(AC) in a
wide area synchronous grid A wide area synchronous grid (also called an "interconnection" in North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any ...
transmitted from a
power station A power station, also referred to as a power plant and sometimes generating station or generating plant, is an industrial facility for the generation A generation is "all of the people born and living Living or The Living may refer to: ...

power station
to the
end-user In product development, an end user (sometimes end-user) is a person who ultimately uses or is intended to ultimately use a product. The end user stands in contrast to users who support or maintain the product, such as sysop A sysop (; an abbre ...
. In large parts of the world this is 50 
Hz
Hz
, although in the
Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North America, North and South America. The Americas make up most of the land in Earth's Western Hemisphere and comprise the New World. Along with th ...

Americas
and parts of
Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the cont ...

Asia
it is typically 60 Hz. Current usage by country or region is given in the list of
mains electricity by country Mains electricity by country includes a list of countries and territories, with the plugs, voltage Voltage, electric potential difference, electromotive force emf, electric pressure or electric tension is the difference in electric pote ...
. During the development of commercial electric power systems in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, many different frequencies (and voltages) had been used. Large investment in equipment at one frequency made standardization a slow process. However, as of the turn of the 21st century, places that now use the 50 Hz frequency tend to use 220–240 
V
V
, and those that now use 60 Hz tend to use 100–127 V. Both frequencies coexist today (Japan uses both) with no great technical reason to prefer one over the other and no apparent desire for complete worldwide standardization. In practice, the exact frequency of the grid varies around the nominal frequency, reducing when the grid is heavily loaded, and speeding up when lightly loaded. However, most utilities will adjust the frequency of the grid over the course of the day to ensure a constant number of cycles occur. This is used by some clocks to accurately maintain their time.


Operating factors

Several factors influence the choice of frequency in an AC system.B. G. Lamme, ''The Technical Story of the Frequencies'', Transactions AIEE January 1918, reprinted in the Baltimore Amateur Radio Club newsletter ''The Modulator'' January -March 2007 Lighting, motors, transformers, generators, and transmission lines all have characteristics which depend on the power frequency. All of these factors interact and make selection of a power frequency a matter of considerable importance. The best frequency is a compromise among contradictory requirements. In the late 19th century, designers would pick a relatively high frequency for systems featuring
transformer A transformer is a passive component that transfers electrical energy from one electrical circuit to another circuit, or multiple Electrical network, circuits. A varying current in any one coil of the transformer produces a varying magnetic flux ...

transformer
s and arc lights, so as to economize on transformer materials and to reduce visible flickering of the lamps, but would pick a lower frequency for systems with long transmission lines or feeding primarily motor loads or
rotary converter A rotary converter is a type of electrical machine which acts as a mechanical rectifier, Power inverter, inverter or frequency converter. Rotary converters were used to convert alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC), or DC to AC power, be ...
s for producing
direct current Direct current (DC) is one-directional flow Flow may refer to: Science and technology * Flow (fluid) or fluid dynamics, the motion of a gas or liquid * Flow (geomorphology), a type of mass wasting or slope movement in geomorphology * Flow (math ...
. When large central generating stations became practical, the choice of frequency was made based on the nature of the intended load. Eventually improvements in machine design allowed a single frequency to be used both for lighting and motor loads. A unified system improved the economics of electricity production, since system load was more uniform during the course of a day.


Lighting

The first applications of commercial electric power were
incandescent light An incandescent light bulb, incandescent lamp or incandescent light globe is an electric light An electric light is a device that produces visible light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the ...
ing and
commutator In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no gene ...
-type
electric motor
electric motor
s. Both devices operate well on DC, but DC could not be easily changed in voltage, and was generally only produced at the required utilization voltage. If an incandescent lamp is operated on a low-frequency current, the filament cools on each half-cycle of the alternating current, leading to perceptible change in brightness and ''flicker'' of the lamps; the effect is more pronounced with
arc lamp An arc lamp or arc light is a lamp that produces light by an electric arc An electric arc, or arc discharge, is an of a that produces a prolonged . The through a normally medium such as produces a ; the plasma may produce . An arc discha ...
s, and the later
mercury-vapor lamp A mercury-vapor lamp is a gas-discharge lamp Gas-discharge lamps are a family of artificial light sources that generate light by sending an electric discharge through an ionization, ionized gas, a plasma (physics), plasma. Typically, such ...
s and
fluorescent lamp A fluorescent lamp, or fluorescent tube, is a low-pressure mercury-vapor that uses to produce visible light. An electric current in the gas excites mercury vapor, which produces short-wave ultraviolet light that then causes a coating ...

fluorescent lamp
s. Open arc lamps made an audible buzz on alternating current, leading to experiments with high-frequency alternators to raise the sound above the range of human hearing.


Rotating machines

Commutator In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no gene ...
-type motors do not operate well on high-frequency AC, because the rapid changes of current are opposed by the
inductance Inductance is the tendency of an electrical conductor In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, spac ...
of the motor field. Though commutator-type ''universal'' motors are common in AC household appliances and power tools, they are small motors, less than 1 kW. The
induction motor An induction motor or asynchronous motor is an AC electric motor in which the electric current An electric current is a stream of charged particle In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗm ...
was found to work well on frequencies around 50 to 60 Hz, but with the materials available in the 1890s would not work well at a frequency of, say, 133 Hz. There is a fixed relationship between the number of magnetic poles in the induction motor field, the frequency of the alternating current, and the rotation speed; so, a given standard speed limits the choice of frequency (and the reverse). Once AC
electric motor
electric motor
s became common, it was important to standardize frequency for compatibility with the customer's equipment. Generators operated by slow-speed reciprocating engines will produce lower frequencies, for a given number of poles, than those operated by, for example, a high-speed steam
turbine A turbine ( or ) (from the Greek , ''tyrbē'', or Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', ...

turbine
. For very slow prime mover speeds, it would be costly to build a generator with enough poles to provide a high AC frequency. As well, synchronizing two generators to the same speed was found to be easier at lower speeds. While belt drives were common as a way to increase speed of slow engines, in very large ratings (thousands of kilowatts) these were expensive, inefficient, and unreliable. After about 1906, generators driven directly by
steam turbine A steam turbine is a machine A machine is any physical system with ordered structural and functional properties. It may represent human-made or naturally occurring device molecular machine that uses Power (physics), power to apply Force, f ...
s favored higher frequencies. The steadier rotation speed of high-speed machines allowed for satisfactory operation of
commutator In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no gene ...
s in rotary converters. The synchronous speed N in RPM is calculated using the formula, :N = \frac \, where f is the frequency in
hertz The hertz (symbol: Hz) is the unit Unit may refer to: Arts and entertainment * UNIT Unit may refer to: Arts and entertainment * UNIT, a fictional military organization in the science fiction television series ''Doctor Who'' * Unit of action ...

hertz
and P is the number of poles. Direct-current power was not entirely displaced by alternating current and was useful in railway and electrochemical processes. Prior to the development of
mercury arc valve A mercury-arc valve or mercury-vapor rectifier or (UK) mercury-arc rectifier is a type of electrical rectifier A rectifier is an electrical device that Electric power conversion, converts alternating current (AC), which periodically reverses d ...
rectifier A rectifier is an electrical device that converts Religious conversion is the adoption of a set of beliefs identified with one particular religious denomination A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion Religion is ...

rectifier
s, rotary converters were used to produce DC power from AC. Like other commutator-type machines, these worked better with lower frequencies.


Transmission and transformers

With AC,
transformer A transformer is a passive component that transfers electrical energy from one electrical circuit to another circuit, or multiple Electrical network, circuits. A varying current in any one coil of the transformer produces a varying magnetic flux ...

transformer
s can be used to step down high transmission voltages to lower customer utilization voltage. The transformer is effectively a voltage conversion device with no moving parts and requiring little maintenance. The use of AC eliminated the need for spinning DC voltage conversion motor-generators that require regular maintenance and monitoring. Since, for a given power level, the dimensions of a transformer are roughly inversely proportional to frequency, a system with many transformers would be more economical at a higher frequency.
Electric power transmission Electric power transmission is the bulk movement of electrical energy Electrical energy is energy derived as a result of movement of electrically charged particles. When used loosely, ''electrical energy'' refers to energy that has been convert ...

Electric power transmission
over long lines favors lower frequencies. The effects of the distributed capacitance and inductance of the line are less at low frequency.


System interconnection

Generators can only be interconnected to operate in parallel if they are of the same frequency and wave-shape. By standardizing the frequency used, generators in a geographic area can be interconnected in a
grid Grid, The Grid, or GRID may refer to: Common usage * Cattle grid or stock grid, a type of obstacle is used to prevent livestock from crossing the road * Grid reference, used to define a location on a map Arts, entertainment, and media * News gri ...
, providing reliability and cost savings.


History

Many different power frequencies were used in the 19th century. Very early isolated AC generating schemes used arbitrary frequencies based on convenience for
steam engine from Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Cumbria, England A steam engine is a heat engine In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energ ...

steam engine
,
water turbine A water turbine is a rotary machine that converts kinetic energy and potential energy of water into mechanical work. Water turbines were developed in the 19th century and were widely used for industrial power prior to electrical grids. Now, the ...

water turbine
, and
electrical generator In electricity generation Electricity generation is the process of generating electric power from sources of primary energy. For electric utility, utilities in the electric power industry, it is the stage prior to its Electricity delivery, deliv ...
design. Frequencies between  Hz and  Hz were used on different systems. For example, the city of Coventry, England, in 1895 had a unique 87 Hz single-phase distribution system that was in use until 1906. The proliferation of frequencies grew out of the rapid development of electrical machines in the period 1880 through 1900. In the early incandescent lighting period, single-phase AC was common and typical generators were 8-pole machines operated at 2,000 RPM, giving a frequency of 133 hertz. Though many theories exist, and quite a few entertaining
urban legend An urban legend or contemporary legend is a genre of folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an attitude Attitud ...
s, there is little certitude in the details of the history of 60 Hz vs. 50 Hz. The German company
AEG ''Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft AG'' (AEG; ) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany ...

AEG
(descended from a company founded by Edison in Germany) built the first German generating facility to run at 50 Hz. At the time, AEG had a virtual
monopoly A monopoly (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxi ...

monopoly
and their standard spread to the rest of Europe. After observing flicker of lamps operated by the 40 Hz power transmitted by the Lauffen-Frankfurt link in 1891, AEG raised their standard frequency to 50 Hz in 1891.
Westinghouse Electric The Westinghouse Electric Corporation was an American manufacturing company founded in 1886 by George Westinghouse. It was originally named Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, and was renamed Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1945. T ...
decided to standardize on a higher frequency to permit operation of both electric lighting and induction motors on the same generating system. Although 50 Hz was suitable for both, in 1890 Westinghouse considered that existing arc-lighting equipment operated slightly better on 60 Hz, and so that frequency was chosen. The operation of Tesla's induction motor, licensed by Westinghouse in 1888, required a lower frequency than the 133 Hz common for lighting systems at that time. In 1893 General Electric Corporation, which was affiliated with AEG in Germany, built a generating project at Mill Creek to bring electricity to
Redlands, California Redlands ( ) is a city in San Bernardino County, California, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census, the city had a population of 68,747, up from 63,591 at the 2000 United States Census, 2000 census. The population was e ...
using 50 Hz, but changed to 60 Hz a year later to maintain market share with the Westinghouse standard.


25 Hz origins

The first generators at the
Niagara Falls Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge, spanning the Canada–United States border, border between the Provinces and territories of Canada, province of Ontario in Canada and the U.S. state, state o ...

Niagara Falls
project, built by Westinghouse in 1895, were 25 Hz, because the turbine speed had already been set before
alternating current Alternating current (AC) is an electric current An electric current is a stream of charged particle In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'natu ...
power transmission had been definitively selected. Westinghouse would have selected a low frequency of 30 Hz to drive motor loads, but the turbines for the project had already been specified at 250 RPM. The machines could have been made to deliver  Hz power suitable for heavy commutator-type motors, but the Westinghouse company objected that this would be undesirable for lighting and suggested  Hz. Eventually a compromise of 25 Hz, with 12-pole 250 RPM generators, was chosen. Because the Niagara project was so influential on electric power systems design, 25 Hz prevailed as the North American standard for low-frequency AC.


40 Hz origins

A
General Electric General Electric Company (GE) is an American Multinational corporation, multinational Conglomerate (company), conglomerate incorporated in New York State and headquartered in Boston. Until 2021, the company operated through GE Aviation, aviat ...
study concluded that 40 Hz would have been a good compromise between lighting, motor, and transmission needs, given the materials and equipment available in the first quarter of the 20th century. Several 40 Hz systems were built. The Lauffen-Frankfurt demonstration used 40 Hz to transmit power 175 km in 1891. A large interconnected 40 Hz network existed in north-east England (the
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Electric Supply Company The North Eastern Electric Supply Company (commonly abbreviated to NESCo) was responsible for the supply of electricity to a large amount of North East England, prior to the nationalisation of the British electricity industry with the Electricity A ...
, NESCO) until the advent of the
National Grid (UK) In the electricity sector in the United Kingdom the National Grid is the high-voltage electric power transmission Electric power transmission is the bulk movement of electrical energy Electrical energy is energy derived from electric potential ...
in the late 1920s, and projects in Italy used 42 Hz. The oldest continuously operating commercial
hydroelectric Hydroelectricity, or hydroelectric power, is electricity produced from hydropower Hydropower (from el, ὕδωρ, "water"), also known as water power, is the use of falling or fast-running water Water (chemical formula H2O) is a ...
power station in the United States, , still produces electric power at 40 Hz and supplies power to the local 60 Hz transmission system through
frequency changer A frequency changer or frequency converter is an Electronics, electronic or electromechanical device that converts alternating current (Alternating current, AC) of one frequency to alternating current of another frequency. The device may also cha ...
s. Industrial plants and mines in North America and Australia sometimes were built with 40 Hz electrical systems which were maintained until too uneconomic to continue. Although frequencies near 40 Hz found much commercial use, these were bypassed by standardized frequencies of 25, 50 and 60 Hz preferred by higher volume equipment manufacturers. The Ganz Company of Hungary had standardized on 5000 alternations per minute (41 Hz) for their products, so Ganz clients had 41 Hz systems that in some cases ran for many years.Gerhard Neidhofer ''50-Hz frequency: how the standard emerged from a European jungle'', ''IEEE Power and Energy Magazine'', July/August 2011 pp. 66–81


Standardization

In the early days of electrification, so many frequencies were used that no single value prevailed (London in 1918 had ten different frequencies). As the 20th century continued, more power was produced at 60 Hz (North America) or 50 Hz (Europe and most of Asia).
Standardization Standardization or standardisation is the process of implementing and developing technical standards based on the consensus of different parties that include firms, users, interest groups, standards organizations and governments. Standardization ...
allowed international trade in electrical equipment. Much later, the use of standard frequencies allowed interconnection of power grids. It was not until after World War II – with the advent of affordable electrical consumer goods – that more uniform standards were enacted. In the United Kingdom, a standard frequency of 50 Hz was declared as early as 1904, but significant development continued at other frequencies. The implementation of the National Grid starting in 1926 compelled the standardization of frequencies among the many interconnected electrical service providers. The 50 Hz standard was completely established only after
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
. By about 1900, European manufacturers had mostly standardized on 50 Hz for new installations. The German Verband der Elektrotechnik (VDE), in the first standard for electrical machines and transformers in 1902, recommended 25 Hz and 50 Hz as standard frequencies. VDE did not see much application of 25 Hz, and dropped it from the 1914 edition of the standard. Remnant installations at other frequencies persisted until well after the Second World War. Because of the cost of conversion, some parts of the distribution system may continue to operate on original frequencies even after a new frequency is chosen. 25 Hz power was used in
Ontario ("Loyal she began, loyal she remains") , Label_map = yes , image_map = Ontario in Canada 2.svg , map_alt = Map showing Ontario's location east/central of Canada. , coordinates = , cap ...

Ontario
,
Quebec ) , image_shield=Armoiries du Québec.svg , image_flag=Flag of Quebec.svg , coordinates= , AdmittanceDate=July 1, 1867 , AdmittanceOrder=1st, with New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , ...

Quebec
, the northern United States, and for
railway electrification A railway electrification system supplies electric power to Rail transport, railway trains and trams without an on-board Prime mover (locomotive), prime mover or local fuel supply. Electric railways use either electric locomotives (hauling pas ...
. In the 1950s, many 25 Hz systems, from the generators right through to household appliances, were converted and standardized. Until 2009, some 25 Hz generators were still in existence at the Sir Adam Beck 1 (these were retrofitted to 60 Hz) and the Rankine generating stations (until its 2009 closure) near
Niagara Falls Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge, spanning the Canada–United States border, border between the Provinces and territories of Canada, province of Ontario in Canada and the U.S. state, state o ...

Niagara Falls
to provide power for large industrial customers who did not want to replace existing equipment; and some 25 Hz motors and a 25 Hz power station exist in New Orleans for floodwater pumps. The 15 kV AC rail networks, used in
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
,
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
,
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under an assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_title1 = Fe ...

Switzerland
,
Sweden Sweden ( sv, Sverige ), officially the Kingdom of Sweden ( sv, links=no, Konungariket Sverige ), is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that ...

Sweden
, and
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the Norwegian language Norwegian (Norwegian: ''norsk'') is a Nort ...

Norway
, still operate at  Hz or 16.7 Hz. In some cases, where most load was to be railway or motor loads, it was considered economic to generate power at 25 Hz and install
rotary converter A rotary converter is a type of electrical machine which acts as a mechanical rectifier, Power inverter, inverter or frequency converter. Rotary converters were used to convert alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC), or DC to AC power, be ...
s for 60 Hz distribution. Converters for production of DC from alternating current were available in larger sizes and were more efficient at 25 Hz compared with 60 Hz. Remnant fragments of older systems may be tied to the standard frequency system via a rotary converter or static inverter frequency changer. These allow energy to be interchanged between two power networks at different frequencies, but the systems are large, costly, and waste some energy in operation. Rotating-machine frequency changers used to convert between 25 Hz and 60 Hz systems were awkward to design; a 60 Hz machine with 24 poles would turn at the same speed as a 25 Hz machine with 10 poles, making the machines large, slow-speed, and expensive. A ratio of 60/30 would have simplified these designs, but the installed base at 25 Hz was too large to be economically opposed. In the United States,
Southern California Edison Southern California Edison (or SCE Corp), the largest subsidiary of Edison International, is the primary electricity supply company for much of Southern California. It provides 15 million people with electricity across a service territory of app ...

Southern California Edison
had standardized on 50 Hz. Much of Southern California operated on 50 Hz and did not completely change frequency of their generators and customer equipment to 60 Hz until around 1948. Some projects by the Au Sable Electric Company used 30 Hz at transmission voltages up to 110,000 volts in 1914. Initially in Brazil, electric machinery were imported from Europe and United States, implying the country had both 50 Hz and 60 Hz standards according to each region. In 1938, the federal government made a law, ''Decreto-Lei 852'', intended to bring the whole country under 50 Hz within eight years. The law did not work, and in the early 1960s it was decided that Brazil would be unified under 60 Hz standard, because most developed and industrialized areas used 60 Hz; and a new law ''Lei 4.454'' was declared in 1964. Brazil underwent a frequency conversion program to 60 Hz that was not completed until 1978. In Mexico, areas operating on 50 Hz grid were converted during the 1970s, uniting the country under 60 Hz. In Japan, the western part of the country (Nagoya and west) uses 60 Hz and the eastern part (Tokyo and east) uses 50 Hz. This originates in the first purchases of generators from AEG in 1895, installed for Tokyo, and General Electric in 1896, installed in Osaka. The boundary between the two regions contains four back-to-back
HVDC A high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) electric power transmission Electric power transmission is the bulk movement of electrical energy Electrical energy is energy derived as a result of movement of electrically charged particles. When used ...
substations which convert the frequency; these are
Shin Shinano is the designation of a back-to-back connection#Power transmission, back-to-back high-voltage direct current (HVDC) facility in Japan which forms one of four frequency changer, frequency converter stations that link Japan's western and eastern ...
,
Sakuma Dam The is a dam on the Tenryū River, located on the border of Toyone, Aichi, Toyone, Kitashitara District, Aichi, Kitashitara District, Aichi Prefecture on the island of Honshū, Japan. It is one of the tallest dams in Japan and supports a 350 MW ...
, Minami-Fukumitsu, and the Higashi-Shimizu Frequency Converter. Utility frequencies in North America in 1897 Utility frequencies in Europe to 1900 Even by the middle of the 20th century, utility frequencies were still not entirely standardized at the now-common 50 Hz or 60 Hz. In 1946, a reference manual for designers of radio equipment listed the following now obsolete frequencies as in use. Many of these regions also had 50-cycle, 60-cycle, or direct current supplies. Frequencies in use in 1946 (as well as 50 Hz and 60 Hz) Where regions are marked (*), this is the only utility frequency shown for that region.


Railways

Other power frequencies are still used. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway use
traction power network A traction network or traction power network is an electricity grid for the supply of electrified rail networks. The installation of a separate traction network generally is done only if the railway in question uses alternating current Alternati ...
s for railways, distributing single-phase AC at  Hz or 16.7 Hz. A frequency of 25 Hz is used for the Austrian
Mariazell Railway The Mariazell Railway (german: Mariazellerbahn) is an Railway electrification system, electrically operated Narrow gauge railway, narrow-gauge railway (with a track gauge of ) which connects the Lower Austrian capital of Sankt Pölten with the Styr ...
, as well as Amtrak and
SEPTA The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is a regional public transportation Public transport (also known as public transportation, public transit, mass transit, or simply transit) is a system of transport Tra ...
's traction power systems in the United States. Other AC railway systems are energized at the local commercial power frequency, 50 Hz or 60 Hz. Traction power may be derived from commercial power supplies by frequency converters, or in some cases may be produced by dedicated
traction powerstationA traction power station is a power stationPower Station or The Power Station may refer to: * Power station, a facility for the generation of electricity Music * The Power Station (band), a 1980s supergroup ** ''The Power Station'' (album), a 19 ...
s. In the 19th century, frequencies as low as 8 Hz were contemplated for operation of electric railways with commutator motors. Some outlets in trains carry the correct voltage, but using the original train network frequency like  Hz or 16.7 Hz.


400 Hz

Power frequencies as high as 400 Hz are used in aircraft, spacecraft, submarines, server rooms for computer power, military equipment, and hand-held machine tools. Such high frequencies cannot be economically transmitted long distances; the increased frequency greatly increases series impedance due to the inductance of transmission lines, making power transmission difficult. Consequently, 400 Hz power systems are usually confined to a building or vehicle.
Transformer A transformer is a passive component that transfers electrical energy from one electrical circuit to another circuit, or multiple Electrical network, circuits. A varying current in any one coil of the transformer produces a varying magnetic flux ...

Transformer
s, for example, can be made smaller because the magnetic core can be much smaller for the same power level. Induction motors turn at a speed proportional to frequency, so a high-frequency power supply allows more power to be obtained for the same motor volume and mass. Transformers and motors for 400 Hz are much smaller and lighter than at 50 or 60 Hz, which is an advantage in aircraft and ships. A United States military standard
MIL-STD-704MIL-STD-704 Aircraft Electrical Power Characteristics is a United States Military Standard that defines a standardized power interface between a military aircraft and its equipment and carriage stores, covering such topics as voltage, frequency, phas ...
exists for aircraft use of 400 Hz power.


Stability


Time error correction (TEC)

Regulation of power system frequency for timekeeping accuracy was not commonplace until after 1916 with Henry Warren's invention of the Warren Power Station Master Clock and self-starting synchronous motor. Tesla demonstrated the concept of clocks synchronized by line frequency at the 1893 Chicago Worlds fair. The
Hammond Organ The Hammond organ is an electric organ invented by Laurens Hammond and John M. Hanert and first manufactured in 1935. Multiple models have been produced, most of which use sliding #Drawbars, drawbars to vary sounds. Until 1975, Hammond organs ...
also depends on a synchronous AC clock motor to maintain correct speed of its internal "tone wheel" generator, thus keeping all notes pitch-perfect, based on power-line frequency stability. Today, AC-power network operators regulate the daily average frequency so that clocks stay within a few seconds of correct time. In practice the nominal frequency is raised or lowered by a specific percentage to maintain synchronization. Over the course of a day, the average frequency is maintained at the nominal value within a few hundred parts per million. In the
synchronous grid of Continental Europe The synchronous grid of Continental Europe (also known as Continental Synchronous Area; formerly known as the UCTE grid) is the largest synchronous electrical grid (by connected power) in the world. It is interconnected as a single phase-locked ...
, the deviation between network phase time and UTC (based on
International Atomic Time International Atomic Time (TAI, from the French name ) is a high-precision atomic coordinate In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, with a ...
) is calculated at 08:00 each day in a control center in
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under an assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_title1 = Fe ...

Switzerland
. The target frequency is then adjusted by up to ±0.01 Hz (±0.02%) from 50 Hz as needed, to ensure a long-term frequency average of exactly 50 Hz × 60  s/ min × 60 min/ h × 24 h/ = cycles per day. In
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...
, whenever the error exceeds 10 seconds for the east, 3 seconds for Texas, or 2 seconds for the west, a correction of ±0.02 Hz (0.033%) is applied. Time error corrections start and end either on the hour or on the half-hour. Efforts to remove the TEC in North America are described at
electric clock An electric clock is a clock A clock or a timepiece is a device used to measure and indicate time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irre ...
. Real-time frequency meters for power generation in the United Kingdom are available online – an official National Grid one, and an unofficial one maintained by Dynamic Demand. Real-time frequency data of the
synchronous grid of Continental Europe The synchronous grid of Continental Europe (also known as Continental Synchronous Area; formerly known as the UCTE grid) is the largest synchronous electrical grid (by connected power) in the world. It is interconnected as a single phase-locked ...
is available on websites such as and . The Frequency Monitoring Network (FNET) at the
University of Tennessee The University of Tennessee (University of Tennessee, Knoxville; UT Knoxville; UTK; or UT) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organ ...
measures the frequency of the interconnections within the North American power grid, as well as in several other parts of the world. These measurements are displayed on the FNET website.


US regulations

In the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made time error correction mandatory in 2009. In 2011, The
North American Electric Reliability Corporation The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is a nonprofit A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a ...
(NERC) discussed a proposed experiment that would relax frequency regulation requirements for electrical grids which would reduce the long-term accuracy of clocks and other devices that use the 60 Hz grid frequency as a time base.


Frequency and load

The primary reason for accurate frequency control is to allow the flow of alternating current power from multiple generators through the network to be controlled. The trend in system frequency is a measure of mismatch between demand and generation, and is a necessary parameter for load control in interconnected systems. Frequency of the system will vary as load and generation change. Increasing the mechanical input power to any individual synchronous generator will not greatly affect the overall system frequency, but will produce more electric power from that unit. During a severe overload caused by tripping or failure of generators or transmission lines the power system frequency will decline, due to an imbalance of load versus generation. Loss of an interconnection while exporting power (relative to system total generation) will cause system frequency to increase upstream of the loss, but may cause a collapse downstream of the loss, as generation is now not keeping pace with consumption. Automatic generation control (AGC) is used to maintain scheduled frequency and interchange power flows. Control systems in power stations detect changes in the network-wide frequency and adjust mechanical power input to generators back to their target frequency. This counteracting usually takes a few tens of seconds due to the large rotating masses involved (although the large masses serve to limit the magnitude of short-term disturbances in the first place). Temporary frequency changes are an unavoidable consequence of changing demand. Exceptional or rapidly changing mains frequency is often a sign that an electricity distribution network is operating near its capacity limits, dramatic examples of which can sometimes be observed shortly before major outages. Large generating stations including
solar farm A photovoltaic power station, also known as a solar park, solar farm, or solar power plant, is a large-scale grid-connected photovoltaic power system A grid-connected photovoltaic system, or grid-connected PV system is an electricity El ...
s can reduce their average output and use the headroom between operating load and maximum capacity to assist in providing grid regulation; response of solar inverters is faster than generators, because they have no rotating mass. As variable resources such as solar and wind replace traditional generation and the inertia they provided, algorithms have had to become more sophisticated. Energy storage systems, such as batteries, are fulfilling the regulation role to an expanding degree as well. Frequency
protective relay In electrical engineering, a protective relay is a relay device designed to trip a circuit breaker when a fault is detected. The first protective relays were electromagnetic devices, relying on coils operating on moving parts to provide detecti ...

protective relay
s on the power system network sense the decline of frequency and automatically initiate
load shedding Demand response is a change in the power consumption of an electric utility customer to better match the demand for power with the supply. Until recently electric energy could not be easily stored, so utilities have traditionally matched demand ...
or tripping of interconnection lines, to preserve the operation of at least part of the network. Small frequency deviations (e.g., 0.5 Hz on a 50 Hz or 60 Hz network) will result in automatic load shedding or other control actions to restore system frequency. Smaller power systems, not extensively interconnected with many generators and loads, will not maintain frequency with the same degree of accuracy. Where system frequency is not tightly regulated during heavy load periods, the system operators may allow system frequency to rise during periods of light load, to maintain a daily average frequency of acceptable accuracy. Portable generators, not connected to a utility system, need not tightly regulate their frequency, because typical loads are insensitive to small frequency deviations.


Load-frequency control

Load-frequency control (LFC) is a type of integral control that restores the system frequency and power flows to adjacent areas back to their values before a change in load. The power transfer between different areas of a system is known as "net tie-line power". The general control algorithm for LFC was developed by Nathan Cohn in 1971. The algorithm involves defining the term ''area control error'' (ACE), which is the sum of the net tie-line power error and the product of the frequency error with a frequency bias constant. When the area control error is reduced to zero, the control algorithm has returned the frequency and tie-line power errors to zero.


Audible noise and interference

AC-powered appliances can give off a characteristic hum, often called "mains hum", at the multiples of the frequencies of AC power that they use (see Magnetostriction). It is usually produced by motor and transformer core laminations vibrating in time with the magnetic field. This hum can also appear in audio systems, where the power supply filter or signal shielding of an amplifier is not adequate. Most countries chose their television vertical synchronization rate to be the same as the local mains supply frequency. This helped to prevent power line hum and magnetic interference from causing visible beat frequencies in the displayed picture of early analogue TV receivers particularly from the mains transformer. Although some distortion of the picture was present, it went mostly un-noticed because it was stationary. The elimination of transformers by the use of AC/DC receiver design, AC/DC receivers, and other changes to set design helped minimise the effect and some countries now use a vertical rate that is an approximation to the supply frequency (most notably 60 Hz areas). Another use of this side effect is as a forensic tool. When a recording is made that captures audio near an AC appliance or socket, the hum is also incidentally recorded. The peaks of the hum repeat every AC cycle (every  ms for 50 Hz AC, or every  ms for 60 Hz AC). The exact frequency of the hum should match the frequency of a forensic recording of the hum at the exact date and time that the recording is alleged to have been made. Discontinuities in the frequency match or no match at all will betray the authenticity of the recording.


See also

*Mains electricity *Network analyzer (AC power) *Telechron


Further reading

*Furfari, F.A., ''The Evolution of Power-Line Frequencies to 25 Hz'', Industry Applications Magazine, IEEE, Sep/Oct 2000, Volume 6, Issue 5, Pages 12–14, . *Rushmore, D.B., ''Frequency'', AIEE Transactions, Volume 31, 1912, pages 955–983, and discussion on pages 974–978. *Blalock, Thomas J., ''Electrification of a Major Steel Mill – Part II Development of the 25 Hz System'', Industry Applications Magazine, IEEE, Sep/Oct 2005, Pages 9–12, .


References

{{Electric clock technology Electric power