What is the difference between kW and kVA?
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Diesel generators are sized in kW and kVA, however kW is the real and actual power available and kVA is the maximum apparent power that the generator is designed to handle.
The maximum kW output of a generator is straightforward and is calculated by taking the maximum mechanical kW output of the engine and then multiplying this by the efficiency of the alternator, which the result is kWe.
All generators are designed and rated at 0.8 power factor lagging and this is the difference between kWe and kVA, so for example:
A 100kVA generator at 0.8pf = 80kWe. Therefore, we know that the generator is able to provide 80kWe and the components are correctly selected, it is able to accept a kVA figure of 100.
In reality the power factor is a function of the load. Some loads are resistive and do not pass any power back to the supply. These are consumption loads and the factor will be close to 1, therefore an 80kWe set will supply 80kVA. Some loads are capacitive and they absorb load and return some power back to the supply. This is when the power factor drops and the generator must be able to manage with the additional power within the alternator windings. Understanding the impact of loads on the generator and the correct selection of components is key in not under (or over) sizing the generator.
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