As the available ratings of turbine-generators have increased, the problems of supplying the dc field excitation (amounting to 4000 A or more in the larger units) have grown progressively more difficult.
A common excitation source is a shaft-driven dc generator whose output is supplied to the alternator field through brushes and slip rings.
Alternatively, excitation may be supplied from a shaft-driven alternator of conventional design as the main exciter. This alternator has a stationary armature and a rotating-field winding.
Its frequency may be 180 or 240 Hz. Its output is fed to a stationary solid-state rectifier, which in turn supplies the turbine-generator field through slip rings.
Cooling and maintenance problems are inevitably associated with slip rings, commutators, and brushes. Many modern excitation systems have minimized these problems by minimizing the use of sliding contacts and brushes.
As a result, some excitation systems employ shaft-driven ac alternators whose field windings are stationary and whose ac windings rotate. By the use of rotating rectifiers, dc excitation can be applied directly to the generator field winding without the use of slip rings.
Excitation systems of the latest design are being built without any sort of rotating exciter-alternator. In these systems, the excitation power is obtained from a special auxiliary transformer fed from the local power system.
Alternatively it may be obtained directly from the main generator terminals; in one system a special armature winding is included in the main generator to supply the excitation power. In each of
these systems the power is rectified using phase-controlled silicon controlled rectifiers (SCRs).
These types of excitation system, which have been made possible by the development of reliable, high-power SCRs, are relatively simple in design and provide the fast response characteristics required in many modern applications.