A load bank is a device which develops an electrical load, applies the load to an electrical power source and converts or dissipates the resultant power output of the source. A load bank includes load elements with protection, control, metering and accessory devices required for operation. Load banks can either be permanently installed at a facility and permanently connected to a power source or portable versions can be used for testing power sources such as standby generators and batteries. Load banks are the best way to replicate, prove and verify the real-life demands on critical power systems.
The three most common types of load banks are resistive, inductive, and capacitive. Both inductive and capacitive loads create what is known as reactance in an AC circuit. Reactance is a circuit element’s opposition to an alternating current, caused by the buildup of electric or magnetic fields in the element due to the current and is the “imaginary” component of impedance, or the resistance to AC signals at a certain frequency.
A resistive load bank, the most common type, provides equivalent loading for both generators and prime movers. That is, for each kilowatt (or horsepower) of load applied to the generator by the load bank, an equal amount of load is applied to the prime mover by the generator. A resistive load bank, therefore, removes energy from the complete system: load bank from generator—generator from prime mover—prime mover from fuel.
An inductive load consists of an iron-core reactive element which, when used in conjunction with a resistive load bank, creates a lagging power factor load. Typically, the inductive load will be rated at a numeric value 75% that of the corresponding resistive load such that when applied together a resultant 0.8 power factor load is provided. That is to say, for each 100 kW of resistive load, 75 kVAr of inductive load is provided. Other ratios are possible to obtain other power factor ratings. An inductive load is used to simulate a real-life mixed commercial loads consisting of lighting, heating, motors, transformers, etc.