Power Systems in FE Electrical Exam

Welcome to our comprehensive study guide on power systems in the FE Electrical Exam. This study guide is designed to help you crack the complex power topics of the exam successfully. Based on the guidelines and topics outlined by the NCEES®, we will cover all the essential power topics and problems required to tackle power systems questions in the exam.

The power systems in FE Electrical exam assess your understanding of power generation, transmission, distribution, and protection. It tests your knowledge of topics such as power system analysis, fault analysis, transmission lines, transformers, and more.

Whether you’re a recent graduate or a seasoned professional looking to advance your career, this detailed guide will equip you with the required knowledge and tools you need to excel in the power systems in the FE Electrical Exam. Let’s dive in and explore the fascinating world of power systems!

Basic Concepts in Power Systems

Basic Concepts in Power Systems

Power systems in the FE ELectrical exam, also known as electrical grids, are complex networks that generate, transmit, and distribute electrical energy to meet the demands of consumers. These systems have various components working together to ensure a reliable and efficient electricity supply.

The power system operations are divided into Generation, Transmission, and Distribution of Power. Let’s explore their essential components and importance in power systems:

Power Generation

Power generation is carried out by conserving and interchanging energy from natural sources into electrical energy. Let’s discuss key power generation sources in a nutshell.

  • Thermal Power Plants – These plants burn fossil fuels (coal, oil, or natural gas) to produce steam, which drives turbines connected to generators. They are widely used due to their reliability and high power output.
  • Hydroelectric Power Plants – These plants harness falling or flowing water energy to generate electricity. They are clean and renewable sources of power.
  • Wind Turbines – Wind energy is converted into electricity through the rotation of wind turbines. They are environmentally friendly and have low operating costs.
  • Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems – Solar panels convert sunlight directly into electricity. They are clean, abundant, and suitable for decentralized power generation.
  • Nuclear Power Plants – These plants use nuclear reactions to produce heat, which drives turbines to generate electricity. They provide a significant amount of baseload power.

Power Transmission

Transformers are a critical component of power transmission systems. These devices step up or down the voltage levels for efficient long-distance transmission. They play a vital role in minimizing power losses.

High voltages reduce power losses during transmission. To carry electricity at high voltages from power plants to distribution substations, power systems are equipped with Transmission and Distribution Lines

High voltages reduce power losses during transmission.

Power Distribution

The following components are an integral part of any power distribution system.

  • Substations – These facilities receive high-voltage electricity from transmission lines and decrease it to lower voltage levels for consumer distribution.
  • Distribution Transformers – These devices decrease the voltage in homes, businesses, and industries as per their required or standard ratings and requirements.
  • Power Lines – Like power lines used in power transmission from the generation plant to substation power transfer, power lines in power distribution systems distribute electricity from substations to consumers, ensuring it reaches different areas reliably.

Read our detailed Demand Calculations guide for a deeper understanding of power generation, distribution, and transmission.

Types of Power Generation and Distribution

Types of Power Generation and Distribution

Power generation and distribution involve different methodologies to meet diverse energy needs efficiently. Below are vital methodologies with their use cases:

Centralized Power Generation and Distribution

  • Use-Case – Large-scale power generation for urban areas and industries.
  • Method – Power is generated at centralized plants and transmitted through a network of transmission and distribution lines to consumers.

Decentralized Power Generation and Distribution

  • Use-Case – Remote or rural areas where grid connectivity is challenging or uneconomical.
  • Method – Power is generated locally using renewable sources like solar panels, wind turbines, or micro-hydropower and distributed to nearby consumers.


  • Use-Case – Communities, campuses, or industrial complexes seeking energy independence or resilience.
  • Method – Small-scale power systems that generate and distribute electricity locally, often with renewable sources, can operate independently or in parallel with the primary grid.

Differences Between Power Generation and Distribution Techniques

The table highlights the differences between centralized, decentralized, and microgrid power generation and distribution techniques:

TechniqueCentralized PowerDecentralized PowerMicrogrids
ScaleLarge-scaleSmall to medium-scaleSmall to medium-scale
Generation SourcesFossil fuels, nuclear, hydropower, etc.Solar, wind, micro-hydropower, etc.Solar, wind, micro-hydropower, etc.
Grid ConnectivityConnected to primary/main gridMay or may not be connected to the primary gridCan operate independently or in parallel with the primary grid
ResilienceDependent on gridLess dependent on the gridCan operate independently of the primary grid
Control and ManagementCentralized controlLocalized controlLocalized control
Grid Stability and ReliabilityHighVariesVaries

Power Flow Analysis

Power flow or load flow analysis is a fundamental technique used in power systems to determine steady-state operating conditions. It calculates the magnitude and phase angles of voltages and currents in a network under specified load and generation conditions.

Power factor and reactive power are crucial in power flow analysis for the following reasons:

Voltage Regulation – Reactive power flow helps regulate voltage levels and maintain system stability. Proper reactive power control reduces voltage drops and ensures that voltages at consumer locations remain within acceptable limits.

Power Losses – Reactive power flow affects power losses in transmission and distribution systems. Uncontrolled reactive power flow can increase losses, decrease system efficiency, and strain the network’s capacity.

Equipment Sizing – Accurate estimation of reactive power helps determine equipment sizing requirements such as transformers, capacitors, and generators, ensuring they can handle the load and maintain system performance.

Power Quality – Reactive power control plays a significant role in maintaining power quality. Imbalances in reactive power can cause voltage fluctuations, flickering lights, and poor performance of sensitive equipment.

These vital aspects clearly state why power factor and reactive power are essential concepts for power systems in the FE electrical exam and their impact on the performance and efficiency of power systems. Let’s understand them in further detail.

The power consumed by an electrical load consists of two components

  • Real power (P)

Real power (P) is the actual power that performs valuable work and is measured in watts (W). It is responsible for operating motors, heating elements, and lighting.

  • Reactive power (Q)

Reactive power (Q) is associated with the magnetic and electric fields in the system’s reactive components (inductors and capacitors). It is measured in volt-amperes reactive (VAR). Reactive power does not perform helpful work but is required to function in inductive and capacitive loads.

The power factor (PF) is the ratio of real power to the total apparent power (S) and is given by the formula:

Power Factor (PF) = P / S

*Apparent power (S) is the vector sum of real power (P) and reactive power (Q) and is measured in volt-amperes (VA).

*Remember, The power factor can range from 0 to 1. A power factor of 1 (or unity) indicates a purely resistive load, where real power and apparent power are equal. A power factor less than 1 indicates the presence of reactive power, which can cause power losses, reduced system efficiency, and increased strain on equipment.

Three-Phase Systems

Three-phase power generation and transmission is widely used for supplying electrical power in large-scale applications. Unlike single-phase systems, which have a single alternating current (AC) waveform, three-phase systems consist of three AC waveforms that are out of phase with each other by 120 degrees.

This configuration offers a range of perks that impact power generation, transmission efficiency, and equipment design.

Single-Phase and Three-Phase Power Systems – Differences

differences between single-Phase and three-phase power systems

Here’s a table highlighting the key differences between single-Phase and three-phase power systems in the FE Electrical exam:

AspectThree-Phase PowerSingle-Phase Power
Number of WaveformsThree (A, B, C)One (A)
Phase Difference120 degreesN/A
Power GenerationHigher power capacityLimited power capacity
Transmission EfficiencyHigherLower
Equipment DesignCompact and efficientBulkier and less efficient
Motor OperationMore efficientLess efficient
Voltage StabilityBetterLess stable
Power TransferBalancedUnbalanced
Common UsageIndustrial applications, large motors, commercial buildingsResidential buildings, small appliances

Delta and Wye (Star) Connections

Delta and Wye (Star) Connections

In three-phase systems, the connections of the electrical loads and generators can be either delta (Δ) or wye (star, Y) configurations. These connection types have different characteristics and applications.

Delta Connection

Configuration: The three phases are connected in a triangular shape, forming a closed loop.

*In a delta connection, the line voltage (VL) equals the phase voltage (VΦ). The phase current (IΦ) is equal to the line current (IL) multiplied by the square root of 3 (sqrt(3)).


  • Suitable for balanced and unbalanced loads.
  • Requires fewer connections and less material compared to a Wye connection.
  • Often used for high-power transmission and motor loads.

Learn how to perform a three-phase delta circuit analysis.

Wye (Star) Connection

Configuration: Each phase’s end is connected, forming a central point resembling the letter “Y.”

*In a wye connection, the line voltage (VL) is equal to the square root of 3 (sqrt(3)) times the phase voltage (VΦ). The phase current (IΦ) equals the line current (IL).


  • Provides a neutral connection, allowing the connection of single-phase loads.
  • Suitable for balanced loads and most common in distribution networks.
  • Easier to achieve voltage transformation through grounded neutral points.

Learn how to perform a three-phase wye circuit analysis.

In both connection types, the total power transmitted is the same. However, the line currents and voltages differ between the two configurations.

Understanding the concepts of three-phase power generation, transmission, and the differences between delta and wye connections is essential for engineers and technicians working with power systems.

Transmission and Distribution of Power

Transmission and distribution are crucial in delivering electrical power from generating stations to consumers. Transmission lines carry high-voltage electricity over long distances, while distribution systems ensure safe and efficient power distribution to end-users. 

Key Concepts and Parameters You Must Know

Parameters of Transmission and Distribution

Resistance (R) – It represents the opposition to current flow and is caused by the resistance of conductors and connections. Resistance is typically measured in ohms per unit length.

Inductance (L) – It represents the ability of a transmission line to store magnetic energy and is influenced by the line’s inductance per unit length. Inductance is typically measured in henries per unit length.

Capacitance (C) – It represents the ability of a transmission line to store electrical energy and is influenced by the line’s capacitance per unit length. Capacitance is typically measured in farads per unit length.

Conductance (G) – It represents the leakage current between conductors and is influenced by the conductance per unit length. Conductance is typically measured in Siemens per unit length.

Critical Concepts for Quantitative Understanding

These formulas and concepts provide a quantitative understanding of the various power topics associated with transmission line performance, including impedance, admittance, voltage drop, power losses, and line efficiency.

Line Impedance

The total opposition to the current flow in a transmission line.


Z = R + jωL

  • Z is the total impedance
  • R is the resistance
  • j is the imaginary unit
  • ω is the angular frequency
  • L is the inductance
Line Admittance

The measure of the ease with which current can flow through a transmission line.


Y = G + jωC

  • Y is the total admittance
  • G is the conductance
  • j is the imaginary unit
  • ω is the angular frequency
  • C is the capacitance
Voltage Drop

The decrease in voltage along a transmission line is due to the impedance and current flow.


Voltage Drop (VD) = 3 × IL × Z

  • VD is the voltage drop
  • IL is the line’s current
  • Z is the total impedance
Power Losses

The energy dissipated as heat in a transmission line due to resistance and current flow.


Power Losses (PL) = 3 × IL^2 × R

  • PL is the power losses
  • IL is the line’s current
  • R is the resistance
Line Efficiency

The ratio of power delivered to the load to the total power supplied to the transmission line.


Line Efficiency (η) = (P – PL) / P,

  • η is the line efficiency
  • P is the power delivered to the load
  • PL is the power losses

Before moving further, read more about the analysis and modeling of three-phase circuits.

Power Accounts – Problem 1

A 3-phase transmission line has the following parameters per unit length: resistance (R) = 0.2 Ω/km, inductance (L) = 1.5 mH/km, capacitance (C) = 0.02 μF/km, and conductance (G) = 1.2 μS/km.

The line is 100 km long and has an operating frequency of 50 Hz. Calculate the characteristic impedance (Zc) and the line’s total impedance (Z).


  • R = 0.2 Ω/km
  • L = 1.5 mH/km
  • C = 0.02 μF/km
  • G = 1.2 μS/km
  • Line length = 100 km
  • Operating frequency = 50 Hz

Characteristic Impedance (Zc):

Zc = √(L/C)

= √((1.5 mH/km) / (0.02 μF/km))

= √(1.5 mH / 0.02 μF)

= √75

≈ 8.66 Ω

Total Impedance (Z):

Z = R + jωL

= 0.2 Ω/km + j(2πf)(1.5 mH/km) [Convert frequency to rad/s: ω = 2πf]

= 0.2 Ω/km + j(2π × 50)(1.5 mH/km)

= 0.2 Ω/km + j(0.15 Ω/km)

= 0.2 + j0.15 Ω/km

The 100 km transmission line impedance is 0.2 + j0.15 Ω/km.

Power Accounts – Problem 2

Consider a 3-phase transmission line with the following parameters per unit length: resistance (R) = 0.2 Ω/km, inductance (L) = 1.5 mH/km, capacitance (C) = 0.02 μF/km, and conductance (G) = 1.2 μS/km. The line is 100 km long and has an operating frequency of 50 Hz. 

The line is loaded with a 3-phase balanced load of 10 MW at a power factor of 0.8 lagging. Calculate the line admittance, voltage drop, power losses, and line efficiency.


  • R = 0.2 Ω/km
  • L = 1.5 mH/km
  • C = 0.02 μF/km
  • G = 1.2 μS/km
  • Line length = 100 km
  • Operating frequency = 50 Hz
  • Load: Power (P) = 10 MW, Power Factor (PF) = 0.8 lagging

Line Admittance (Y):

Y = G + jωC

= 1.2 μS/km + j(2πf)(0.02 μF/km) [Convert frequency to rad/s: ω = 2πf]

= 1.2 μS/km + j(2π × 50)(0.02 μF/km)

= 1.2 μS/km + j2.8 μS/km

= 1.2 + j2.8 μS/km

The line admittance is 1.2 + j2.8 μS/km.

Voltage Drop:

The voltage drop can be calculated using the formula:

Voltage Drop (VD) = 3 × IL × Z

where IL is the line current, and Z is the total impedance of the line.

First, we need to calculate the line current (IL):

IL = P / (√3 × VL × PF)

= 10 MW / (√3 × 11 kV × 0.8)

≈ 441 A

Next, we calculate the total impedance (Z) of the line:

Z = R + jωL

= 0.2 Ω/km + j(2πf)(1.5 mH/km)

= 0.2 Ω/km + j(2π × 50)(1.5 mH/km)

= 0.2 Ω/km + j0.47 Ω/km

Now, we can calculate the voltage drop:

VD = 3 × 441 A × (0.2 + j0.47) Ω/km

= 3 × 441 A × 0.2 Ω/km + j3 × 441 A × 0.47 Ω/km

= 264.6 V + j557.22 V

The voltage drop is approximately 264.6 V + j557.22 V.

Power Losses:

Power Losses (PL) = 3 × IL^2 × R

= 3 × (441 A)^2 × 0.2 Ω/km

= 92.286 kW

The power losses are approximately 92.286 kW.

Line Efficiency:

Line Efficiency (η) = (P – PL) / P

= (10 MW – 92.286 kW) / 10 MW

≈ 99.08%

The line efficiency is approximately 99.08%.

Read our detailed guide on Circuit Analysis in the FE Electrical exam and discover different AC circuit analysis and power-transfer theorems that impact the performance and reliability of power systems in the FE electrical exam and field.

Power System Equipment and Components

Transformers are also used in power systems for voltage transformation and electrical isolation. There are three distinctive types of Transformers used for the said purpose.

  • Power Transformers are used for stepping up or down voltages in the transmission and distribution systems.
  • Distribution Transformers are found in distribution networks to decrease voltages for end-user consumption further.
  • Instrument Transformers are current and voltage transformers used for measuring and protection purposes.

Types of Transformers can also be categorized as step-up, step-down, and center-tapped for their nature of increasing and decreasing the power on the delivery end.

Circuit Breakers

Protective relays and circuit breakers work in tandem to safeguard the system from overloads, short circuits, and other electrical faults.

  • Circuit breakers are switches that protect the power system by interrupting faulty currents in case of abnormalities.
  • Protective relays detect abnormal electrical conditions and initiate circuit breaker operations to isolate faults.

Voltage Regulators

Voltage regulators control the voltage levels to ensure stable and reliable operation. Automatic Voltage Regulators (AVRs) adjust the excitation of generators to maintain voltage within acceptable limits.


Capacitors are components that store electrical energy and release it when needed. In power systems, capacitors are used for reactive power compensation to improve voltage stability and reduce losses. They provide reactive power support to counteract the reactive power demand of inductive loads, improving power factors and system efficiency.

Reactive power compensation involves the installation of capacitors or static VAR compensators (SVCs) at strategic points in the power system. By injecting reactive power, capacitors/SVCs reduce the reactive power flow, improve power factor, and stabilize voltage levels. This compensation helps reduce transmission losses, voltage drops, and system inefficiencies.       

Power System Analysis and Stability

Understanding and analyzing fault, tolerance, and stability are vital areas of study in Power Systems in the FE Electrical Exam. This help in the protection and ensuring reliability & performance of the power systems.

Fault Analysis

The fault analysis is categorized into two methodologies.

  • Symmetrical Fault Analysis
  • Unsymmetrical Fault Analysis

Symmetrical Fault Analysis

Symmetrical faults are those in which the fault impedances are equal in all three phases. The analysis assumes that the fault conditions are balanced and occur symmetrically across all phases. It helps determine fault currents and voltages, enabling proper protection coordination and system design.

It is commonly used for analyzing faults such as line-to-line (L-L), line-to-ground (L-G), and three-phase (L-L-L) faults.

Unsymmetrical Fault Analysis

Unsymmetrical faults are those in which the fault impedances differ among the three phases. The analysis considers fault conditions imbalances, such as fault impedances and fault currents in different phases. It is crucial for designing protection schemes and evaluating system stability during fault conditions.

Unsymmetrical fault analysis helps evaluate the effects of faults due to phase-to-phase (L-L), phase-to-ground (L-G), or combination faults.

To delve deeper into symmetrical components and discover how they help in fault analysis, read our detailed guide on Symmetrical Components. This comprehensive guide provides a detailed explanation of symmetrical components and their applications in power system analysis.

Stability Analysis

Stability analysis studies the behavior of a power system to maintain a steady and synchronized operation after disturbances or faults. It assesses the system’s ability to return to a stable operating condition, preventing unstable oscillations or collapse. Stability analysis includes transient stability, small-signal stability, and voltage stability evaluations.

Transient response helps identify stability issues, determine the time it takes for the system to settle, and design protective relays and control systems.

For a deeper understanding of transient analysis and its significance in power systems, I recommend reading our detailed study guide on Introduction to Transient Response in the FE Electrical exam. This comprehensive guide provides insights into transient phenomena, analysis techniques, and their importance in ensuring system stability and reliability.   

Do not forget to discover how Laplace Transforms are used for stability analysis of control systems.


Power systems form the backbone of our modern world, and mastering their intricacies is essential for aspiring power engineers. A strong foundation in power systems is vital for a successful career in this field.

To inform you about the power systems in FE Electrical exam, we discussed all the key topics related to the FE Electrical exam as per NCEES® guidelines.

Now you are equipped with the skills and expertise needed to tackle real-world challenges and crack complex topics and problems related to power systems in the FE Electrical exam.

To excel in the FE Electrical Exam and propel your career forward, preparing with comprehensive study materials and expert guidance is crucial. Study for FE is a renowned platform that offers specialized FE Electrical exam preparation courses compiled and designed by PE-licensed professionals. 

Their comprehensive study materials, mock exams, and interactive learning modules ensure you are fully prepared for the power systems section of the exam. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to become a skilled power engineer and ace the power topics involved in power systems in the FE Electrical Exam. Visit Study for FE today and explore their tailored courses and resources.


Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.