While a single earthing in the winding is not immediately damaging. It sets the stage for damage if a second failure should occur. The second earthing can cause a short-circuit through the rotor causing extensive damage to the rotor and the winding.
The currents produced during a rotor earth fault can cause excessive vibration and disturb the magnetic balance inside the alternator. These forces can cause the rotor shaft to become eccentric and in extreme cases cause bearing failure.
Hence, it is necessary that any earthing in the rotor is detected at the earliest.
In slip ring rotors, carbon deposits on the slip rings may compromise the insulation resistance of the rotor. Hence, the slip rings need to be inspected for any deposits.
The Rotor Earth Fault Protection Device consists of a current injection device which applies an AC voltage to the rotor winding by means of a slip ring fitted on the rotor. The current is applied to the rotor through a coupling capacitor. In the normal condition, the system is floating and the current flowing through the device is zero as the resistance is high.
When a fault occurs, the current increases causing the relay to operate. The relay can be configured for alarm or trip depending on the criticality.