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# Factors That Affect Substation Ground Grid Design

Jerry Johnson POWER Engineers, Inc. Hailey, Idaho, USA (208) 788-3456

Presented at the POWER Engineers Substation Conference

September 1999

.............. 6 4...................................................................2 DECREMENT FACTOR DF ......... 3 4................................................................0 BASIC GROUNDING CONSIDERATIONS...................................................................................Table of Contents ABSTRACT................................................................................ 6 4......................................................1 EFFECTS ON THE HUMAN BODY ............................... 7 5........................................................................................................................ 9 5....................................................................................................................... 11 HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 i ....................1 CALCULATION OF SF ...............................................0 SUMMARY ...... 1 1...................0 FAULT CLEARING TIMES..............................................................................0 FAULT CURRENT .......................................................................................3 EFFECTS ON TOLERABLE STEP AND TOUCH POTENTIALS.................... 10 6..2 HIGH SPEED FAULT CLEARING .............................................0 SOIL RESISTIVITY ........................... 1 2...................................0 INTRODUCTION........................................... 8 5...... 6 4. 11 REFERENCES.. 1 3........................................................................................

interest in substation grounding system design also increases. This paper discusses how each of these three factors can affect the design of a substation grounding system. Personnel safety is primary. but the economics are also a key factor. This difference results in a Touch HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 1 .0 Introduction As available fault currents increase on today’s electrical power grid. 2) Fault Clearing Time and 3) Ground Fault Current.Factors that Affect Substation Ground Grid Design Abstract This paper discusses three major factors that influence substation grounding system design: 1) Soil Resistivity. This current flow causes the grid to “rise in potential” above remote areas that are considered to be at zero potential. Engineers do not wish to “over design” grounding systems. This can produce a potential difference or Step Voltage between the feet of an individual standing on the surface of the soil. but they do want to design systems that protect personnel and equipment while providing an optimized economic solution. 2.0 Basic Grounding Considerations Line-to-Ground faults occurring in or near a substation cause a current to flow from the energized line through the buried ground grid in the station back to the source. The flow of current also causes the potential (voltage) or Ground Potential Rise (GPR) to vary at different points in the substation. This current flow can also cause a potential difference between metal structures and various points on the surface of the soil. Each must be considered along with short-comings of the analysis software and alternative designs to develop a safe and the most economic solution. 1.

Cs = the reduction factor for a high resistivity layer of crushed rock.116 ts Eq 1 [1].Voltage between the hands of an individual touching a structure and the individual’s feet on the surface of the soil as illustrated in Figure 1.116 ts (1000 + 1.5Csρs)0. When the station grid is designed. For a worker to be safe within a substation. Figure 1: Basic Shock Situations The human body can withstand considerable voltage for a short period of time. ρs = the resistivity of the surface material in Ω-m ts = the duration of the shock current in seconds. The values of maximum allowable step and touch potentials for a person weighing 50kg or 110lbs is defined as: Estep = (1000 + 6Csρs)0. Etouch = Where: Eq 2 [1]. this feature can be used to decrease the amount of buried conductor used or to increase the HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 2 . this value must be below the level that will cause the heart to fibrillate. Usually the ground grid design will require a layer of high resistivity crushed rock placed on the surface of the substation to act as an insulator between a person’s feet and the substation grid and to raise the tolerable voltages.

However. moisture content. density.0 Soil Resistivity The potential differences within a station result from the ground current flowing from the grid conductors into the surrounding soil (earth). The study found that the resistivity of the soil varied with soil type. the cost of the crushed rock layer should be considered since high resistivity rock may be difficult to find in certain areas. the higher the resistivity becomes when the soil is in the frozen state and lower HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 3 . The Canadian Electrical Association conducted an extensive study of various types of soil under a variety of conditions [2]. All soils have some resistance to electric current flow which is measured as “resistivity”. but after passing the frozen state it rises rapidly with the falling temperatures. Figure 2: Soil Resistivity Variation with Moisture and Temperature As Figure 2 inicates.safety margin in the design. The electrical resistivity of the various layers of soil have a great influence on the resulting step and touch potentials within the substation. Figure 2 shows how a clay soil was found to vary with temperature and state for three different moisture contents. 3. the resistivity rises linearly on the log scale as the temperature drops. The higher the moisture content. temperature and state (frozen or unfrozen). The percent moisture also has a strong influence on the resistivity.

Figure 3 shows the ground grid that was used in the analysis.in the unfrozen state. The results of the case runs show that for the 25 Ω-m case. Curve 2 for temperatures of 5°C (41°F) and -5°C (23°F). the station meets IEEE 80 standards for both step and touch potentials as illustrated in Figures 4 and 5. HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 4 .25 seconds 25 Ω-m 4” of 3000 Ω-m Crushed Rock 180 ft 80 ft Figure 3: Substation Grid Layout Analysis of the grid was done using Safe Engineering Services. CDEGS Program [3] using a uniform soil model of 25 Ω-m and 100 Ω-m. It is important for the engineer/designer to determine moisture content and temperature the soil can experience in the area of the substation when the station grid is being designed.000 Amperes 0. The values were taken from Figure 2. allowable touch voltages are exceeded throughout the station grid as shown in Figure 6. They also need to keep in mind the frost depth and whether the ground rods penetrate unfrozen soil year round. The following parameters were used: Station Size Conductor Burial Depth Conductor Size Grid Mesh Size Fault Current Fault Clearing Time Soil Resistivity Insulating Layer 180 ft by 80 ft 18 inches 4/0 AWG Copper 20 ft by 20 ft 10. However. for the 100 Ω-m case.

Figure 4: Step Potential Plot for 25 Ω-m Soil Case Figure 5: Touch Potential Plot for 25 Ω-m Soil Case Figure 6: Touch Potential Plot for 100 Ω-m Soil Case HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 5 .

2 High Speed Fault Clearing Another means to reduce the dangerous fault circumstances is to modify the fault clearing time. 4. or in some cases. High speed fault clearing has two main advantages: 1. muscular contraction. Alternative means to achieve safety include equipment platforms electrically connected to the equipment or 6” buried mesh around the equipment. 4. resulting in stoppage of blood circulation.0 Fault Clearing Times 4. heart fibrillation. unconsciousness. 2. HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 6 . The allowable current values may be based on the primary relaying or protective devices. The most serious consequence from exposure is ventricular fibrillation. that of the backup relaying. Currents of approximately 0. respiratory nerve blockage and burning [1].1mA can be lethal. The probability of shock is significantly reduced by a fast clearing time in contrast to faults that persist for several minutes.1 Effects on the Human Body The effects of an electrical current passing through vital parts of the human body depend on the magnitude.Possible solutions would be to add additional conductor and/or ground rods to lower the potential differences to allowable values. The most common effects of electrical shock on the body are perception. duration and frequency of the current. Experience as well as tests show that the chance for serious injury or death is reduced if the duration of current through the body is very brief. The human body is very susceptible to the effects of current at power frequencies (50Hz and 60Hz).

4. additional ground conductor (smaller grid spacing) would be required for the substation to meet IEEE 80 standards for touch potential.0 second Clearing Time To design the station to meet backup relaying contingencies.IEEE 80 states that a good case can be made for using the primary protective device clearing time to calculate the maximum allowable step and touch potentials. the smaller the clearing time the larger the allowable values of step and touch.0sec. Using fault clearing values of 0. Since ts is in the denominator of each equation.0 sec. shows that the allowable touch potential is exceeded for the 1. This is due to the low combined probability that the primary relay malfunctions will coincide with all other adverse factors that are needed for an accident [1].3 Effects on Tolerable Step and Touch Potentials Equations 1 and 2 show the relationship of the fault clearing times to the allowable values of step and touch potentials. HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 7 . in the previous 25 Ω-m case analyzed. and 1. case along the perimeter of the station as shown in Figure 7. Figure 7: Touch Potential Plot for 25 Ω-m Soil Case 1.25sec.

Eq 3 [1]. Another reason for determining a more accurate value of the grid current is the increasing magnitudes of fault currents. Sf = current division factor relating the magnitude of fault current to that of the grid current. The symmetrical grid current that flows between the ground grid and the surrounding earth is defined as: Ig = SfIf Where: Ig = symmetrical grid current in Amps. engineers have been using the maximum line to ground fault values in their designs. If = rms value of the symmetrical ground fault current in Amps. Cp = 1 is for zero future growth. Df =Decrement factor based on the fault clearing time. For many years. This approach is being looked at more closely. These increasing currents have a direct relationship to increasing the GPR making it difficult and expensive to protect communication circuits [4].5. ts. This can result in a more cost-effective substation ground grid that still meets IEEE 80 standards [1]. HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 8 .0 Fault Current The determination of the maximum grid current to be used in substation grounding design has been receiving a lot of attention. Cp = projection factor for the increase in fault current during the station life-span. The design value of the maximum grid current is then defined as: IG = CpDfIg Where: IG = maximum grid current in Amps. Eq 4 [1]. Computer analysis and other techniques can be used to determine the value for the maximum grid current.

if one transmission line serves the station and two distribution feeders exit the station and the calculated grid resistance is 0. which can be used to approximate Sf [4]. Using this value of Sf .500Amps. Southern Company Services and Georgia Power Company developed a set of curves. an approximation can be used to estimate the value of Sf. In many cases. In some situations this approximation value is sufficient for designing the grounding system. but they require a considerable amount of data to be input into the program. Figure 8: Percent Grid Current Versus Substation Grid Resistance For the case run previously. The information required to use these graphs is the number of transmission and distribution lines at the substation and the substation grid resistance. Figure 8 can be used to determine Sf . These programs accurately calculate the actual maximum ground fault current flowing in the grid.75.000 or 7.1 Calculation of Sf Computer programs are available to calculate the current division factor Sf. HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 9 .3 Ω (from the output of the CDEGS Program). This value is approximately 75% or 0.75*10. A typical graph is shown in Figure 8.5. the symmetrical grid current Ig is equal to 0.

a growth projection factor of 15% and data previously calculated yield IG as: IG = (1. tf = fault clearing time in seconds. Ta = equivalent system subtransient time constant in seconds.25 15 0.25 1. HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 10 .487A This value would be used in the final design of the substation grid instead of the 10.0 Using the typical value of the decrement factor for the fault clearing time of 0..5 or longer 30 or more Decrement Factor 1.000 Ampere value used previously. Df is derived to take into account these asymmetrical components.500) IG = 9. Df = 1 + Where: Ta (1 − e − tf tf Ta ) Eq 5 [1]. therefore a Decrement Factor. The design of the station ground grid must take into account the asymmetrical current.10 1.1 5 0. Typical values of the decrement factor are provided by IEEE 80 for an assumed X/R ratio of 20 and are shown in Table 1.10)(7. Table 1: Typical Decrement Factors Fault Duration (sec. The decrement factor can be computed by using Equation 5.) Cycles (60Hz ac) 0. is the maximum asymmetrical ac current that will flow between the station grid and the surrounding soil. Both the ac transient and subtransient as well as the dc component decay exponentially.2 Decrement Factor Df The maximum grid current IG. This current is defined by Equation 4 and includes the symmetrical current Ig as well as a correction factor for the dc component.25 sec. the transient and subtransient ac components.15)(1.5.65 1.008 0.5 0.

Myers. G. Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. 1998. Calculation of the current division factor is important.6. Canadian Electrical Association. References 1.0 Summary The soil’s electrical resistivity can vary with the temperature and moisture content. No. Montreal Canada. Inc. HLY 22-731 (09/20/99)lj 148900-00 11 . 725-732. and Patel. Research Report 143 T 250. pp. L. Garrett.. The maximum grid current must also be considered.. “Determination of Maximum Substation Grounding System Fault Currents Using Graphical Analysis”. 3. July 1987. July 1988. New York. These factors determine the extent and amount of ground conductor required for the substation grid design. 2. J. “Earth Resistivities of Canadian Soil”. High-speed fault clearing is essential to minimize the exposure time to the levels of fault currents available in most substations. The human body can withstand exposure to high current levels for only a short period of time. CDEGS User Manual. G. These variables need to be taken into account in the design and analysis to ensure the station grid meets IEEE 80 standards for the varying soil conditions. 3. Quick clearing of faults also allows higher permissible touch and step voltages. IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery. 1986. When these factors are optimized. an economic station ground grid that meets or exceeds IEEE standard can be designed. Safe Engineering Services. Many factors are involved in the design of a substation ground grid. so that the station’s grid is not over designed. Much of the station’s ground fault current may be carried out of the station by overhead static wires or system neutral wires. Vol. IEEE Standard 80-1986. S. D. 4. “IEEE Guide for Safety in Substation Grounding”. PWRD-2.