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Lightning Studies of Transmission Lines Using the EMTP
J.A. MartinezVelasco
∗
, F. CastroAranda P. MartinMuñoz
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya Red Eléctrica de España
Spain
This paper presents the application of the Alternative Transients Program (ATP) to the
calculation of the flashover rate of a transmission line. The study is based on the development
of a Monte Carlo based procedure. ATP capabilities have also been used to perform
parametric studies. The paper includes a sensitivity analysis of the flashover rate with respect
some parameters of the transmission line and the return stroke.
Keywords: Overvoltage – Lightning – Modelling – Monte Carlo Method – ATP/EMTP.
1. INTRODUCTION
Transmission lines are usually shielded by one or several wires; therefore, lightning
overvoltages can be caused by strokes to either a shield wire or a phase conductor.
Overvoltages induced by strokes to ground can be neglected. The Flashover Rate of a
transmission line can be divided into the Backflashover Rate (BFOR) and the Shielding
Failure Flashover Rate (SFFOR). To obtain these two quantities it is required an incidence
model to discriminate between strokes to shield wires from those to phase conductors and
those to ground, and a tool to calculate lightning overvoltages caused by strokes to any type
of conductor.
The calculation of the lightning flashover rate must take into account the random nature of
lightning and the random behaviour of some line components, e.g. insulation strength. A
Monte Carlo based method has been developed to analyse the lightning performance of a
transmission line. The general procedure consists of the following steps: generation of
random numbers to obtain those parameters of the lightning stroke and the overhead line of
random nature; application of a model to deduce the point of impact of every lightning stroke;
calculation of the overvoltage generated by each stroke, depending on the point of impact;
calculation of the flashover rate.
Each of these steps has to be carried out with some uncertainties and limitations, e.g. the
knowledge of the lightning parameters is usually incomplete. These limitations can be
overcome by performing a sensitivity analysis that could detect those parameters for which
more accurate information is required.
∗
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Diagonal 647, 08028 Barcelona, Spain (martinez@ee.upc.es)
2
This paper presents a procedure aimed at determining the lightning flashover rate of a
transmission line using the ATP [1]. This tool is a well known member of the EMTP
(Electromagnetic Transients Program) family [2], whose capabilities allow users to carry out
statistical and sensitivity studies.
The document has been organised as follows. Section 2 includes an introduction to the
parameters of the returnstroke. The main features of the Monte Carlo procedure are detailed
in Section 3, while main simulation results are presented in Section 4. A parametric study of
the test line aimed at determining the relationship between the flashover rate and parameters
of the line and the return stroke is presented in Section 5.
2. LIGHTNING STROKE PARAMETERS
A concave waveform is probably the best representation for the first stoke of a lightning flash.
This model does not shows a discontinuity at t=0; which is a feature observed in field
measurements. Several expressions have been proposed for a concave waveform, being the
socalled Heidler model one of the most widely used. It is given by [3]
i t
I
k
k
e
p
n
n
t
( )
/
=
+
−
η
τ
1
2
(1)
where I
p
is the peak current, η is a correction factor of the peak current, n is the current
steepness factor, k = t/τ
1
, and τ
1
, τ
2
are time constants determining respectively current rise
and decaytime.
Fig. 1 depicts the waveform of a concave return stroke. Main parameters used to define this
waveform in the present work are the peak current magnitude, I
100
, the rise time, t
f
(= 1.67 (t
90
– t
30
)), and the tail time, t
h
, that is the time interval between the start of the wave and the 50%
of peak current on tail. The main difficulty to synthesise a concave waveform is the determi
nation of the parameters to be specified in (1) from those of the return stroke (I
100
, t
f
, t
h
).
time
kA
S
m
S
10
S
10/90
S
30/90
T
30/ 90
T
10/90
t
10
t
90
t
30
I
10
I
90
I
30
I
100
I
p
Fig. 1. Parameters of a return stroke.
The statistical variation of the lightning stroke parameters can be approximated by a log
normal distribution, with the following probability density function [4], [5]
(
(
¸
(
¸


.

\
 −
− =
2
ln ln
ln ln
5 . 0 exp
2
1
) (
x
m
x
x x
x
x p
σ σ π
(2)
where σ
lnx
is the standard deviation of lnx, and x
m
is the median value of x.
3
3. MONTE CARLO PROCEDURE
3.1. Introduction
The Monte Carlo method is a widely used technique for analysing multidimensional complex
systems. It can be used for solving both stochastic and deterministic problems, although the
first type is the most usual one. This technique is based on a iterative procedure using in every
new step a set of values of the random variables involved in the process, being these values
generated according to the probability density function associated to each variable. Sampling
is iteratively repeated until convergence is achieved. The solution converges as the number of
samples n → ∞, being ( ) n
−1
the rate of the statistical error convergence to zero. A Monte
Carlo solution has a slower convergence that a numerical solution, but the convergence is
independent of the dimension of the phase space.
Important aspects of the procedure developed for this work are detailed in the following
paragraphs.
a) The calculation of random values includes the parameters of the lightning stroke (peak
current, rise time, tail time, and location of the vertical channel), phase conductor voltages,
the tower footing resistance and the insulator strength.
b) The last step of a return stroke is determined by means of the electrogeometric model as
used by the IEEE WG [6]; therefore, striking distances to shield wires and phase
conductors are assumed equal, while the striking distance to ground is smaller. Since a
threedimension model has been used in this work to define the attractive area, the heights
to be specified in the striking distance expressions are those measured at the distance from
the tower where the vertical channel of the return stroke is located.
c) Overvoltage calculations are performed once the point of impact of the stroke has been
determined. The only difference between models for backflash and shielding failure
simulations is the node to which the current source that represents the stroke must be
connected. In this work only two connecting points (tower, midspan) have been considered
for strokes to either shield wires or phase conductors.
d) The overvoltages calculated at every run are compared to the insulator strength; if the peak
voltage at one insulator exceeds this random value, the counter is increased and the
flashover rate updated [7]. Since only singlestroke flashes are simulated, this option has
several advantages: the rate is determined using a standalone environment, and
simulations are halted before the maximum simulation time in case of flashover.
e) The convergence of the Monte Carlo method is checked by comparing the probability
density function of all random variables to their theoretical functions; the procedure is
stopped when they match within the specified error.
3.2. ATP Implementation
ATP capabilities were used to develop the procedure as listed below.
• A multiplerun option is used to perform all the runs required by the Monte Carlo method.
• A compiled routine has been developed and linked to a MODELS section to obtain the
values of the random parameters that must be generated at every run according to the
probability distribution function assumed for each one.
• Phasetoground voltages across insulators are continuously monitored; when the voltage
stress in a single phase exceeds the strength of the insulator string, the flashover counter is
increased and the simulation is stopped.
• A report showing the main input and output variables is printed at every run; the progress
of the flashover rate is also reported with a frequency specified by the user.
4
4. SIMULATION RESULTS
4.1. Test Line
Fig. 2 shows the tower design for the line tested in this work. It is a 400 kV line, with two
conductors per phase and two shield wires.
22.5m
(10.5m)
26.1m
(14.1m)
31.25m
(21.25m
10 m
10 m 10 m
17.2m
7.164m
5.1m
14.05
40 cm
LINE CONDUCTORS CHARACTERISTICS
Type
Diameter
(mm)
Resistance
(Ω/km)
Phase
conductors
CURLEW 31.63 0.05501
Shield wires 94S 12.60 0.642
Fig. 2. 400 kV line configuration (Values between parenthesis are midspan heights).
4.2. Input Data
A model of the test line was created using ATP capabilities and following the guidelines
suggested in the literature [8], [9].
• The line was represented by two span sections at each side of the point of impact plus a 3
km section as termination at each side; each section was modelled as a constant distributed
parameter line, whose values were calculated at 500 kHz.
• Towers were represented as lossless singlephase frequencyindependent distributed
parameter lines, whose surge impedance value was calculated according to the expression
suggested by CIGRE [10]. A value of 134 Ω was estimated for the surge impedance of all
towers.
• The footing impedance was represented as a nonlinear resistance whose value is
approximated by the following expression [11]
R
R
I I
T
o
g
=
+ 1 /
(3)
being R
o
the footing resistance at low current and low frequency, I the stroke current
through the resistance, I
g
the limiting current to initiate sufficient soil ionisation, which is
given by
I
E
R
g
o
o
=
ρ
π 2
2
(4)
where ρ is the soil resistivity (ohmm) and E
0
the soil ionisation gradient (about 400
kV/m).
• The return stroke was represented by a concave waveshape, as described in Section 2, and
only negative polarity strokes are simulated.
5
• The strength of insulator strings for negative polarity strokes and lines located at sea level
was calculated according to the expression proposed by IEC 600712 [11]
CFO d
s
−
= ⋅ 700 (5)
being d
s
the striking distance of the insulator string.
• Only flashovers across insulator strings were considered.
The following probability distributions were assumed for each random value:
• Lightning peak current magnitude (only negative polarity): lognormal, I
m
= 34 kA, σ =
0.74 kA.
• Rise time: lognormal, t
m
= 2 µs, σ = 0.4943 µs.
• Tail time: lognormal, t
m
= 77.5 µs, σ = 0.577 µs.
• Phase reference angle: uniform, between 0 and 360 degrees.
• Insulator flashover: Weibull, CFO

= 2248 kV, σ = 5%.
• Footing resistance: normal, R
m
= 50 Ω, σ = 5 Ω.
The parameter R
m
is the mean value of the resistance at low current and low frequency. The
value of the soil resistivity is 500 ohmm.
4.3. Results
Fig. 3 and 4 show some of the results derived from the base case, for which a line span of 400
m was assumed. By comparing the two distributions of Fig. 3, one can see that there is a
range of values for every type of failure and a range of peak current magnitudes that cause no
failure. Fig. 4 shows the rise time distribution of lightning strokes to shield wires or towers. It
is evident from this plot that the probability of failure with rise times above 5 µs is negligible.
The procedure is stopped when the probability density function of all the random variables
match their theoretical functions within the specified error. In this work the computed and the
theoretical distributions were compared at 10, 30, 50, 70 and 90% of the cumulative
distribution functions. For an error margin of 5% no less than 30000 runs were needed.
Results shown in Fig. 3 were obtained after 40000 runs. The flashover rate, for N
g
= 1, was
1.477 per 100 km and year.
5. SENSITIVITY STUDIES
Parametric calculations can be very useful to analyse the influence of line and stroke
parameters, and to determine what range of values can be of concern. Although the number of
parameters involved in lightning calculations is very high, not all of them must be analysed,
since many of them can be specified with high accuracy from the line geometry. Fig. 5 shows
0.0000
0.0005
0.0010
0.0015
0.0020
0.0025
0.0030
0.0035
6
0
1
2
0
1
8
0
2
4
0
3
0
0
3
6
0
4
2
0
Peak current magnitude  kA
P
r
o
b
a
b
i
l
i
t
y
0.00000
0.00002
0.00004
0.00006
0.00008
0.00010
0.00012
1
0
1
2
1
4
1
6
1
8
2
0
2
2
2
4
2
6
2
8
Peak current magnitude  kA
P
r
o
b
a
b
i
l
i
t
y
a) Strokes to shield wires b) Strokes to phase conductors
Fig. 3. Distribution of stroke currents that caused flashover.
6
0.000
0.010
0.020
0.030
0.040
0.050
0.060
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Rise time (µs)
P
r
o
b
a
b
i
l
i
t
y
With flashover
Without flashover
Fig. 4. Rise time distribution of strokes
to shield wires and towers.
the diagram of the procedure implemented in ATP to perform sensitivity studies. The whole
procedure has two main loops, the inner one corresponds to the Monte Carlo method, the
outer one to the sensitivity study. The user has to specify the limit values between which the
parameter of concern will be varied. Very simple changes allow users to analyse the influence
of several parameters simultaneously.
Start procedure
n=0
Change parameter
P=P
0
+ n ∆P
Run case and monitor variables
Modify line model
Generate random numbers
Last case?
Last parameter
value?
Stop procedure
n=n+1
Report flashover rate progress
No
Yes
No
Yes
Fig. 5. Diagram of the ATP procedure
for sensitivity studies.
Sensitivity studies based on the procedure described above were performed to analyse the
influence that the median values of the peak current magnitude and the rise time of the return
stroke have on the flashover rate. Fig. 6 shows the flashover rate, measured per 100 km and
year, and using the footing resistance as parameter. It is obvious that the rate increases with
the peak current magnitude and decreases with the rise time, but the influence of the tower
footing resistance is not critical for low values of the soil resistivity and low values of R
o
.
7
0
1
2
3
4
25 30 35 40 45 50
Peak current magnitude (kA)
F
l
a
s
h
o
v
e
r
r
a
t
e
ρ=100 ohmm
ρ=1000 ohmm
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
25 30 35 40 45 50
Peak current magnitude (kA)
F
l
a
s
h
o
v
e
r
r
a
t
e
ρ=100 ohmm
ρ=1000 ohmm
a) Flashover rate vs. peak current magnitude
(R
m
= 20 Ω)
b) Flashover rate vs. peak current magnitude
(R
m
= 100 Ω)
0
1
2
3
1 2 3 4 5 6
Rise time (µs)
F
l
a
s
h
o
v
e
r
r
a
t
e
ρ=100 ohmm
ρ=1000 ohmm
0
1
2
3
4
5
1 2 3 4 5 6
Rise time (µs)
F
l
a
s
h
o
v
e
r
r
a
t
e
ρ=100 ohmm
ρ=1000 ohmm
c) Flashover rate vs. rise time (R
m
= 20 Ω) d) Flashover rate vs. rise time (R
m
= 100 Ω)
Fig. 6. Sensitivity studies (N
g
= 1 fl/km
2
).
The SFFOR of the test line is not zero but very small, and much smaller than the BFOR, as
expected. This means that the lightning performance can be improved by reducing the BFOR.
If the line configuration remains the same, see Fig. 2, the designer has two options to improve
its performance: increasing the insulation level, or reducing the footing resistance. Since it is
assumed that the flashovers are caused only across insulator strings, the insulation level can
be increased by installing longer insulator strings. This is not always true, so in general other
striking distances could be also considered.
A parametric study can be performed by changing the insulator string CFO and the footing
resistance simultaneously. Fig. 7 shows the total flashover rate (SSFOR + BFOR) as a
function of these two parameters. Values shown in bottom axes are median values of the
insulator strength and the footing resistance, respectively.
1
5
0
0
2
1
0
0
2
7
0
0
2
0 4
0 6
0 8
0
1
0
0
0.00
0.50
1.00
1.50
2.00
2.50
3.00
3.50
4.00
F
l
a
s
h
o
v
e
r
r
a
t
e
Insulator strength
(kV)
Footing Resistance
(ohm)
Fig. 7. Lightning flashover rate of the test line as a function of the insulator strength and the
footing resistance.
8
The plot was derived with the same return stroke parameters that were used for the base case,
see Section 4.2. The plot can be used in a very simple manner: after fixing the maximum
flashover rate, one can obtain those combinations of the insulator strength and the footing
resistance with which it can be achieved. This approach has some interesting advantages since
the results presented in Fig. 7 can be used when nonstandard atmospheric conditions are to
be considered. The results are only valid for those lightning parameters assumed for the base
case.
6. CONCLUSIONS
This paper has presented a procedure for lightning analysis based on new ATP capabilities.
All results presented in this document have been derived by using a single input file. One of
the main goals of this work was to analyse the influence that some parameters can have on the
flashover rate of a transmission line. It has been shown that sensitivity studies can be to
decide with which accuracy some parameters should be specified, and choose design
parameters to achieved the desired performance. The present study has been performed with a
simplified representation of some important parts of a transmission line. Future work should
consider a more accurate representation of the line (i.e. footing impedance, corona effect) and
a more complete specification of lightning parameters, e.g. polarity, multiplicity, correlation
between parameters.
7. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The second author is Profesor Asociado at Universidad del Valle (Cali, Colombia). He wants
to express his gratitude to his university for the support received during the preparation of his
Ph.D.
8. REFERENCES
[1] J.A. Martinez and J. MartinArnedo, “Expanding capabilities of EMTPlike tools: From analysis
to design”, [IEEE Trans. on Power Delivery, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 15691571, October 2003]
[2] H.W. Dommel, Electromagnetic Transients Program. Reference Manual, BPA, Portland, 1986
[3] F. Heidler, J.M. Cvetic and B.V. Stanic, “Calculation of lightning current parameters”, [IEEE
Trans. on Power Delivery, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 399404, April 1999]
[4] A.R. Hileman, Insulation Coordination for Power Systems, Marcel Dekker, 1999
[5] IEEE TF on Parameters of Lightning Strokes, “Parameters of lightning strokes: A review”,
[approved for publication in IEEE Trans. on Power Delivery]
[6] IEEE Std 12431997, “IEEE Guide for improving the lightning performance of transmission
lines”, 1997
[7] G. Furst, “Monte Carlo lightning backflash model for EHV lines. A MODELSbased application
example”, [EEUG Meeting, November 1012, 1996, Budapest]
[8] CIGRE WG 3302, “Guidelines for representation of network elements when calculating
transients”, 1990
[9] IEEE TF on Fast Front Transients (A. Imece, Chairman), “Modeling guidelines for fast
transients”, [IEEE Trans. on Power Delivery, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 493506, January 1996]
[10] CIGRE WG 3301, “Guide to procedures for estimating the lightning performance of
transmission lines”, 1991
[11] IEC 600712, “Insulation Coordination, Part 2: Application Guide”, 1996.
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