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Grounding non separately derived generator systems. by Hartwell, Frederic P.

| may 01 '95
These answers are given by our panel of experts. I am chairing this panel, and the other panel members include Bill Summers, James Stallcup, and Dan Leaf. The opinion expressed is that of the panel. If a panelist disagrees with the majority opinion, his explanation is printed following the answer, Although authoritative, the answers printed here are not, and cannot be relied on as formal interpretations of the National Electrical Code. A long circuit length raises questions abut fault-current return capabilities when a standby system, not separately derived, is running on its generator. More often than not, grounding discussions concerning generators involve separately derived systems. From the definition in Art. 100, a separately derived system "has no direct electrical connection, including a solidly connected grounded circuit conductor, to supply conductors originating in another system." The drawing shows a standby system with a solid neutral bar in the transfer switch, and which, therefore, is not separately derived. These feeders are also quite long, running about 300 ft between the transfer switch and both the normal (utility) and standby sources. We were asked whether the generator neutral could be grounded to its frame. This would take 600 ft out of the ground-fault circuit length since the normal switchboard would no longer be part of the circuit path while the generator was running. The suggested arrangement does represent a reduction in the impedance in the ground-fault return path, a primary objective of Sec. 250-51: 250-51. Effective Grounding Path. The path to ground from circuits, equipment, and metal enclosures for conductors shall (1) be permanent and continuous; (2) have capacity to conduct safely any fault current likely to be imposed on it; and (3) have sufficiently low impedance to limit the voltage to ground and to facilitate the operation of the circuit protective devices. On the other hand, such a connection clearly violates the general rule against making equipment grounding connections to grounded circuit conductors downstream of the service disconnect, as Sec. 250-23(a) provides in its final sentence: A grounding connection shall not be made to any grounded circuit conductor on the load side of the service disconnecting means. One reason for the 3-pole transfer switch in this case is that the local electric utility will not allow the facility to use a 4-pole switch because of bad experiences with transient disturbances during some transfer operations. What should be done? The EC&M panel's response Although we applaud the concern for reducing the impedance in the grounding return path, the requirement in Sec. 25023(a) must be strictly observed. If the generator neutral were grounded to the frame, neutral return current from the load during normal operation would routinely divide in the transfer switch. Most of it would stay on the normal neutral, but some would travel to the generator frame over the standby neutral conductor. At that point these currents would return over the equipment grounding conductors to the main bonding jumper in the service. Due to voltage drop from current passing over the equipment grounding systems, the result would be measurable voltages throughout the building on every conductive surface of electrical equipment. Equipment grounding conductors must never routinely carry load currents. Nevertheless, the requirement in Sec. 250-51 must also be observed. In the event of a fault while the generator is running, that fault must be cleared promptly. In this specific example, the 100A feeder circuits used No. 2 THHN installed in 1 1/4-in. galvanized rigid conduit (GRC). The return path therefore consists of 300 ft of GRC and 600 ft of No. 2 in a steel raceway. Calculating impedance Figuring the impedance of this return circuit is surprisingly complicated, and not commonly understood. In order to have full confidence in this procedure, we went back to the original research based on lengths of 3-in. and 4-in. rigid conduit that was published in 1954. The first problem is that the impedance of a magnetic raceway decreases with increasing current. The reactance decreases due to increasing magnetic saturation of the metallic conduit; the resistance decreases because high currents increasingly utilize the entire thickness of the conduit instead of only the outer skin. For example, the DC resistance of 1 1/4-in. GRC is 0.012 ohms per hundred feet. If the conduit is carrying 200A, its impedance is 0.0528 ohms per hundred feet; at 500A and 1000A, the equivalent impedances fall to 0.0329 and 0.0204 ohms respectively. These values are from industry sources largely based on testing, and cannot be reliably calculated in the field. The other problem is that the circuit cannot be analyzed as a series path from the load panel to the main bonding jumper over the raceway, and then back to the transfer switch over the neutral conductor. In this circuit, due to magnetic coupling between the conduit and the neutral, the total impedance is essentially the one-way impedance of the conduit (for which the quality of workmanship is crucial), and the size of the conductor matters little. Using this principle and 500A impedance values, chosen by the rule of thumb that a current of five times the overcurrent device setting will trip reasonably quickly (in the 10-see range), the total impedance from transfer switch to service and back is 3 x 0.0329 = 0.0987 ohms.

The impedance of the 300-ft neutral run from the transfer switch to the generator is much easier. Using Chapter 9, Table 8 (recalculated to 25 [degrees] C) the resistance for the No. 2 will be 0.0163 ohms per 100 ft. From Table 9 the reactance in a magnetic raceway is 0.0057 ohms/100 ft. The total impedance is then [square root of ([R.sup.2] + [X.sup.2])] = 0.0173 ohms/100 ft or 0.0519 ohms. This brings the overall impedance to (0.0519 + 0.0987) = 0.151 ohms. Using Ohms law, and allowing for a 50V drop in an arcing fault on a 208Y/120V system (again, a rule of thumb), I = E/Z = 70/0.151 = 464A. This is somewhat low and needs attention, especially considering generator impedance that will further reduce current. If the neutral were increased to No. 1/0 on the generator side of the transfer switch (as noted, there is little to be gained on the other side), then the impedance in this segment falls to 0.0348 ohms, for a total of 0.0348 + 0.0987 = 0.134 ohms. This would produce a current of 522A, which is probably OK. Note that the 50V drop in the arc is probably unrealistically high; at 120V the arcing circuit is unlikely to sustain itself without welding. The resulting 900A fault (120V/0.134 ohms) would trip almost immediately

Connecting UPS Grounds and Neutrals by Patrick Russell, P.E., EYP Mission Critical Facilities, Inc. | oct 01 '02
Your UPS is only as reliable as your grounding system. Without a properly installed grounding system, your UPS won't function correctly. A grounding system allows circuit protection to clear a ground fault, and provides paths for diverting surge current away from the UPS and for removing undesirable currents from the critical load. So what can you do to ensure your grounding system allows your UPS to do its job? One of the first steps to getting the grounding system right is knowing whether to design for a separately derived system, which depends on the detailed arrangement of the bypass neutral. The NEC defines a separately derived system as a premises wiring system whose power is derived from a battery, from a solar photovoltaic system, or from a generator, transformer, or converter windings, and that has no direct electrical connection, including a solidly connected grounded circuit conductor, to supply conductors originating in another system. This discussion will focus on the requirements for such a system. According to 250.30, you must bond the grounded circuit conductor usually the neutral at its source to the equipment safety grounding conductor. The grounding circuit conductor must also be bonded to a local grounding electrode conductor that is connected to the nearest grounded building steelwork, metal water pipe, or other effectively grounded man-made grounding electrode. Consult 250.66 when sizing the grounding electrode conductor for a separately derived system for the derived phase conductors. You must also connect the grounded conductor of the derived system to the grounding electrode. For multi-module systems, connect the separately derived source to a common grounding electrode conductor sized per 250.66. Make connections at an accessible location, using exothermic welding or irreversible compression connectors listed for the purpose. A multi-module UPS system fed from a 3-phase, 3-wire, grounded wye supply is a separately derived system because the neutral doesn't connect to the output of the UPS modules. In this case, you should isolate the ground and neutral buses, which are located inside the modules, from each other. But you must bond the neutral bus and ground bus in the system cabinet together and connect them to the local grounding point. Typically, the grounding point is a copper bar mounted on insulators in the electrical room and bonded to the local building steelwork. Whenever you use a delta-connected supply for a UPS system, you must create an artificial neutral. In such cases, a three-resistor network typically provides a logic reference point for the bypass input. Bond the neutral of the UPS output to the local UPS room ground bus. Some UPS modules come equipped with an input isolation transformer, but these don't influence whether you deem the system to be a separately derived source. For multiple battery cabinets incorporating battery disconnects, the cabinets are bolted together, forming a single lineup with the UPS. The cabinet grounds are inherently connected to the UPS ground bus via the metal chassis. You must connect the supporting racks of a wet-cell installation to the battery disconnect and to the UPS module ground bus. You should connect the racks directly to the local UPS room ground bus only if required by local electrical codes. Grounding at data centers. Thanks to the explosion, data centers have popped up in large numbers throughout the last few years. And despite the subsequent implosion, the continued demand for data centers at banks, financial institutions, and telecommunications facilities means it's still important to know how to ground them. At such facilities, you must ground the complete UPS system, so you'll need to understand a few terms and concepts first. The exterior ground ring (EGR) is used for lightning protection particularly for prefabricated concrete buildings and consists of a 4/0 AWG bare copper ground wire buried in a trench at least 30 in. below grade, with -in. copper ground rods driven at least 10 ft below the trench. Ground wells must be located at the four corners of the building with ground rods spaced in between at 10-, 20-, or 30-ft intervals. This ring should be about 2 ft beyond the building drip line; all underground connections must be exothermically welded. Many designers will choose to use the steel structure of a building instead of the EGR. In that case, the main ground bus (MGB) should connect directly to the building steelwork. The interior perimeter ground loop consists of a 2 AWG bare copper ground wire connected to the signal reference ground (SRG) at every interior ground bar. Metallic parts entering the protected area must bond to this perimeter ground loop. However, this loop isn't always installed around the perimeter of the computer room when the building has a steel structure. Special considerations apply to raised-floor installations with pedestal-bolted stringer connections. Copper conductors bolted to alternate supporting pedestals constitute the SRG, and you must bond equipment grounds located on the raised floor to the perimeter loop. Be sure to keep grounding straps as short as possible and eliminate loops. You must bond to the SRG junction boxes beneath the raised floor, and PDUs, RPCs, and A/C units. PDUs, ASTS units, and other computer equipment should also be bonded to the nearest interior ground bar using green, insulated 8 AWG grounding wire. Finally,

bond UPS cabinets to the nearest interior ground bus, using a green, insulated 2 AWG grounding wire. Installers typically mount the main ground bar (MGB) of a UPS room 24 in. above the finished floor and use zones for best grounding results. Your UPS will do its job only when it has the right infrastructure to support it. Deciding whether or not your system is separately derived and figuring out how to configure and install the grounding system are determining factors in ensuring the UPS will perform as designed. Russell is an associate with EYP Mission Critical Facilities, Inc., in Los Angeles .

Sidebar: Getting More From Your UPS Consider the following guidelines to improve performance of your UPS:

The service entrance ground should be a quality, stable connection to earth with impedance low enough to meet equipment requirements specified by the vendors. Use a lightning protection system. Use a two-stage surge arrester scheme (high energy at the service entrance, lower energy in downstream distribution). Use dedicated feeders and branch circuits, separating noise generators, such as electronic ballast lighting, from noise-sensitive loads. Use correctly sized equipment-grounding conductors, per 250.122, to reduce ground system impedance. Locate a separately derived system, such as a PDU isolation transformer, as close to the sensitive load as possible. This minimizes common-mode noise. Select a low-impedance local grounding electrode, per 250.30, when grounding a separately derived system. For large data centers with raised floors, install a signal reference grid system (SRG) to create an equipotential ground plane. Connect the SRG to the single-point power distribution unit PDU ground. In the case of multiple PDUs, connect the raised-floor stringer system to each PDU ground. The SRG could be a prefabricated ground grid installed beneath the raised floor, a grid consisting of 2 AWG copper conductors bonded to every other pedestal with special clamp connectors, or bolted stringers bonded to the pedestals.

The Key to Making Proper Neutral-to-Case Connections by Mike Holt, NEC Consultant | oct 01 '02
Improper neutral-to-case connections can cause fire hazards, electrocution, improper operation of protection devices, and power quality problems. Therefore, its important to make them only at service equipment and on separately derived systems in accordance with 250.142 of the 2002 NEC. How do you prevent fire, electric shock, or improper operation of circuit protection devices and other equipment? By stopping objectionable current (neutral return current) from flowing on electrical equipment, grounding paths, and bonding paths as required by the NEC in 250.6. To do this, you must keep the grounded (neutral) conductor separated from the metal parts of equipment, except as required for service equipment in 250.24(B) and on separately derived systems in 250.30(A)(1) and 250.142. Making the proper neutral-to-case connections is the key. Consequences of improper neutral-to-case connections. There are several consequences of improper neutral-to-case connections that range in severity from problems with equipment to the death of an employee. Fire hazard. Improper wiring that results in the flow of neutral current on grounding and bonding paths can cause enough excess heat to cause a fire. Fire occurs when the temperature rises high enough to ignite adjacent combustible material in an area that contains sufficient oxygen. Electrocution. Death from an electric shock can occur when the touch voltage is above 30V rms, and as little as 30 mA flows though the body. These conditions can easily exist when improper neutral-to-case connections are made and the neutral is opened. Improper operation of protection devices. Nuisance tripping of a protection device equipped with groundfault protection can occur if neutral current returns on the equipment-grounding conductor instead of the neutral conductor. Current can return this way because of multiple and illegal neutral-to-case bonds. A circuit breaker with ground-fault protection (480Y/277V, 3-phase system over 1,000A) uses the residual current method to detect a ground fault. On a 3-phase, 4-wire system, the trip unit will sum the currents in the 3-phase conductors and in the neutral. When no ground fault is present, the summation of currents flowing on A+B+C+N will equal zero. Any current flow not equal to zero is considered a ground fault. Where multiple neutral-to-case bonds have been made, neutral current will flow on the equipment-grounding path. Depending on the impedance of this path versus the neutral conductor path, the ground fault protective relay may see current flow above its pickup point and cause the protective device to open the circuit. If there are multiple neutral-to-case bonds and a ground fault occurs, the protection relay might not operate, because some of the ground-fault current wont flow on the equipment grounding conductor. Some fault current returns on the neutral conductor, partially bypassing the ground fault protective device. Power quality problems. When objectionable neutral current travels on the metal parts of equipment because of improper neutral-to-case connections, the electromagnetic field generated from circuit conductors will not cancel out. This uncanceled net current flowing on metal parts of equipment and structural parts causes elevated electromagnetic fields. These low-frequency electromagnetic fields can negatively affect electronic devices. Common improper neutral-to-case connections. The most common improper neutral-to-case bonds occur in panelboards, separate building disconnects, transformers, and generators. Neutral current will flow on metal underground water piping systems where the water service to the building is metallic. However, this occurs only if the underground water pipe system is metallic and connected to other buildings. Although this isnt an NEC violation, you need to be aware of such situations. Panelboards. Bonding of the neutral terminal to the case of a panelboard, which isnt part of service equipment or separately derived systems, creates a parallel path for return neutral current. The result is neutral current (net current) flowing on the metal parts of electrical equipment and on the grounding and bonding conductors (see Fig., right). Connection at separate buildings. Where an equipment-grounding conductor is run with the feeder conductors to a separate building [250.32(B)(1)], some people make the common and dangerous mistake of making a neutral-to-case bond in the separate building disconnect. This ties the neutral and equipment grounding conductors together, allowing objectionable neutral current to flow on the feeder equipment-grounding conductor. Separately derived systems. Making a neutral-to-case bond for a separately derived system at more than one location creates a parallel path for neutral return current. Transformers. If a neutral-to-case bond is made at both the transformer and at the secondary panelboard, neutral current will flow through metal raceways (and on the grounding and bonding path) on its return to the power supply. Generators. If the grounded (neutral) conductor in a transfer switch is not opened, the grounded (neutral) from the generator will be solidly connected to the utilitys service grounded (neutral) conductor. Under this condition, the generator isnt a separately derived system, and a neutral-to-case bond must not be made at the generator or at the generator disconnect [250.20(D) FPN 1]. If a neutral-to-case bond is made at both the generator and generator disconnect, objectionable neutral current will flow through metal racewaysand on the grounding and bonding pathto the power supply.

Required neutral-to-case connections. The NEC offers guidelines on how to make neutral-to-case connections in the following applications: Service disconnecting means [250.24(B)]. Services supplied by a grounded utility transformer must run a grounded (neutral) conductor from the electric utility transformer to each service disconnecting means. You must bond the grounded (neutral) conductor to each disconnecting means enclosure (neutral-to-case connection) by a screw or strap supplied by the equipment manufacturer [250.28]. The grounded (neutral) service conductor must be sized to safely carry the maximum ground-fault current likely to be imposed on it from where a ground-fault may occur (110.10). Thus, you must size the grounded (neutral) conductor per Table 250.66, based on the total area of the largest ungrounded (hot) conductor. Also, the grounded (neutral) conductors must be able to carry the maximum unbalanced neutral current in accordance with 220.22. If a grounded (neutral) service conductor, that serves as the effective ground-fault current path is open or not provided, then you cant clear a ground fault, and the metal parts of electrical equipment and metal piping and structural steel will becomeand remainenergized. Transformers or other separately derived systems [250.30(A)]. To provide the low-impedance path necessary to clear a ground fault from the separately derived system, you must bond the metal parts of electrical equipment to the grounded (neutral) terminal (XO) of the derived system. You can make the neutral-to-case bond at the source of a separately derived system or at the first system disconnecting means. The bonding jumper used for this purpose shall be sized per Table 250.66, based on the area of the largest ungrounded conductor. If you dont install a bonding jumper from the equipment-grounding conductor to the grounded (neutral) terminal of the separately derived system, then you cant clear a ground fault, and the metal parts of equipment, as well as metal piping and structural steel, will become and remain energized (see Fig., right). To protect against electric shock, fires and the improper operation of equipment from objectionable current on metal parts, make your neutral-to-case connections only at service equipment and separately derived systems in accordance with 250.142.