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Evaluation of lightning surges transferred from

medium voltage to low-voltage networks
A. De Conti and S. Visacro
Abstract: The effects of transferred lightning surges on loads connected in long branched lowvoltage power distribution networks are evaluated by means of computational simulations.
Sensitivity analyses are presented to indicate the role of several parameters in the development of
transferred surges. Based on the obtained results, remarks are made regarding load protection.



The impact of lightning overvoltages on distribution
systems is of great concern, especially for low-voltage
(LV) networks. In such environments, low insulation levels
and the increasing presence of sensitive loads create a
scenario in which lightning-related effects may often become
Attempts have been made to characterise typical surges
in LV circuits [1, 2]. The obtained results are a clear picture
of how varied they can be. LV networks are inherently
complex, as a great diversity of loads and connections is
usually found in practical conditions. This imposes serious
difficulties on the study of lightning overvoltages in such
circuits, making the definition of a typical case almost
impossible. As a consequence, the prescription and adoption of practices able to protect consumer loads in a general
sense is difficult.
This paper focuses on the transference of surges from
medium-voltage (MV) to LV networks. This phenomenon
is believed to be the most frequent among all possible
mechanisms of overvoltage generation on consumer loads,
as it is related to both, induced voltages due to cloud-toground strikes and direct strikes over MV lines [3].
2 Transference of lightning surges from MV to LV
The transference of surges from MV to LV networks may
take place according to three main mechanisms: (i) coupling
of both circuits through distribution transformers and their
connections; (ii) electromagnetic coupling between MV and
LV conductors if they are installed one above the other; (iii)
indirect current injection into the LV circuit due to
flashovers across MV and LV insulators. Case (iii) is
related to the incidence of direct strikes over distribution
systems in urban areas, where MV and LV circuits usually
share the same poles. This is believed to be relatively rare
but serious damage to the connected loads is expected when

it occurs [4]. Case (ii) is related to currents unable to cause
flashovers along the MV system. Their influence on the LV
circuit depends on several factors but it is usually not as
strong as in cases (i) and (iii). This paper deals exclusively
with the mechanism (i), which is always present if a surge
propagates along a MV line.
Surges transferred through distribution transformers can
usually be split into two components. One is related to the
electromagnetic coupling between transformer primary and
secondary. This coupling allows only high-frequency
components of incoming surges to be transferred to the
LV circuit. The resulting voltages have an oscillatory shape
and short duration and their effects on the connected loads
tend to be small [3, 5]. Currents drained by MV surge
arresters are responsible for the other transferred component, by generating a potential rise at the transformer
grounding [3, 5]. This potential rise is able to determine the
injection of intense currents into the LV circuit, especially if
the neutral conductor is shared by the LV and MV lines.
Laboratory and computational evaluations of transferred
surges on consumer loads have been presented in [6]. In the
investigated cases, only one consumer was considered, i.e. a
single branch was derived from the transformer secondary
and connected to the loads. However, in many applications,
a single transformer may be designed to supply LV lines
with lengths in the range 100–200 m and several connected
loads (Fig. 1). The presence of branches and the existence of
distributed earthing terminations make this condition very
different from the one evaluated in [6]. To understand the
influence of system parameters on the development of
transferred surges in LV networks with such features,
several computational analyses have been performed, which
are presented in Section 3.

r IEE, 2005
IEE Proceedings online no. 20041306
Paper first received 15th December 2003 and in revised form 7th December
2004. Originally published online: 8th April 2005
The authors are with the Lightning Research Center, Federal University of
Minas Gerais, Av. Ant#onio Carlos 6627, Pampulha 31.270-901, Belo Horizonte,
MG, Brazil
IEE Proc.-Gener. Transm. Distrib., Vol. 152, No. 3, May 2005

Fig. 1

Evaluated system

1 System modelling The evaluated system consists of an infinitely long MV line terminated at the primary of a distribution transformer. Distrib. According to the MIM.0 ms. It was effectively grounded at the transformer pole (Rt).5 low-voltage (right scale) 0 0 C5 0. All earthing terminations were represented as simple resistances. 4 Nonlinear characteristics of elements applied on simulations performed line configuration schematics applied on 1. at every service entrance (Rc) (see Fig. ZnO surge arresters were supposed to protect its MV and LV sides. 3. µs b 5 Fig.5 m 0. 4a [9]..4 m 7. The occurrence of flashovers along the LV line was disregarded in the performed simulations.25 m 120° LV line and service drops multiplexed Fig. 4b). kV Fig. this may lead to unrealistically high overvoltages on the IEE Proc. the action of concrete reinforced poles as nonintentional earthing terminations was taken into account by representing them as 350 O resistors (Fig.-Gener. Figure 3 illustrates the simulated line configurations. If k ¼ 1. In the original integration method. Three-phase loads C0–C5 were connected to the LV line at poles P0–P5 by means of 15 m long service drops. U0 (onset voltage) and k (a dimensionless voltage-dependent factor). kV medium-voltage external phases 400 300 200 internal phase 100 neutral 0 0 1 2 3 4 time-to-chop. The modified integration method (MIM) proposed in [10] extends the original one to simulate the response of an insulation when submitted to voltage waveshapes with oscillatory profile. In all simulations. In some cases. the scheme illustrated in Fig. In the case of effectively grounded poles. No. 3 Schematics of simulated lines A continuous neutral conductor was assumed. It was supposed to be divided into spans of 60 m except near the transformer. In the performed simulations.65 m open-wire neutral 7. DE is accumulated.25 m 6. Transm. This value is based on the experimental results presented in [2]. It represents the variation of the characteristic impedance and the propagation function of a given line with the frequency by synthesising both parameters as a sum of rational functions with simple real poles [7]. 5b). tpr being related to the diffusion time associated with the breakdown phenomenon in gases. May 2005 . For noneffectively grounded poles. This value was selected by taking as reference the experimental results presented in [10]. a 150 m long three-phase LV line divided into spans of 30 m was derived (see Fig. the ionisation process in a given insulation is extinguished only if U(t) stays below U0 for t4tpr.0 I. according to the experimental data presented in [8]. which can be obtained experimentally [10]. This resistance value is able to represent the module of the impedance of a LV 352 a V  I curves of surge arresters [9] b V  t curves of insulators [4] The occurrence of flashovers in the MV line was taken into account by representing the line insulators as ideal switches controlled by a modified version of the integration method. it is supposed that the behaviour of a given insulation when submitted to impulsive waveshapes is governed by the parameters DE* (defined as the critical disruptive effect). installation reasonably well. To represent the LV loads. typical V–t curves were assumed for the MV insulators (see Fig. 2). a flashover occurs as soon as the area DE delimited by the waveshape of the applied voltage U(t) and U0 reaches DE*. 5a was adopted to represent the MV insulators.1 Rc Schematics of evaluated system 1 current.5 20 1. 152. The adopted transformer model consists of a simple RLC equivalent derived from the experimental analysis of the frequency response of typical three-phase d–y distribution transformers [4]. Their V  I curves are illustrated in Fig. 40 2. From the transformer secondary.2 m phases LV line 7. for U(t)4U0. 30 O resistors were connected between each phase and neutral at the service entrances. A flashover occurs only if DEZDE*.0 10 0. A soil resistivity of 1000 O m was assumed. the alternative transients program (ATP) was extensively applied. All transmission lines were modelled using the JMarti model. voltage. V P0 Rt P2 C0 Rc P3 C2 C1 Rc P4 Rc P5 C3 Rc C4 Rc 30 1. with tpr ¼ 1.25 m neutral 0. 2 P1 voltage. kA a 10 500 In the simulations.7 m phases neutral MV line 8. While this condition is not reached. Vol. 2) and at intervals of 180 m along the MV line (240 O).3 Developments 3. where six spans of 30 m were assumed.

kV C4 4 2 Fig. C4 corresponded to the end of the LV line. A ramp-type current waveshape (5/70 ms) with peak value of 30 kA was adopted in the simulations. The obtained results are illustrated in Fig. 7. two aspects are contrary to this hypothesis. This fact. a saturation point is reached for line lengths beyond pole P2. It is also P4 P1 8 Results and analyses 4. Interestingly. sections P3–P4 and P4–C4 were removed. In this case.. 7 that the lowest overvoltages and energy levels on loads are obtained if only C0 is connected voltage.2 Representation of flashovers in MV line a Intentionally grounded pole b Nonintentionally grounded pole connected loads. Flashovers. Distrib. Regarding the effects of transferred surges on the connected loads. µs b C1 C2 C3 loads C4 C5 P4 P3 100 50 P5 P2 P0 P1 0 C0 C1 C2 C3 loads C4 C5 Fig. assuming Rc ¼ Rt ¼ 80 O and an open-wire configuration. After this. together with load C4 and so on. No. loads connected to the end of the line tend to experience constant voltage values irrespective of the fact that the line has a total length of 60 m (finishing at P2) or 150 m (finishing at P5). Afterwards. Analysing a specific load (C2. 2 was initially simulated. 3. if only C0 and C1 are connected. J 4 Line length and number of loads To understand how the presence of several branches and loads affects surges transferred from MV to LV networks.MV-phase A MV-phase A neutral neutral MV-phase B MV-phase B MV-phase C MV-phase C 350 Ω 240 Ω b 4. µs a 75 100 6 voltage. The same behaviour is observed if three loads are considered (C0. 7 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages and dissipated energy on connected loads as a function of extension of LV line Rt ¼ Rc ¼ 80 O 1000 800 P5 P0 4 200 Figure 6 illustrates typical overvoltages obtained in the simulations. C1 and C2). 5 apparent that arresters placed at the transformer secondary fail to reduce the voltages developed along the LV line. May 2005 to the transformer. 353 . a gradual increase is observed at the final point of the LV line. Transm. the resultant overvoltages on the connected loads would also be different. kV 600 400 30 m from transformer 200 0 −200 0 25 50 time. Resultant voltages and energy on the connected loads were calculated for a total simulation time of 300 ms as the assumption of a larger simulation time would not imply significant differences in the calculated energy levels. such overvoltages can serve as an indication of points prone to lightning-induced failures. it is clear that they depend strongly on the location of the service entrances in respect to the transformer. load C5 and sections P4–P5 and P5–C5 were removed and a new simulation was performed. Finally. Nevertheless. Vol. In this paper a direct strike over the MV line is assumed. However. 6 C2 0 −2 0 C0 25 50 time. suggests that long LV lines tend to behave better in terms of transferred overvoltages than short ones. kV a Fig.-Gener. It can be seen in Fig.2 Simulations Cloud-to-ground strokes generate currents with peak values usually below 1 kA in close distribution lines [11]. 152. The influence of all of these aspects on the transferred surges is further discussed below. Preliminary evaluations have indicated that currents of such magnitude propagating along MV lines are unlikely to cause severe stresses on LV loads connected in long branched circuits [5]. C4 and C5. A pole 420 m from the transformer was arbitrarily chosen as the incidence point. as indicated in Fig. In this case. 3. multiple reflections and the presence of arresters at the transformer primary determine the profile of the resultant waveforms in the MV line. 16 12 C0 General aspects 150 360 m from transformer voltage.1 P3 P2 0 enegry. together with the saturation observed on voltages developed at the end of the line. if multiple loads and distributed earthing terminations are present. First. we see that overvoltages tend to be reduced with the progressive inclusion of C3. until only C0 was connected to the transformer. if different grounding resistances were considered in the simulations. The lightning stroke was represented as a current source in parallel with a 400 O surge impedance [2]. following the median values associated to first negative lightning strokes measured in [12]. a circuit identical to that of Fig. shorter line lengths always lead to lower energy levels on the connected loads. As new loads are added to the circuit. 75 100 Resulting overvoltages in system Rt ¼ Rc ¼ 80 O a MV line b LV line IEE Proc. Labels P0–P5 in the Figure indicate the last pole along the LV line. As an example. C1 is submitted to higher stresses than C0. for instance). 7 in terms of voltages and the maximum value of energy dissipated per phase at each service entrance.

the use of multiplexed conductors is also favourable in terms of the dissipated energy. utilities do not have much control over the grounding connections performed at service entrances. are ten times lower than those observed for the conventional configuration. As indicated in [5]. 8. 8. in some cases. The higher electromagnetic coupling inherent in multiplexed conductors determines energy levels on loads that. preferably with both having reduced resistance values [5]. overvoltages at its terminals increase by 70% whereas voltage reductions of about 35% are observed elsewhere. one can see that. 8. Transm. As indicated on the right-hand side of Fig. overvoltages at its terminals are amplified. all the service entrances were supposed to have the same values of grounding resistance (Rc). By comparing the curves for Rc ¼ 80 O and Rc ¼ 320 O. i. Vol. in comparison to the case in which Rc ¼ 80 O. In some cases. although the curves obtained for Rc ¼ 80 O and Rc ¼ 20 O are close to each other. for Rc ¼ 20 O one could suppose that a proportional increase on the load overvoltages would happen due to an increase in the Rt/Rc ratio. if a single additional set of surge arresters is to be installed along the LV line. in the last case.. However. The level of this amplification depends on the load location and on the values of the existing grounding resistances. 3. 9.4 Grounding 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 300 energy. 4. low values of Rc determine slight voltage reductions on loads C2–C5. which makes their earthing terminations share a significant amount of the transferred surge. specially in the first microseconds. its protective action tend to be extended to a larger number of loads if the LV line is shorter. as for Rc ¼ 320 O. In this stage. transferred surges reach their lowest levels if the Rt/Rc ratio is at a minimum. the achievement of an optimal Rt/Rc ratio depends mostly on the improvement of the transformer Line configuration A comparison between the performance of multiplexed and open-wire configurations is illustrated in Fig.Secondly. For the simulated conditions. for different values of Rc and Rt ¼ 80 O a Open-wire configuration b Multiplexed configuration 354 IEE Proc.3 on loads are lower than those presented in the former. kV In LV lines where there is a single service entrance. additional protection may be necessary for loads with very well grounded service entrances. In the simulations presented in Fig. 8. In this favourable condition. it is never lower than 30%. Comparing the voltage curves depicted at on the lefthand side of Fig. No. if the transformer grounding is much better than the grounding at the service entrance. low values of Rc in relation to Rt also lead to higher stresses. J voltage.5. loads connected at the end of the LV line experience overvoltages twice as high if openwire conductors are installed instead of multiplexed ones. In LV lines with distributed loads. as it will be discussed in Section 4. phase-to-neutral overvoltages C0 C1 C2 C3 loads C4 energy. and overvoltages and energy on the connected loads were calculated. For the conventional configuration. This happens mainly due to the current division during the slow portion of the surge. Actually. for Rt ¼ 80 O. the application of surge protective devices could be necessary. the same tendency is observed. in this specific condition. J voltage. such reductions are not observed. although voltage reductions are observed on loads connected at intermediate positions for longer LV lines. May 2005 . as the Rt/Rc general ratio for the circuit becomes lower. Usually. one can see that multiplexed conductors always determine lower stresses than open-wire conductors. 80 O and 320 O). 8.e. 8 Rc = 80 Ω Rc = 320 Ω Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages and dissipated energy on connected loads. This phenomenon is associated with propagation effects and the high electromagnetic coupling present in multiplexed conductors. This suggests that. This was already expected. kV 4 3 2 1 C1 C2 C3 loads C0 C1 C2 C3 loads C4 C5 C0 C1 C2 C3 loads C4 C5 a 5 C0 100 0 C5 6 0 200 C4 C5 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 b Rc = 20 Ω Fig. In this case. 152. these reductions are not sufficient to guarantee their protection. if C0 has an improved grounding resistance. When it comes to the energy dissipated by the connected loads. Distrib. As a critical example. in some cases. which is not particularly true for the multiplexed configuration. Therefore. If a specific load now has its grounding resistance reduced in respect to the others. as illustrated in Fig. This happens due to the proximity between C0 and the transformer (15 m). reducing the side effects on the connected loads. 4. Rc assumed three different values (20 O. current amplitudes in different paths are inversely proportional to the values of grounding resistances seen in these paths. This can be seen in the left-hand side of Fig.-Gener. In the simulations. currents collected by arresters at the transformer primary tend to be drained to soil locally.

kV 0 C3 C4 3 C5 2 2. little variation is observed in the slope of the obtained curve. 10. 11 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages on loads C0– C5 as a function of positioning of additional surge arresters in a multiplexed LV line Rt ¼ Rc ¼ 80 O voltage.5Rc.5Rc to 2Rc. These arresters are connected between phases and neutral. The presence of surge arresters at the transformer secondary makes voltages developed at load C0 less sensitive to the variation of Rt because the protective level of such devices is somewhat Surge arresters Even if short multiplexed lines are applied in LV networks together with optimal Rt/Rc values. 355 . This practice corresponds to an attempt to use service entrances close to transformers as remote grounding connections. 152.5 1 voltage. overvoltages are more effectively reduced. for Rc ¼ 80 O case 1: Rt is varied case 2: Rt and Rc0 are varied for Rc constant a Load C0 b Load C5 IEE Proc. 0.7 kV is experienced by the connected loads even if Rt ¼ Rc/8. Vol.0 case 2 0 1. Therefore. if Rt ranges from 0.-Gener.5 4. in the curves labelled as case 1.5 C0 C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 voltage. kV 2. 3.5 2 Rt /Rc ratio b Fig. it is clear that the effectiveness of installing surge arresters along the LV line strongly depends on their location. 2. the application of surge protective devices may be necessary to reduce the vulnerability of connected loads to transferred surges.5 1.5 1 1. for example. In Brazil. The effects of reducing the value of Rt on the stresses to which loads C0 and C5 are submitted are shown in Fig. Figure 11 depicts the profile of overvoltages developed on loads if an additional set of arresters is inserted in the circuit of Fig. voltages at C5 are more sensitive to the variation of Rt. but economic aspects should be taken into account. even in the case of lower overall stresses (case P0–P4). In case 2. No. For Rto0. loads may be exposed to severe stresses. whereas load C0 experiences slightly higher overvoltages. Case P0 is illustrated for comparison purposes. utilities usually install a set of arresters at the pole from which the service drop that feeds the complaining client is derived.0 1. per unit 2. Transm. if a customer reports damage attributed to lightning. By analysing the results concerning load C5 for case 1. Nevertheless. kV a 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 case1 case2 0 0. 11. although a peak value of 2. as extremely low values of Rt would be necessary to ensure voltage levels compatible with the supportability of LV loads.5 1. it can be seen that. A special comment can be made regarding loads directly connected to the transformer secondary (C0).0 extended to C0 due to the proximity between them (15 m).0 Rt /Rc ratio Fig.5 2. Figure 11 indicates that placing arresters along the main trunk brings no benefits to them. Distrib. without an additional grounding connection. 6 C0 5 C1 C2 4 voltage. 9 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages on loads C0– C5 if a specific load is grounded with R ¼ 20 O whereas the others are grounded with Rc ¼ 80 O Reference condition calculated for a multiplexed LV line Rt ¼ Rc ¼ 80 O grounding. P0–P3 stands for arresters at poles P0 and P3). Installing arresters at each service entrance would yield better results. If not only Rt but also Rc0 is improved (case 2). The horizontal axis indicates poles where arresters are placed (for instance. LV surge arresters are regularly applied only at the transformer secondary. Rt and the earthing resistance of load C0 (Rc0) are varied simultaneously.2.5 0 0 P0−P1 P0−P2 P0−P3 P0−P4 P0−P5 poles with LV surge arresters case 1 0. in many cases.0 1. However. May 2005 In Fig. 10 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages at C0 and C5 as a function of Rt/Rc ratio in a multiplexed LV line. further but not very significant reductions are observed in voltages developed at C5 for Rt/Rco1. If they are placed near the end of the line.. Their protection can only be improved with the installation of dedicated arresters at their service entrance.5 C0 C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 loads with reduced grounding resistance values Fig. as discussed in the previous Sections. whereas the other loads keep constant grounding values.5 P0 1. These results indicate that improvements in the transformer grounding have a limited effectiveness in long branched LV lines. overvoltages may damage connected loads.0 0.

and Janiszewski. (Session 2. voltage. Dedicated grounding points are unlikely to improve their performance. on Lightning protection. arresters placed at every service entrance and close to sensitive loads could satisfactorily reduce overvoltages to acceptable levels. even if comparatively low resistance values are obtained. pp.. pp. IEEE Trans... It is clearly seen in Fig. 12 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages on loads C0– C5 as a function of the grounding resistance of additional set of arresters installed at P4 Multiplexed LV line. Power Deliv.K. for a direct strike over a MV network. Power Deliv. but economic issues should be taken into account. 960–968 12 Anderson. 1980..41-1991. pp. M.: ‘Lightning parameters for engineering application’. (in Portuguese) 6 IEEE Task Force. Finally. IEEE Trans.111-EG/PR2025.K. V. 2003. May 2005 .-Gener. Int. (in Portuguese) 10 Savadamuthu. Ardito. IEEE Trans.: ‘Protection of LV networks against lightning: transference of surges through distribution transformers’. 1982. and Meal..19) 4 Bassi.: ‘Evaluation of currents and charges in low-voltage surge arresters due to lightning strikes’. CEMIG internal report 02. Sugimoto. 101. Conf. 65–102 0. 1998.2 1 IEEE Std. 253–257 3 Mirra.. Thesis.. R.. 12.: ‘Experimental facility for investigation of lightning performance of distribution lines’. 2001.. Thus. U. This condition is now evaluated in Fig. Power Appar. H. J.F. pp. (1).Sc. pp. Power Deliv. A. a dedicated grounding connection is not necessary provided that there are earthing points at the service entrances. 2002.: ‘Modified disruptive effect method as a measure of insulation strength for nonstandard lightning waveforms’. 2000.: ‘Lightninginduced overvoltages on overhead distribution lines’. No.. 17. A. J. Federal University of Minas Gerais. Proc. D. 147–155 8 Hoidalen.J. preferably using multiplexed conductors.A. ‘Secondary (low-side) surges in distribution transformers’. ‘IEEE Recommended practice on surge voltages in low-voltages AC power circuits’.. pp. kV 2 1. Power Appar. A. 7. preferably with reduced values for both parameters. and Eriksson. paper 2. 1997. Syst.R. 287–292 9 ‘Selection and fundamental principles of application of surge arresters in MV and LV networks’. the development of transferred surges. if an additional set of arresters is needed. (2). 24th ICLP Int. 510–515 11 Eriksson. C62.6 6 1. LV lines with short lengths are recommended. (2). Power Deliv. M.. 2003. Therefore. Syst. Rt ¼ Rc ¼ 80 O 5 Conclusions Several simulations were performed to evaluate the effects of transferred surges on loads connected in long branched LV lines. 152. C. W. on Electricity distribution. H. C. Proc. Distrib. M. Porrino. Vol. IEEE Trans. K. Stringfellow. Electra.. integrated actions may be necessary to effectively protect connected loads.V. 1992. Conf. Loads with improved earthing terminations tend to experience higher levels of transferred surges. U. A.. IEEE Trans.All analyses presented so far have not considered a dedicated earthing termination for the additional set of LV arresters. 3. 1982.4 no ground R = 80 Ω R= 40 Ω R = 20 Ω 0 C0 C1 C2 C3 loads C4 C5 Fig. (1). The main conclusions are summarised as follows: the existence of several branches and grounding connections along the LV network tends to reduce the importance of each element for 356 References IEE Proc. assuming that arresters are placed at pole P4. R. 90–94 5 De Conti. 746–756 7 Marti.: ‘Accurate modelling of frequency-dependent transmission lines in electromagnetic transients simulations’.. A. 101. Arresters placed along the main trunk lead to better results if installed near the end of the line. 12 that further voltage reductions are not obtained if a grounding path is available at the installation point of the arresters.8 0. Udayakumar. (1). pp..: ‘Lightning-induced voltages in low-voltage systems and its dependency on voltage line terminations’. pp..: ‘Lightning overvoltages in low voltage networks’.B. and Yokoyama.J. and Jayashankar. 18. S. (4).. and Nucci.. 18. The best condition for load protection requires a low value for the Rt/Rc ratio. IEEE Trans. 1991 2 Nakada. K. Transm.