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Earthing Measurements for Power Line Towers

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EARTHING MEASUREMENTS FOR POWER LINE TOWERS

Stanisaw Wojtas / Gdask University of Technology

1. INTRODUCTION

Earthing is an important and necessary element of any energy system. Properly designed and constructed
earthing guarantees safety for both people and devices located in places where a ow of dangerous short circuit
or surge current caused by a lightning discharge can occur. Therefore, the earthing resistance should be made
as low as possible, and its value should meet the guidelines contained in the specied standards and regula-
tions.
During its construction and later operation, the earthing should undergo periodic inspection, mainly
through measurements of its resistance. Control tests of the resistance carried out using the traditional method
are often very time consuming, especially for earthing of power line towers. For example, a 100 km section of
110 kV line may consist of more than 300 towers; the earthing of each should be tested at least every four [2]
or ve [5] years. It is therefore important that the tests can be carried out without disconnecting the lines. The
measurement time for one tower should be as short as possible, and the instruments should be light and easy
to transport.
The purpose of this paper is to describe the procedures for measuring and assessing the earthing for pow-
er transmission line poles equipped with lightning conductors. The subject of analysis is primarily the inuence
of the span length and front time of the used measurement impulses on the results of earthing impedance. The
presented results of theoretical calculations and computer simulations have been supplemented with measure-
ments on real objects.

2. CLASSIC METHODS FOR ASSESSMENT OF LINE TOWER EARTHING

Static resistance of earthing of line towers is usually determined using meters operating at low frequency
and implementing various types of technical methods. In the case of high voltage transmission line towers, their
earthings are connected in parallel by lightning conductors, as shown in g. 1 Therefore, there are two main
methods of measurement: disconnection of articial earth electrode from the tower and using a meter equipped
with a current clamp.

2.1. Disconnecting the earth electrode from tower structure


When using a low frequency excitation, the control terminals should be disconnected for the time of
measurement, and thus the connection between the articial earth electrode and the tower structure should be
removed. Such a procedure is quite cumbersome and requires removing four connections one at each leg of

Abstract

The elements of articial earth electrode of the line with frequencies similar to those in the network are
tower and its foundation participate in the discharge of cumbersome and laborious. The inuence of earthings of
short circuit or lightning current to the ground. Both ear- adjacent poles can be reduced by using wave impedance
thing elements should be taken into consideration during of lightning conductors at high frequency or impulse wa-
the control measurements of resistance or impedance veforms. As a result of comparing the two methods based
of such earthings. In addition, the measuring procedu- on fast-changing waveforms, it turns out that impulse
re must take into account the fact that the earthings of meters are much more resistant to interferences caused
transmission poles are connected in parallel by lightning by electromagnetic elds of the lines. The study analysed
conductors. The article discusses the issue of measuring the effect of impulse front time and the line span length
and assessing the features of power line pole earthing on errors made during these meassurements using impul-
using slow- and fast-changing waveform. The measure- se meters.
ments of earthing resistance of the poles using meters
Stanisaw Wojtas / Gdask University of Technology
66

the tower (g. 1b). In addition, the resistance value obtained in this way is caused solely by the articial earth
electrode, whereas the natural foundation earth electrode does not affect the measurement result. It should
also be noted that such measurements should be made when the line has been turned-off.

a) b)

control terminals

earthing ring
foundations

Fig. 1. The connection of measured earth electrode, including the bypass effect of adjacent towers a) and foundations of the tower with
ring earth b)

In real earthing systems, the foundation earth electrode can signicantly affect the resultant value of
earthing resistance and determine the nal assessment of the measurement result. The measurement results
for the tower in the ground with a resistivity of about 200 m shown in g. 2. show that such a situation may
take place. When measuring the resistance of an articial earth electrode separated from the tower, a result Rs
equal to 18 was obtained, which is too high a value in relation to the standard requirements [1]. The resist-
ance value of the analysed tower foundation is 12 , and the parallel connection of both earthing elements gives
the value of 7,7, which means that the requirements of the aforementioned standards are met.

Fig. 2. The results of static resistance for earthing of 110 kV line


tower with the lightning conductor disconnected from its structure:
R resistance of the parallel connection of the foundation and
articial earth electrode, Rs articial earth electrode resistance,
Rf tower foundation resistance

2.2. The use of a meter equipped with a current clamp


A special type of technical method is implemented using a current clamp meter. When using such a me-
ter, the test terminals are not disconnected, and the current generated in the meter ows to the ground in the
system of connected earthings and is divided into two parts. One of them passes through the tested conductor
and earth electrode, while the other (IS) through the rest of the earthing system. The above case is illustrated
in g. 3. The measurement result is determined on the basis of the part of the current that ows through the
tested earthing. The voltage drop is determined in relation to the auxiliary probe placed in the zone of reference
potential.
Earthing Measurements for Power Line Towers
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Measurements of tower earthings using this method are possible only when the meter is equipped with
current clamps with a very large diameter to cover a single leg of transmission line tower. In order to determine
the tower earthing resistance, four separate partial measurements should be made, one for each leg of the
tower. The nal result is determined by calculation as a parallel connection of the measured partial resistances.
Electricity generated in the meter enters the tower structure at the point of galvanic connection (P). From
there, the current spreads in all directions through conductive structure of the tower. Part of the current ows
upward as IS and ows to the other towers in the system through lightning protection wire. The rest of the cur-
rent ows into the tested earthing and then to the ground through the four legs of the tower. Hence, the current
owing into the ground is the sum of currents from I1 to I4 in individual legs of the tower. Voltage U designated
in relation to the zone of reference potential should have the same value for the measurements of each leg of
the tower. Therefore, the differences in the results of those measurements can be caused only by the differ-
ences in currents discharged to the ground by each leg of the tower. So, it can be stated that the total earthing
resistance of the tower is a result of the parallel connection of partial resistances obtained for each leg:

1
1 1 1 1
R (1)
R1 R2 R3 R4

However, it should be noted that the above dependence is correct only if all the partial measurements
have the same point P connecting the meter to the tower [10].

Is

P
CP MR
I4

I1
Pv Pi Fig. 3. Determination of static resistance of a
high voltage transmission tower using current
clamps, where: MR resistance meter, CP
I3 I2 current clamps, P galvanic connection
point, PV, P auxilliary voltage and current
probes

3. IMPULSE METHOD

3.1. Measuring principle


This method allows measuring the earthing of transmission line towers using a suitable measuring instru-
ment without disconnecting the earthing from the tower construction. In most cases, the span length in lines
exceeds 150 m, and the wave impedance Zfp in the conductor ground system is equal to about 500 [9]. Dur-
ing the measurements the tested earthing with impedance Zx is bypassed with wave impedances Zfp of lightning
conductors running to the two adjacent towers and wave impedances Zfs of the towers, as shown in g. 4. The
impedance value for earthing of each tower is marked as Zu and Zx.
Stanisaw Wojtas / Gdask University of Technology
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Zfp Zfp
Zfp Zfp

Zfs Zfs Zfs

Zfs Zfs 1

Zfs Zu Zu
Zx

control terminals 2

Zu
Zx
Zu
ring earth
foundations

Fig. 4. Pole earthing with adjacent poles and selected values of wave impedances for each element of the system

In such a system the impedance value at the terminal of measured earthing Z can be calculated according
to the following formula:

[ Z fs 0,5 x( Z fp Z fs Z u ]xZ x
Zm (2)
Z x 0,5 x( Z fp Z fs Z u )

Fig. 5. shows the effect of bypassing the adjacent towers during the earthing measurement Zx as a func-
tion of this earthing. The relative error of the measured value Zm as a result of bypassing is determined based
on the formula (2) as (Zx Zm)/Zx. Calculations were made using the following assumed values of impedances:
Zfp = 500 , Zfs = 100 [9] and Zu = 10 . The presented chart shows that for the most frequently used value
Zx, that does not exceed 20 , the relevant error made during the impulse measurement when the earthings of
adjacent towers are connected is maintained at 5%.
The presented procedure for measuring earthing of power lines with lightning conductors without dis-
connecting the earthing wires from the tower structure allows this type of inspection and measurement work
without turning off the line. In addition, impulse measurements without disconnection of control terminals
are affected by the tower foundation, which also participates in the discharge of actual lightning currents, and
whose resistance is often comparable to the resistance of an additional articial earth electrode; therefore, it
should not be overlooked in assessing the earthing effectiveness.


Error[%]




Zx []

Fig. 5. Measurement relative error as a function of the measured value Zx based on the expression (2)
Earthing Measurements for Power Line Towers
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3.2. Comparison of high-frequency and impulse meters


Basic recommendations for the measurement of earthing in towers are contained in Annex N to the stand-
ard PN-E 05115: 2001, designated as information annex [3]. According to the above standard Various methods
can be used for measuring earthing resistance and impedance. Selection of the right method depends on the
size of earthing system and level of disturbance. It is recommended to measure earthing resistance with an
earthing tester with a frequency of measuring voltage not exceeding 150 Hz using a current and voltage probe.
In the case of connection to the system of lightning conductors of the power line, all earthings of the line towers
have an inuence on the obtained result. For such large systems the discussed standard allows any measuring
method that is useful under the circumstances. The given examples use a high-frequency earthing tester to
avoid turning off the line and disconnecting earthings from tower structures. Test frequency should be high, so
that impedance of lightning conductors to adjacent towers is high enough to avoid this route of the measured
current ow. In this case, a meter that generates impulses with a proper front time can be used instead of a
high-frequency meter. Fig. 6 shows the results of comparative measurements of the impedance of horizontal
earthing with a length of 70 m, made using the impulse and high frequency methods. Impulses with a front time
of 4 s were used in the measurements. The results obtained using both methods are comparable and show an
increase in earthing impedance in relation to the resistance obtained using the static method [6].
In Poland the resistance of line tower earthing is commonly measured using the impulse method, with-
out disconnecting the control terminals [8, 11]. Amplitude of the measuring current impulse is about 1 A. In
the case of high frequency testers, the measuring current is at the level of miliampers, which can make such
measurements unresistant to interference from stray currents and currents induced by electromagnetic elds
of the lines.

80
70
60
50
Z [ ]


40

30
20
4
s
10 Fig. 6. The measurement results for horizontal earth
electrode impedance with a length of 70 m as a function
0 41k of frequency, made using a high frequency tester; the
100 1 k 10 k 100 k 1000 k measuring point obtained using the impulse method for
f [Hz] a front time of 4 s [8] is marked on the curve

The results of measuring a 400 kV line tower obtained using both methods conrm the above problem.
The tower was placed in the ground of low resistivity and the value of 2.5 obtained using the impulse method
is justied. The curve Z = f (f) obtained using a high frequency tester presented in g. 7 shows a clear inuence
of external interferences (eld, earthing currents), which overstate the impedance results. Values similar to the
impulse results were obtained for very low frequencies about 150 Hz. Such a frequency range is to be carried
out using the static method and then the earthing resistance refers to the parallel connection of all towers, so
it should reach the value of 1. No inuence of adjacent earthing should be present for a frequency of several
kilohertz the meter shows the earthing impedance value of 20 for such a frequency range, which is denitely
too high a result. The observed differences were caused by external interferences their source in the working
high voltage line. Due to a signicantly higher test current amplitude, the impulse meters are much more resist-
ant to such interferences.
Stanisaw Wojtas / Gdask University of Technology
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Fig. 7. The results of impedance measu-
rements for earthing of a 400 kV line

tower as a function of frequency; the
dotted line indicates the value of 2.5
obtained using the impulse method with
an impulse ftront time of 4 s

4. TEST RESULTS
The subject of the tests was the inuence of the impulse front time and span length on the obtained values
of the impedance of earthing for power transmission line towers equipped with lightning conductors. The tests
were carried out using both computer simulations and measurements on real towers earthings.

4.1. Computer simulations


Calculations based on computer simulations were made using Matlab software with the Simulink pack-
age. The tower earth electrode consists of parallel articial earthing ring and foundation earth electrode. The
earthing ring is modelled using the elements R, L and C, which were determined according to the methodology
developed by R. Verm [12]. The foundation is modelled by the resistance Rf calculated based on the dimensions
of the foundation footing. The whole replacement model of earth electrode is presented in g. 8.

Fig. 8. Replacement model of earthing ring (R, L, C) with foundations (Rf )

The parameters of a square earthing ring with a side of 12 m and foundation of 0.9 m3 were designated for
the assumed ground resistivity 200 m. The impedance of such a modelled earth electrode was determined at
the impulse current with an amplitude of 1 A and front times equal to 0.5; 1.0; 4.0 and 8.0 s and at alternating
current with network frequency. The simulation results are shown in g. 9. With the increase of front time, the
impedance value of earthing decreases, but at the time of 4 s its value reaches the state close to the xed state
obtained for network frequency, which is primarily due to the presence of resistive elements.
Earthing Measurements for Power Line Towers
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In the next stage of calculations in Matlab, the analysed tower earthing was bypassed by two correspond-
ing earthings, connected by a lightning conductor with the conguration shown in g. 4. Wave impedance in
the lightning conductor earth system was modelled as a long line using xed parameters. The assumed span
length was equal to 200, 300 and 400 m. Wave impedance of towers was omitted, since the used impulse front
lengths cause multiple wave reections at the ends of towers, which reduces their inuence on the resultant
waveforms in the analysed connection system. The simulation measurement results for impulse impedance be-
tween terminals 1 and 2 in g. 4 as a function of the impulse front time for the assumed span lengths are shown
in g. 10. The curve marked with a description without lightning conductors corresponds to the results shown
in g. 10 and shows how the impedance of the modelled earthing decreases with the increasing front time of the
measuring impulse. Subsequent curves show the inuence of parallel connection of earthings of adjacent towers
on the obtained results, and their deviation from the initial curve (without lightning conductors) is a measure
of error made when measuring without isolating the lightning conductors on top of the tower. Errors caused by
bypassing earthings increase with the decrease in span length and increase in front of the measuring impulse,
as can be seen in g. 10.

.
.
. . .

Fig. 9. Results of simulation calculations for the


impedance of tower earthing at the impulse current
with an amplitude of 1 A, given front times and the
static frequency of 50 Hz

The current Polish practice for measuring power line pole earthings uses impulse front times of 1 and 4
s as the values provided in the standard PN 04060:1992 [4]. In the case of impulses with the front time of 1
s the decrease of the measuring impedance value for earthing caused by the bypassed inuence of adjacent
earthings is at the lowest level and does not exceed 2-3%. However, it should be noted that the same value of
impulse impedance at such a short time of front signicantly exceeds the earthing resistance measured in static
conditions, which usually is a reference point in assessing earthings. The impulse coefcient for the tower earth-
ing is dened as the ratio of the impulse impedance to the static resistance; in the case of impulse with a front
time of 1 s it can achieve high values, usually in the range of 1.2-2.5. Higher values refer to earthings in towers
located in grounds of high resistivity where it is necessary to use extended articial earth electrodes [7, 10]. In
such cases, the impedance of tower earthing measured with the impulse with a front time of 1 s can too often
exceed the normative values reported for static conditions.
Stanisaw Wojtas / Gdask University of Technology
72 impulse resistance []

without lightning conductors


400 metres
300 metres Fig. 10. Inuence of the cur-
200 metres rent front time of measuring
impulse on the impedance of
the tower bypassed with ear-
things of two adjacent towers
and lightning conductors of
impulse front time [s] various span lengths.

Measurements of tower earthings using impulses of front time equal to 4 s may include errors at short
spans due to bypassing with adjacent earthings. This error does not exceed 10%, even in extreme cases. Impulse
coefcient of tower earthings measured at impulse of 4 s is not very high and usually does not exceed the value
of 1.5. Compared to the static resistance, the higher value of measured impedance is partially offset by an error
introduced by the bypassing with adjacent earthings, so the results obtained in impulse measurements without
isolating earthings from the lightning conductors may be related to the requirements for earthing static resist-
ance with a good approximation.

4.2. Measurements of the actual line tower earthing


The simulation calculations for the bypassing inuence of the adjacent towers on the measurement results
described in the previous section were veried with tests conducted on the actual power line. The tests were
conducted on seven towers belonging to two lines with a voltage of 110 k V, and the test program included the
measurement of impulse impedance with the impulse front times of 1 and 4 s and static resistance. Measure-
ments were made with closed control terminals connecting the articial earth electrode to the tower structure
in two connection congurations: with no lightning conductors and with conductors mounted at the top of the
tested tower. Average values of the obtained impedances and resistances are shown in g.11. Errors resulting
from bypassing the measured earthings with the earthings of adjacent towers are shown in the bottom part of
the gure. The biggest error, exceeding 40%, was observed in static measurements; this conrms that the static
method can not be used to measure the tower earthing without disconnecting the control terminals or isolating
the lightning conductors from the tower structure. Much smaller errors occurred during measurements using
the impulse method: at impulse front time of 1 s the average error was 3.5%, and 4.3% at the front time of 4 s.
Lowering of the obtained earthing values due to bypassing with earthings of adjacent towers does not exceed
the error values obtained from computer simulations and shown in g. 5 and 10.

. .
without lightning conductor

with lightning conductor

. .
.
.

Fig. 11. Inuence of lightning conductors on the


impedance of actual earthings measured at given
static impulse front times and on their static resistance
.
Earthing Measurements for Power Line Towers
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5. CONCLUSIONS

The discharge of the line tower current to the ground is done by an articial earth electrode and the foun-
dations of that tower. Therefore, assessment of earthing resistance for the power line tower should be made
when both earthing elements are parallel. Measurement using low frequency meters with disconnection of
control terminals from the tower structure does not meet the aforementioned condition. Moreover, it requires
that the line is turned-off during measurement. Although there are methods of measurement at low frequency
using current clamp meters, which allow testing the complete tower earthing without disconnecting the control
terminals, they are quite cumbersome as they require analysis of the current owing into the ground through
each of the four legs of the tower and due to the relatively low accuracy of such measurements.
The use of fast-changing waveforms (impulse or high frequency meters) allows the measurement of
earthing without disconnecting the control terminals from the tower structure, because the earthings of adja-
cent towers are connected in parallel to the tested earthing through lightning conductors, whose impedance
increases to the value of wave impedance in the conductor ground system in the case of fast-changing wave-
forms. In practice, impulse meters are used for the earthing measurements in the case of high-voltage line
towers, due to a very high susceptibility to interference of the meters operating at high frequency. Measuring
current of high-frequency meters is at the level of milliamperes and their work is interfered by voltages induced
in the measuring circuits by electromagnetic eld under the line, as well as by stray currents. Impulse meters
operate at currents at the ampere level, which makes them much more resistant to this type of interference.
Parallel connection of earthings in individual line towers slightly lowers the impedance value measured
using the impulse method. The difference between the actual and measured value of the earthing impedance
increases with increasing impulse front time, and decreases with increasing length of the line spans. The pro-
posed 4 s impulse front time is a compromise between the required accuracy of measurement and the ob-
tained impedance values referred to the earthing resistance specied in standardization rules. Even under the
most adverse conditions, the theoretical error made in applying the proposed impulse method of measurement
does not exceed 10%, which is acceptable in earthing tests.
The calculations and computer simulations were conrmed by the results of measurements carried out
on the actual earthings of 110 kV towers. These tests show that the error caused by the bypassing inuence of
earthings of other towers under real conditions is smaller than the one resulting from theoretical calculations
and does not exceed 5%.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. PN-EN 62305-1:2008 Protection against lightning, Part 1, General principles.
2. BS EN 62305-3:2009 Protection against lightning, Part 3, Physical damage to structures and life hazard.
3. PN-E 05115:2002 Power installations exceeding 1 kV a.c.
4. PN-E 04060:1992 High voltage test technique. General principles and test requirements.
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Lightning Protection ICLP2008, 23rd26th June 2008, Uppsala 2008.
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on Power Apparatus and Systems, vol. PAS-100, no. 3, 1981.