You are on page 1of 4

Numerical Relay: Modern Multifunctional

Protection system
Abhisekh Anand (T17EE001), Electrical Engineering Department, NIT Meghalya
Abstract— Modern numerical relays have many new be controlled by one signal. The relays detect the
features that were not available in electromechanical or abnormal conditions in the electrical circuits by
analog relays. These new features include setting group constantly measuring the electrical quantities which are
setting, programmable logic, and adaptive schemes. different under normal and fault conditions. The
Although these features make numerical relays very electrical quantities which may change under fault
powerful, they also create a need for reviewing
conditions are voltage, current, frequency and phase
commissioning methods. Although there are several
references regarding commissioning of electromechanical angle. Having detected the fault, the relay operates to
relays. Most methods employed today are based on close the trip circuit of the breaker, this results in the
experience. With the advent of numerical relays, the opening of the breaker and disconnection of the faulty
emphasis has shifted from hard ware to software. Hard circuit.
ware is more or less the same between any two numerical
relays, what distinguishes one numerical relay from the III. BASIC OPERATION OF RELAY
other is the software.
A simple electromagnetic relay, such as the one shown
Keywords-Power system protection, relays, digital in the Fig1, is an adaptation of an electromagnet. It
protection. consists of a coil of wire surrounding a soft iron core, an
iron yoke, which provides a low reluctance path for
I. INTRODUCTION magnetic flux, a moveable iron armature, and a set, of
contacts. The armature is hinged to the yoke and
Numerical relays have revolutionized protection,
mechanically linked to a moving contact or contacts. It is
control, metering and communication in power systems.
held in place by a spring so that when the relay is de-
Functional integration, new methods of communication,
energized there is an air gap in the magnetic circuit. In
reduced physical size, and an enormous amount of
this condition, one of the two sets of contacts in the relay
available information are but a few of the benefits of this
pictured is closed, and the other set is open.
revolution. Having made the initial conceptual
adjustment of relating objects from electromechanical When an electric current is passed through the coil, the
technology such as rotating discs and moving armatures resulting magnetic field attracts the armature and the
to such electronic technology as analog to digital consequent movement of the movable contact or contacts
converters and comparators protection practitioners then either makes or breaks a connection with a fixed contact.
must deal with programming a relay. Initially If the set of contacts was closed when the relay was de-
programming was no more than selecting values for relay energized, then the movement opens the contacts and
settings. Further advancement in digital technology, breaks the connection, and vice versa if the contacts were
however has made possible advanced and sophisticated open. When the current to the coil is switched off, the
programming of logical functions and analog quantities. armature is returned by a force, approximately half as
A good understanding of relay programming is strong as the magnetic force, to its relaxed position.
necessary to take full advantage of the many functions Usually this force is provided by a spring, but gravity is
integrated into numerical relays and use these functions also used commonly in industrial motor starters. Most
in different applications to enhance operation of a power relays are manufactured to operate quickly. In a low
network. Unfortunately many users avoid relay voltage application, this is to reduce noise. In a high
programming, considering it too complex. Because of voltage or high current application, this is to reduce
this perceived complexity, not all users investigate the arcing. If the coil is energized with DC, a diode is
use of relay programming to realize automation and frequently installed across the coil, to dissipate the
control applications. Many cost saving opportunities and energy from the collapsing magnetic field at
simple engineering solutions to automation applications deactivation, which would otherwise generate a voltage
are reliably achieved by using the protection relay spike dangerous to circuit components. Some automotive
programming features. relays already include that diode inside the relay case.
Alternatively a contact protection network consisting of
II. RELAY a capacitor and resistor in series, may absorb the surge.
A protective relay is a device that senses the fault and If the coil is designed to be energized with AC, a small
initiates the operation of the circuit breaker to isolate the copper ring can be crimped to the end of the solenoid.
defective element from the rest of the system. Relays are This "shading ring" creates a small out-of-phase current,
used where it is necessary to control a circuit by a which increases the minimum pull on the armature
separate low-power signal, or where several circuits must during the AC cycle.
By analogy with the functions of the original 6) The relay has an extensive collection of settings,
electromagnetic device, a solid-state relay is made with beyond what can be entered via front panel knobs
a thyristor or other solid-state switching device. To and dials, and these settings are transferred to the
achieve electrical isolation an optocoupler can be used relay via an interface with a PC (personal computer),
which is a light-emitting diode (LED) coupled with a and this same PC interface is used to collect event
photo transistor. reports from the relay.
7) The more modern versions of the digital relay will
contain advanced metering and communication
protocol ports, allowing the relay to become a focal
point in a SCADA system.

Low voltage and low current signals (i.e., at the
secondary of a VT and CT) are brought into a low pass
filter that removes frequency content above about 1/3 of
the sampling frequency (a relay A/D converter needs to
sample faster than 2x per cycle of the highest frequency
that it is to monitor). The AC signal is then sampled by
the relay's analog to digital converter at anywhere from
about 4 to 64 (varies by relay) samples per power system
cycle. In some relays, the entire sampled data is kept for
oscillographic records, but in the relay, only the
Fig. 1. Relay circuit diagram fundamental component is needed for most protection
algorithms, unless a high speed algorithm is used that
uses sub cycle data to monitor for fast changing issues.
IV. NUMERICAL RELAY The sampled data is then passed through a low pass filter
The numerical relay, also called a digital relay by some that numerically removes the frequency content that is
manufacturers and resources, refers to a protective relay above the fundamental frequency of interest (i.e.,
that uses an advanced microprocessor to analyze power nominal system frequency), and uses Fourier transform
system voltages and currents for the purpose of detection algorithms to extract the fundamental frequency
of faults in an electric power system. There are grey areas magnitude and angle. Next the microprocessor passes the
on what constitutes a digital/numeric relay, but most data into a set of protection algorithms, which are a set
engineers will recognize the design as having the of logic equations in part designed by the protection
majority of these attributes: engineer, and in part designed by the relay manufacturer,
that monitor for abnormal conditions that indicate a fault.
1) The relay applies A/D (analog/digital) conversion If a fault condition is detected, output contacts operate to
processes to the incoming voltages and currents. trip the associated circuit breaker.
2) The relay analyses the A/D converter output to
extract, as a minimum, magnitude of the incoming VI. FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENTS OF NUMERICAL
quantity; most commonly using Fourier transform RELAY
concepts (RMS and some form of averaging are used 1) SPEED: The relay system should disconnect the
in basic products). Further, the Fourier transform is faulty section as fast as possible for the following
commonly used to extract the signal's phase angle reasons:
relative to some reference, except in the most basic  Electrical apparatus may be damaged if they are
applications. made to carry the fault current for a long time.
3) The relay is capable of applying advanced logic. It
 A failure on the system leads to a great
is capable of analyzing whether the relay should trip
reduction in the system voltage. As a result the
or restrain from tripping based on current and/or
system may become unstable.
voltage magnitude (and angle in some applications),
 The high speed relay system decreases the
complex parameters set by the user, relay contact
possibility of development of one type of fault
inputs, and in some applications, the timing and
into the other more severe type.
order of event sequences.
2) SENSITIVITY: It is the ability of the relay system
4) The logic is user-configurable at a level well beyond
to operate with low value of actuating quantity.
simply changing front panel switches or moving of
3) RELIABILITY: It is the ability of the relay system
jumpers on a circuit board.
to operate under the predetermined conditions,
5) The relay has some form of advanced event
without reliability the protection would be rendered
recording. The event recording would include some
largely in effective and could even become a
means for the user to see the timing of key logic
decisions, relay I/O (input/output)
4) SELECTIVITY: It is the ability of the protective  If used for multifunction in a single feeder, failure
system to select correctly that part of the system in of relay may cause total protection failure for the
trouble and disconnect the faulty part without equipment.
disturbing the rest of the system.
simple so that it can be easily maintained.
Numerical relays can be designed to include abilities to
Reliability is closely related to simplicity. The
change their settings automatically. Some of the
simpler the protection scheme the greater will be its
functions that can be made adaptive are:
6) ECONOMY: The most important factor in the  Using the most appropriate algorithms during a
choice of a particular protection scheme is the disturbance.
economic aspect. Sometimes it is economically  Changing settings of relays of a disturbance network
unjustified to use an ideal scheme of protection and as the system loads or configuration change.
a compromise method has to be adopted. As a rule,  Changing the settings of second and third zone
the protective gear should not cost more than 5% of disturbance relays as the system operating state
the total cost. changes.
 Compensating for the CT & PT errors.
VII. ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF  Changing the allowable overload of circuits and
equipment as the ambient conditions, especially the
A numerical relay has various advantages, some of temperature change. Changing the circuit auto-
them are: reclosers delays to ensure that the circuit is reclosed
after the arc is extinguished.
 Ability to combine a large number of protective and  Fiber optical communication with substation LAN.
monitoring functions in a single relay unit. In the
 Adaptive relaying scheme.
earlier protection systems, separate relay units were
 Permit historical data storage.
necessary for each main function resulting in more
number of units, more wiring, and lesser reliability.
Measured values are processed digitally by
microprocessor. 1) Control a high-voltage circuit with a low-voltage
 High level of flexibility: the relay meets the most signal, as in some types of modems or audio
complex protective and monitoring requirements. amplifiers.
 Various protective functions can be freely selected 2) Control a high-current circuit with a low-current
and allocated to the various auxiliary relays by signal, as in the starter solenoid of an automobile.
means of software tripping matrix. 3) Detect and isolate faults on transmission and
 The memory of the relay enables the relay to retain distribution lines by opening and closing circuit
the values of variables responsible for tripping, time breakers (protection relays).
taken to operate etc. 4) Isolate the controlling circuit from the controlled
 No need for measuring instruments at the output as circuit when the two are at different potentials, for
data can be seen digitally. example when controlling a mains-powered device
 Comprehensive self-monitoring self-checking from a low-voltage switch. The latter is often
feature. applied to control office lighting as the low voltage
wires are easily installed in partitions, which may be
 Allow GPS (Geographical positioning system) time
often moved as needs change. They may also be
controlled by room occupancy detectors in an effort
 Increased reliability due to self-checking.
to conserve energy.
 Data interface access – increased communication 5) Logic functions, the Boolean AND function is
ability. These relays can communicate with other. realised by connecting normally open relay contacts
 Relays, protected equipments, and control and in series, the OR function by connecting normally
protection devices in the substation. open contacts in parallel. The change-over or Form
 User friendly, yet highly capable. C contacts perform the XOR (exclusive or) function.
 Relay provides fault designations and information. Similar functions for NAND and NOR are
 High speed. accomplished using normally closed contacts. The
 Save quantized data from faults and disturbances. Ladder programming language is often used for
designing relay logic networks.
Apart from these there are some disadvantages of 6) Safety-critical logic, they are widely used in safety-
numerical relays: critical logic, such as the control panels of
 High initial cost. radioactive waste-handling machinery.
 Requires stable power supply.
A typical service life of numerical relays is between
fifteen and twenty years. For comparison electro
mechanical relays had a service life of 20
years.Numerical relays are sophisticated devices with
printed circuit board. In case of hardware faults the relay
has to be replaced because of computer technology. For
errors in software the requirement is to download a
correct or a new version of relay software into the relay
hardware. When feeder protection has to be updated or
modified, it is easier to replace all protection especially
if the different manufacturer employed for protection
modification. Sometimes the numerical protection is
replaced a few years after the first installation. Rapid
changes in computer technology causes a shorter life of
current numerical relays because of requirements for
relay replacements when other protection and control
assets are being replaced. Once when the computer
technology stabilises the real service life of the numerical
relays will be available.

Numerical relays are highly compact devices,
characterised with fast operation, high sensitivity, self-
monitoring, and low maintenance. Online remote data
exchange between numerical relays and remotely located
devices offers remote relay settings applications, data
processing for network operations and maintenance or
remotely analysing recorded fault data. With numerical
protection, because of the numerous and complex
settings to be entered it is important to have procedures,
processes and standards in place to ensure careful
management of the modern numerical relay. It has been
found possible to standardise on the large number of
settings entered, leaving a few site specific settings to be
determined. It is important that the settings are not
entered manually on site, but downloaded into the relay
after careful checking and factory tests. Numerical relays
are environment friendly because of very small amount
of raw material used for their manufacturing easy
dismantling and the good component rate of recovery
and recycling. Only printed circuit boards have to be
separated and processed separately.

[1] S. H. Horowitz, A. G. Phadke, Power system
relaying, Third Edition, John Wiley and Son Ltd,
England, 2008.
[2] J. Lewis Blackburn, “Protective Relaying, Principles
and Applications”, Second Edition, 1998.

[3] Michael W. Young, “Protective Relaying for

Technicians”, First Edition, 1990.