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2, JUNE 2005

A Generic Real-Time Computer Simulation Model

for Superconducting Fault Current Limiters and Its
Application in System Protection Studies
J. Langston, M. Steurer, S. Woodruff, T. Baldwin, and J. Tang

Abstract—A model for the SCFCL suitable for use in real time simulation is the only economically viable tool. Therefore, this
computer simulation is presented. The model accounts for the paper presents for the first time the application of RT-HIL for
highly nonlinear quench behavior of BSCCO and includes the studying the impact of FCLs on power systems. In particular, a
thermal aspects of the transient phenomena when the SCFCL
is activated. Implemented in the RTDS real-time simulation tool generic model of a resistive type superconducting fault current
the model has been validated against published BSCCO charac- limiter (SCFCL) and its implementation on the commercial real
teristics. As an example for an application in protection system time computer simulation platform RTDS is given. The model
studies, the effect of an SCFCL on a utility type impedance relay has been used successfully to test the impact of a SCFCL on a
has been investigated using a real time hardware-in-the-loop Schweitzer SEL-311B distance protection relay.
(RT-HIL) experiment. The test setup is described and initial
results are presented. They illustrate the effect of how the relay
misinterprets the dynamically changing SCFCL impedance as an
apparently more distant fault location. It is expected that the new II. MODELING OF SUPERCONDUCTING FAULT CURRENT
real-time SCFCL model will provide a valuable tool not only for LIMITER
further protection system studies but for a wide range of RT-HIL
experiments of power systems. In a superconducting fault current limiter the quench behavior
of the superconductor is utilized to insert a high resistance into
Index Terms—Power system protection, real time simulation, su-
the power system in case of high fault currents. The resistance
perconducting fault current limiters (SCFCL).
of the superconductor is a function of current density, temper-
ature, and magnetic field. A shunt resistor is typically required
I. INTRODUCTION in parallel to the superconductor to divert the major portion of
the fault current out of the latter after the quench in order to
F OR A NUMBER of years, fault current limiters (FCLs)
have been discussed and considered for power systems
as means to lower the required breaking capacity for circuit
prevent overheating. Depending upon the design of the SCFCL
the shunt may be either spatially separated or mechanically and
breakers. As pointed out in [1], problems to which FCLs thermally closely coupled to the superconductor. Therefore, the
may provide technically and economically effective solutions SCFCL is modeled as a variable resistor, representing the su-
include power system expansions resulting in fault currents perconducting element, in parallel with a fixed resistance. As
in excess of the ratings of existing equipment. Interconnec- long as the aforementioned parameters are below critical levels,
tion of systems and introduction of distributed (or dispersed) the superconductor will remain in a superconducting state. As
generation are other examples for potential FCL applications these parameters start to reach excessive levels, however, the
in terrestrial utility systems [2]. Furthermore, FCLs may be superconductor begins to quench, raising its resistance. Thus,
introduced into isolated sub-grids such as the future all-electric it is this parallel resistance that is essentially inserted into the
NAVY ship’s integrated power distribution system. Despite the system when the superconductor quenches. The parameters for
large number of publications available on fault current limiters, the model employed here are given in Table I.
the issues associated with the introduction of these novel The E-J characteristic of the superconductor is modeled ac-
devices into power systems, have only been addressed theoreti- cording to [6]. For a given current density, , and temperature,
cally to a limited extent [1]–[5]. In particular, no investigations , the electric field developed by the superconductor, , is cal-
have been reported that include off the shelf utility type protec- culated from the equations given in [6] which account for the
tion equipment. In order to properly test protection apparatus in self induced magnetic field through the values of the parameters
a system environment real-time hardware-in-the-loop (RT-HIL) chosen. For this model, the critical current density and normal
conducting state resistivity are approximated as linear functions
of the temperature
Manuscript received October 5, 2004. This work was sponsored by the U.S.
Office of Naval Research under Grant N0014-02-1-0623.
The authors are with the Center for Advanced Power Systems, Florida State (1)
University, Tallahassee, FL, 32310, USA (e-mail:;;;; tang@ (2)
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TASC.2005.849459

1051-8223/$20.00 © 2005 IEEE


TABLE I nitrogen bath). The superconductor is generically modeled as

SUPERCONDUCTOR MODEL PARAMETERS a wire with rectangular cross section, with heat flow occurring
only perpendicular to current flow. The temperature of the su-
perconductor, , can be calculated using




where is the heat dissipated in the superconducting element,

is the thermal resistance from the superconducting element
to the cooling reservoir, and is the heat capacity of the su-
perconductor (with the assumption that the initial temperature
is ambient temperature). An alternative data entry format al-
lows the cross sectional area for the superconductor, along with
thermal parameters and to be specified directly. A sim-
ilar thermal model is also used for the shunt resistor.
Although the superconducting element could be modeled
more simply by a switch in parallel with the shunt resistor
(which would certainly be more easily implemented for a real
time simulation), the intended use of the model for testing the
effects of current limiters on relays warrants the use of the more
detailed model presented. One aspect of the model which is
particularly important to relay behavior is the quench time for
the superconductor, which is heavily dependent on the design
of the SCFCL and the characteristics of the fault. For relays
which must react quickly, this quench time is paramount in de-
termining the impedance measured by the device and, thus, the
reaction of the relay. A second aspect of the model of particular
importance to protection studies is the slight change in the total
resistance of the device over the duration of the fault as the
shunt material begins to heat up significantly. Although this
process is not likely to occur fast enough to affect an adjacent
relay, this may well have an effect on protection devices further
away from the SCFCL. Such aspects of the model can have a
Fig. 1. Sample E-J characteristics for the superconductor model at tremendous impact on the behavior of the protection system,
temperatures of 77 K, 90 K, and 94.5 K (values of (77 K) = 9, = 3,
J = 2:5e7 A=m , and E = 0:07 V=m,). Also shown is an E-J characteristic
and, thus, require detailed modeling of the current limiters
of the superconductor as it heats up. employed.

The effective resistance of the superconductor for the next III. RELAY TEST SETUP
time step in the real-time simulation can then be calculated as The tests of the relay with the simulated fault current lim-
iter were performed at the Center for Advanced Power Systems
(3) (CAPS) at Florida State University. The CAPS RT-HIL simu-
lation facility makes use of an RTDS digital simulator (which
where is the current through the superconducting branch yields transient solutions for power systems using an EMTP
of the fault current limiter and is the time step size for the type algorithm), currently capable of simulating systems of up
simulation. E-J curves simulated for both constant and variable to 200 electrical nodes with time steps as small as 10 . Initial
temperatures are shown in Fig. 1, which agree with E-J curves tests of the effect of the SCFCL model were carried out using
produced by BSCCO 2212 samples reported in [6] (parameters the test setup shown in Fig. 2, using a 60 time step. The
chosen to match those exhibited by samples reported in [6]). simulated three phase system consists of an ideal three-phase
The thermal model for the superconductor includes the heat source (with source impedance and an R-L load) connected
capacity of the material, as well as a first order approximation through two transmission lines to a generator. Transmission line
of the heat transfer to the surrounding coolant (i.e. the liquid T2 is protected by a Schweitzer SEL-311B impedance relay

Fig. 2. RT-HIL setup with the SCFCL placed between T2 and the PTs (case

SYSTEM PARAMETERS Fig. 3. Fault currents and trip signal from relay for fault at 50% length of T2
with the SCFCL placed between the PTs and T2.

line. Once the superconductor quenches, the shunt resistance

is inserted in series with the source impedance of and
the impedance of transmission line T1, providing the desired
current limitation. Values for the model’s dimensions were
chosen using trial and error, in order to obtain suitable quench
characteristics for the considered faults on the system. Unfor-
tunately, since faults on the protected line only yielded fault
currents three to four times the nominal current, the parameters
had to be chosen to make the SCFCL particularly sensitive,
thus yielding somewhat unrealistic dimensions.

A. Without the SCFCL
Initial tests without the SCFCL model confirmed that the
relay correctly tripped for faults within the protection zone and
connected externally to the simulated system. It is set to protect
rejected trips for faults outside of the protection zone. The sim-
up to 80% of the line using a common mho characteristic. The
ulation yielded typical fault currents of 3 to 3.5 times the normal
phase currents and voltages from the respective current trans-
load current for faults near bus B2.
formers (CTs) and potential transformers (PTs) are sent to the
relay in real time, along with a 120 V signal indicating breaker
B. SCFCL Placed Between the PTs and Transmission Line T2
states. The relay provides trip and reclose signals to the simu-
lated breakers, allowing the relay to fully interact with the sim- The SCFCL reduced the fault current levels near bus B2 to 2
ulation. Single-line-to-ground faults are applied at various loca- to 2.25 times the normal load current. With the SCFCL model
tions along transmission line T2, and the behavior of the relay inserted between T2 and the PTs the relay did not correctly iden-
is studied tify the fault distance of faults within the protection zone. More-
A.) without the SCFCL, over, faults close to bus B3 did not cause a trip at all. The reason
B.) with the SCFCL placed between T2 and the PTs, and is the additional impedance introduced by the SCFCL causing
C.) with the SCFCL placed between B2 and the PTs. the relay to calculate larger apparent line impedances of T2. As
an example, current waveforms during a fault applied at 50% of
The fault current limiter was designed to reduce the symmet-
the line length are shown in Fig. 3. The quench of the supercon-
rical fault current at the SCFCL end of transmission line T2
ducting element in the first quarter cycle after fault inception is
(next to B2) by 50%. The pertinent data for the system is pro-
clearly visible.
vided in Table II. The required value for the shunt resistance in
the SCFCL is obtained from C. SCFCL Placed Between Bus B2 and the PTs
(8) With the SCFCL model placed between bus B2 and the PTs,
the fault current was still reduced as in case B, but the relay ap-
where is the combined positive sequence resistance of propriately tripped for faults within the protection zone because
the source and transmission line T1, and is the combined it correctly measured the line impedance. An example fault is
positive sequence reactance of the source and transmission shown in Fig. 4.

other two phases and developing more sophisticated

thermal models. Furthermore, the model should be
validated through comparisons with measurements
from quench behaviors of actual SCFCL devices.
• Investigate methods to modify relay settings and fault
detection algorithms to prevent false trips such as the
ones observed during this work. While methods for
modifying the mho characteristic are suggested in [3]
and design constraints for the SCFCL are suggested
in [1], other approaches may also be possible. For ex-
ample, in the case of a resistive type SCFCL it is con-
ceivable to take advantage of the fact that transmission
line impedances are dominantly inductive and there-
fore should be easily distinguishable from the addi-
tional SCFCL impedance by more sophisticated relay
algorithms. Alternatively, the specifics of the transient
Fig. 4. Fault currents and trip signal from relay for fault at 50% length of T2
quench behavior may also be taken into account.
with the SCFCL placed between bus B2 and the PTs.
The authors would like to thank M. Sloderbeck of CAPS for
Testing of a distance protection relay using the new real-time
his assistance with the test setup and the RTDS.
SCFCL model confirmed that depending on the location of the
PTs in the system, faults within the protection zone might not
be picked up correctly. From these initial successful tests using REFERENCES
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