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INSULATION COORDINATION
Suresh K. Damodaran Senior Lecturer EEE GEC, Thrissur

A typical power system consists of various equipments like transformers, circuit breakers, bus supporters etc. have different breakdown voltages and hence the volt time characteristics. In order to protect all these equipments, it is required to coordinate the insulation of various protective devices. The problem of coordinating the insulation of the protective equipment involves not only guarding the equipment insulation but also it is desired that the protecting equipment should not be damaged. Definition: The selection of suitable values for the insulation levels of the various equipments in any electrical system and its correlation to the insulation of the protective devices used for protection of these equipments against over voltages. A proper coordination of insulation ensures that:

the insulation provided shall withstand all normal working stresses and majority of abnormal ones the breakdown shall occur only due to external flash over the efficient discharge of over voltages due to internal and external causes the position at which breakdown occurs shall cause comparatively less damage determination of line insulation selection of Basic Impulse Insulation Level (BIL) and insulation level of other equipments selection of Lightning Arresters

The insulation problem in a power system involves:


The basic concept of insulation coordination can be explained using an volt-time curve Volt- time Curve: The breakdown voltage for a particular insulation or flash over voltage for a particular gap is a function of both the magnitude of voltage and the time of application of the voltage. The volt- time curve shows the relation between the crest flash over voltages and the time to flash over for a series of impulse applications of a given wave shape. To obtain the volt- time curve of a particular insulation, waves of same shape but of different peak values are applied to the insulation. Then there are three possibilities for the occurrence of flash over.

1. flash over occurs on the front of the wave 2. flash over occurs just at the peak value of the wave 3. flash over occurs on the tail side of the wave. In this case to find the point on the V-T curve, draw a horizontal line from the peak value of this curve and draw a vertical line passing through the point where the flash over takes place.

The over voltages in the system are caused due to system faults, switching operations or lightning surges. For lower voltages, normally up to about 345kV, over voltages caused by system faults or switching operations do not cause damage to equipment insulation. Over voltage due to lightning are of sufficient magnitude to affect the equipment insulation. For voltages above 345kV, the switching surges are more dangerous for the equipments than the lightning surges.

Figure shows the desired positions of volt time curves of the protecting device and the equipment to be protected. Thus any insulation having a withstand voltage strength in excess of the insulation strength of curve B is protected by the protective device of curve A. Proper insulation coordination would ensure that volt time curve of the equipment will lie above the volt time curves of the protective device, such as lightning arrester. Basic Impulse Insulation Level (BIL): In co- relating insulation and protective devices, it is more usual to use withstand strength of the insulation ie, the crest voltage of the standard wave that will not cause flash over of the insulation. This is referred to as Basic Impulse Insulation Level (BIL). Basic Impulse Insulation Level (BIL) are reference levels expressed in impulse crest voltage with a standard wave not longer than 1.2/50 sec wave. The apparatus insulation as demonstrated by suitable insulation shall be equal to or greater than the basic insulation level.

Basic Impulse Insulation Level of Substation equipment: For each system voltage, basic impulse insulation has been fixed by most of the national and international standards. The BIL values for various system voltages as per Indian Standards are given below. Normal System Voltage kV 22 32 44 66 88 Reference Class kV 23 34.5 46 69 92 Standard Basic Impulse Insulation Level kV 150 200 250 350 450 Reduced Insulation Level

110 132 154 220 273 330

115 138 161 230 287 345

550 650 750 1050 1300 1550

450 550 650 900 1050 1300

The problem of insulation coordination can be explained in three steps: 1. Selection of suitable insulation which is a function of reference class voltage(ie, 1.05 x operating voltage of the system) 2. The design of the various equipments such that the breakdown or flash over strength of all insulation in the station equals or exceeds the selected level 3. Selection of protective devices that will give the apparatus as good protection which can be justified economically This procedure requires that the apparatus to be protected shall have a withstand test value not less than the kV magnitude given in third column, irrespective of the polarity of the wave and type of grounding of the system. The reduced insulation is used for selecting the insulation levels of solidly grounded systems and for system operating above 345kV where switching surges are more important than lightning surges. In this case the ratio of switching voltage to operating voltage is reduced by using the switching resistance between CB contacts. The relative position volt- time curves of various equipments in a substation for proper coordination is shown below.

Selection of BIL of transformer: Assume a large capacity transformer with solidly grounded neutral and is operating on 138 kV systems. The grounding is such that during ground fault 74% of the L-L voltage appears across healthy phases. Allowing 5% over voltage, the voltage across arrester = 1.05 x 0.74 x 138 = 107.2 kV. The nearest standard rating is 109 kV. The characteristics of such LA is shown below

From the figure the breakdown value of the arrester is 400 kV. Assume a 15% margin and 35 kV between insulation levels of LA and transformer. The insulation level of transformer will be at least equal to 400 + 0.15 x 400 + 35 = 495 kV. From the graph the reduced level of transformer insulation is 550 kV. Therefore the LA of 109 kV can be applied. Conclusion: The conventional method of insulation coordination requires the evaluation of the highest over voltage that may subjected during the operation of an equipment and selection of a standard impulse voltage with suitable safety margin. However it is realized that, it is uneconomical to design a plant with high degree of insulation and maintain it for infrequent occurrence of over voltages. Moreover a 100% protection is practically impossible. Therefore it is equally important to consider the economic viability of the design in terms of equipment cost and service continuity. In modern practice, probabilistic concepts and statistical procedures are used, especially for HV installations.