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Ensuring Proper Grounding


Ste p s to Ens ure Effe c tive Sub s tatio n G ro und ing (p ho to b y Pe ak Po we r Eng ine e ring , Inc .)

Continued from previous article: Steps to Ensure Effective Substation Grounding (1) In previous technical article (part 1) was explained f irst f ive steps that will ensure a reliable, safe and troublefree substation grounding system. Here we will explain the last six steps: 1. Size conductors f or anticipated f aults (previous part 1) 2. Use the right connections (previous part 1) 3. Ground rod selection (previous part 1) 4. Soil preparation (previous part 1) 5. Attention to step and touch potentials (previous part 1) 6. Grounding using building f oundations 7. Grounding the substation f ence 8. Special attention to operating points

9. Surge arrestors must be grounded properly 10. Grounding of cable trays 11. Temporary grounding of normally energized parts

6. Grounding Using Building Foundat ions

Concrete f oundations below ground level provide an excellent means of obtaining a low-resistance ground electrode system. Since concrete has a resistivity of about 30 m at 20 C, a rod embedded within a concrete encasement gives a very low electrode resistance compared to most rods buried in the ground directly. Since buildings are usually constructed using steel-reinf orced concrete, it is possible to use the reinf orcement rod as the conductor of the electrode by ensuring that an electrical connection can be established with the main rebar of each f oundation.

The c o nc re te o p e ratio n to Build ing c o ntro l fo und atio n

T he size of the rebar as well as the bonding between the bars of dif f erent concrete members must be done so as to ensure that ground f ault currents can be handled without excessive heating. Such heating may cause weakening and eventual failure of the concrete member itself. Alternatively, copper rods embedded within concrete can also be used. T he use of Ufer grounds ( named after the person who was instrumental in the development of this type of grounding practice) has signif icantly increased in recent years. Uf er grounds utilize the concrete f oundation of a structure plus building steel as a grounding electrode. Even if the anchor bolts are not directly connected to the reinforcing bars (rebar), their close proximity and the conductive nature of concrete will provide an electrical path. T here are a couple of issues to be considered while planning f or grounding using the f oundations as electrodes. A high f ault current (lightning surge or heavy ground fault) can cause moisture in the concrete to evaporate suddenly to steam. T his steam, whose volume is about 1800 times of its original volume when existing as liquid, produces f orces that may crack or otherwise damage the concrete. T he other f actor has to do with ground leakage currents. T he presence of even a small amount of DC current will cause corrosion of the rebar. Because corroded steel swells to about twice its original volume, it can cause extremely large f orces within the concrete. Although AC leakage will not cause corrosion, the earth will rectif y a small percentage of the AC to DC. In situations where the anchor bolts are not bonded to the rebar, concrete can disintegrate in the current path. Damage to concrete can be minimized either by limiting the duration of f ault current f low (by suitable sensitive and f ast acting protective devices) or by providing a metallic path f rom the rebar through the concrete to an external electrode.

T hat external electrode must be sized and connected to protect the concretes integrity. Proper design of Ufer grounds provides f or connections between all steel members in the f oundation and one or more metallic paths to an external ground rod or main ground grid. Excellent joining products are available in the market, which are especially designed f or joining rebars throughout the construction. By proper joining of the rebars, exceptionally good perf ormance can be achieved. An extremely low resistance path to earth f or lightning and earth f ault currents is ensured as the mass of the building keeps the f oundation in good contact with the soil. Go to Grounding Steps

7. Grounding t he Subst at ion Fence

Metallic f ences of substations should be considered just as other substation structures. T he reason f or this is that the overhead HV lines entering or leaving a substation may snap and f all on the f ence. Unless the f ence is integrated with the rest of the substation grounding system, a dangerous situation may develop. Persons or livestock in contact with the f ence may receive dangerous electric shocks. Utilities vary in their f ence-grounding specif ications, with most specif ying that each gate post and corner post, plus every second or third line post, be grounded. All The s e c o nd mo s t c o mmo n s ub s tatio n haz ard is lac k o f g ro und ing (p ho to fro m IAEI Mag az ine ) gates should be bonded to the gate posts using f lexible jumpers. All gate posts should be interconnected. In the gate swing area, an equipotential wire mesh saf ety mat can f urther reduce hazards f rom step and touch potentials when opening or closing the gate. It is recommended that the f ence ground should be tied into the main ground grid, as it will reduce both grid resistance and grid voltage rise. Internal and perimeter gradients must be kept within saf e limits because the f ence is also atf ull potential rise. T his can be accomplished by extending the mesh with a buried perimeter conductor that is about 1 m outside the f ence and bonding the f ence and the conductor together at close intervals (so that a person or grazing animal touching the fence will stand on the equipotential surface so created). Go to Grounding Steps

8. Special At t ent ion t o Operat ing Point s

To protect the operator in case of a f ault, it should be ensured that he is not subjected to high touch or step potentials when a f ault happens in the equipment he is operating. T his calls f or use of a saf ety mesh close to these operating points on which the operator will stand and

T his calls f or use of a saf ety mesh close to these operating points on which the operator will stand and operate the equipment. There are four types of safety mats. 1. A steel grate or plate on supporting insulators. T his works only if the operator can be kept completely isolated on the grate. T heref ore, insulators must be kept clean. Any vegetation in the vicinity should be cut or eliminated completely (this approach is similar to the insulating rubber mats placed in f ront of most indoor electrical equipment). Saf ety is ensured by increasing the resistance of current path, so that the current f lowing through the operators body into the ground does not exceed saf e values. 2. A steel grate on the surface, permanently attached to the grounded structure. T his arrangement has the operator standing directly on the grate. 3. Bare conductor buried (in a coil or zig-zag pattern) under the handle area and bonded to the grounded structure. 4. Prefabricated equipotential wire mesh safety mat buried under the handle area and bonded to the grounded structure. T his is likely to be the least expensive choice. In all but the f irst arrangement, both the switch operating handle and the personnel saf ety grate (or mat) should be exothermically weldedto structural steel, thus ensuring nearly zero voltage drop. Go to Grounding Steps

9. Surge Arrest ors Must be Grounded Properly!

When there is a surge in the electrical system (by indirect lightning strikes or due to switching) surge arrestors placed near all critical equipment divert surge energy to ground and protect the equipment f rom being subjected to the surges. Usually, surges involve a very fast rise time during which the current changes f rom zero to extremely high values of several kiloamperes. It is theref ore necessary that the conducting path f rom the grounding terminal of the surge arrestor to the earth must have minimum impedance. Even a small amount of self -inductance of f ered by a grounding conductor will mean very high impedance because of the steep wavef ront of the surge and very high voltages f rom appearing in the grounding system (albeit brief ly). To dissipate the surge current with minimum voltage drop, each surge arrestor ground lead should have a short direct path to earth and should be f ree of sharp bends (bends act like a coil and increase the inductance). Of ten surge arrestors are mounted directly on the tank of transf ormers, close to the HV terminal bushings. In these cases, the transf ormer tanks and related structures act as the grounding path. It must be ensured that multiple and secure paths to ground are available (this includes making effective connections). Whenever there is any question about the adequacy of these paths, it is recommended to use a separate copper conductor between the arrestor and the ground terminal (or main grounding grid). Since steel structures (due to their multiple members) have lower impedance than a single copper conductor, the grounding conductors should pref erably be interconnected to the structure near the arrestor.

Go to Grounding Steps

10. Grounding of Cable Trays

T he NEC vide Art. 318 specif ies the requirements f or cable trays and their use in reducing the induced voltages during a ground f ault. All metallic tray sections must be bonded together with proper conducting interconnections. T he mechanical splice plates by themselves may not provide an adequate and a reliable ground path f or f ault currents. T heref ore, the bonding jumpers (either the welded type used on steel trays or the lug type) must be placed across each spliced tray joint. If a metallic tray comes with a continuous grounding conductor, the conductor can be bonded inside or outside the tray. When cable tray covers are used, they should be bonded to the tray with a f lexible conductor. T he trays should also be bonded to the building steel (usually at every other column). Go to Grounding Steps

O ve rhe ad c ab le trays and lad d e r rac ks are jump e re d and g ro und e d with AWG #2 b are c o p p e r. The s e c o nd uc to rs , alo ng with the c ab le b us that c o lle c ts g ro und le ad s fro m ind ivid ual c ab ine ts , are c o nne c te d to the ne are s t wallmo unte d c o lle c to r b ar.

11. Temporary Grounding of Normally Energized Part s



Te mp o rary g ro und ing o f no rmally e ne rg iz e d p arts with g ro und ro d and e arth wire c lamp

personnel work on high-voltage electric structures or equipment, any conductive bodies should be grounded as a measure of saf ety. T his is done so that in the event of the circuit becoming live due to inadvertent switching, the saf ety of personnel (in contact with the parts, which would become live) is ensured. The usual grounding method is to attach a flexible insulated copper cable with a ground clamp or lug on each end. T hese f lexible jumpers require periodic inspection and maintenance. For cable connections to clamps, welded terminations (either a welded plain stud or a threaded silicon bronze stud welded to the conductor end) will provide a secure, permanent connection. T he clamp or lug is solidly connected to ground , then the other clamp is attached to the cable being grounded. Go to Grounding Steps Resource: Practical Grounding, Bonding, Shielding and Surge Protection G. Vijayaraghavan; Mark Brown; Malcolm Barnes (Get this book at Amazon)