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Percentage Impedance (Z%)

The impedance of a transformer is marked on most nameplates - but what is it and what does the Z%
figure mean?
Definition
The percentage impedance of a transformer is the volt drop on full load due to the winding resistance and
leakage reactance expressed as a percentage of the rated voltage.
It is also the percentage of the normal terminal voltage required to circulate full-load current under short
circuit conditions
Measuring Impedance
The impedance is measured by means of a short circuit test. With one winding shorted, a voltage at the
rated frequency is applied to the other winding sufficient to circulate full load current - see below:

The percentage impedance can then be calculated as follows:

Z% = Impedance Voltage x 100


Rated Voltage

Changing the Impedance Value


The most economical arrangement of core and windings leads to a 'natural' value of impedance
determined by the leakage flux. The leakage flux is a function of winding ampere turns and the area and
length of the leakage flux path. These can be varied at the design stage by changing the volts per turn
and the geometric relationship of the windings.
The Effect of Higher and Lower Impedances
The impedance of a transformer has a major effect on system fault levels. It determines the maximum
value of current that will flow under fault conditions.
It is easy to calculate the maximum current that a transformer can deliver under symmetrical fault
conditions. By way of example, consider a 2 MVA transformer with an impedance of 5%. The maximum
fault level available on the secondary side is:
2 MVA x 100/5 = 40 MVA
and from this figure the equivalent primary and secondary fault currents can be calculated.

A transformer with a lower impedance will lead to a higher fault level (and vice versa)
The figure calculated above is a maximum. In practice, the actual fault level will be reduced by the source
impedance, the impedance of cables and overhead lines between the transformer and the fault, and the
fault impedance itself.
As well as fault level considerations, the impedance value also:
determines the volt drop that occurs under load - known as 'regulation'
affects load sharing when two or more transformers operate in parallel
Sequence Impedance (Z1 Z2 Z0)
The calculation above deals with a balanced 3-phase fault. Non-symmetrical faults (phase-earth, phasephase etc) lead to more complex calculations requiring the application symmetrical component theory.
This in turn involves the use of positive, negative and zero sequence impedances (Z 1, Z2 and
Z0 respectively).
As with all passive plant, the positive and negative sequence impedances (Z 1 and Z2) of a transformer are
identical.
However, the zero sequence impedance is dependent upon the path available for the flow of zero
sequence current and the balancing ampere turns available within the transformer. Generally, zero
sequence current requires a delta winding, or a star connection with the star point earthed. Any
impedance in the connection between the star point and earth increases the overall zero sequence
impedance. This has the effect of reducing the zero sequence current and is a feature that is frequently
put to practical use in a distribution network to control the magnitude of current that will flow under earth
fault conditions.