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System Grounding


The objective of a grounding system are:


To provide safety to personnel during normal and fault

conditions by limiting step and touch potential.
To assure correct operation of electrical/electronic devices.
To prevent damage to electrical/electronic apparatus.
To dissipate lightning strokes.
To stabilize voltage during transient conditions and to
minimize the probability of flashover during transients.
To divert stray RF energy from sensitive audio, video,
control, and computer equipment.


A safe grounding design has two objectives:



To provide means to carry electric currents into the earth

under normal and fault conditions without exceeding any
operating and equipment limits or adversely affecting
continuity of service.
To assure that a person in the vicinity of grounded facilities
is not exposed to the danger of critical electric shock.

The PRIMARY goal of the grounding system throughout any

facilities is SAFETY.
Why ground at all?


What are the three main types of grounding?




Types of Faults

Phase Faults (limited only by positive sequence

impedance of system)

High Fault Currents.

Only limited by inherent impedance of Power System.

Earth Faults

Solid Earthing means high earth fault currents

Only limited by inherent zero sequence impedance of
Power system.

Heavy currents damage equipment extensively.
Danger of fire hazard.
This leads to long outage times.
Lost production and lost revenue.
Heavy currents in earth bonding gives rise to high touch

potentials - dangerous to human life.

Large Fault currents are more hazardous in igniting gases.
Explosion Hazard.

Phase Segregation (separating phases far apart)
Eliminates phase-to-phase faults.

Resistance Earthing
Means lower earth fault currents
Value can be chosen during design stage to limit current
to desired value - say 400Amps

Benefits (1)
Fault damage now minimal

fire hazard (especially in mines)

Lower outage times

Less lost production, less lost revenue.

Touch potentials kept within safe limits.

Protects human life.

Benefits (2)
Low Fault Currents reduce possibility of igniting
Minimizes explosion hazard.

Lower Magnetic or thermal stresses imposed on

plant during fault.
Transient overvoltages limited
Prevents stressing of insulation, breaker restrikes.

Neutral Grounding
Power System Grounding

System grounding means the connection of ground to the

neutral points of current carrying conductors such as the
neutral point of a circuit, a transformer, rotating machinery,
or a system, either solidly or with a current limiting device.

Ungrounded system.
Solid grounding
Impedance grounding (R and X)
Resonant grounding


Earthing Methods 1

Ungrounded System
Neutral connection on Generator/ Transformer is not

connected to earth at all


Ungrounded Systems

An ungrounded system is one in which there is no intentional connection

between the conductors and earth ground.
The ungrounded system is, in reality, a capacitive grounded neural
system by virtue of the distributed capacitance. The capacitance being the
conductor capacitance to ground.
The ungrounded neutral system is a capacitive grounded neutral system,
In normal operation the capacitive current of all three lines is leading the
respective line to neutral voltage by 90o , and the vector sum of all three
currents is zero.
Early Electrical systems are almost universally operated ungrounded. On
small systems an insulation failure on one phase did not cause an outage.


Ungrounded Systems


Ungrounded Systems

In addition to the cost of equipment damage, ungrounded systems present fault

locating problems.
This involves a tedious process of trial and error; first isolating the correct
feeder, then the branch, and finally the equipment at fault.
The result is unnecessarily lengthy and expensive downtime.
Despite the drawbacks of an ungrounded system, it does have one main
The circuit may continue in operation after the first ground fault, assuming it
remains as a single fault.
This permits continued production, until a convenient shutdown can be
scheduled for maintenance.
The interaction between the faulted system and its distributed capacitance may
cause transient over-voltages (several times normal) to appear from line to
ground during normal switching of a circuit having a line to ground fault (short).
These over-voltages may cause insulation failures at points other than the
original fault.

Grounded Systems

All power systems of today operate with grounded neutrals. It is important

1. The earth fault protection is based on the method of neutral
2. The system voltage during earth fault depends on neutral grounding.
3. Neutral grounding has its associated switchgear.
4. Neutral grounding gives protection against arcing ground, unbalanced
voltage with respect to earth, and protection from lightning.
The intentional connection of the neutral points of transformers, generators
and rotating machinery to the earth ground network provides a reference
point of zero volts.


Grounded Systems

This protective measure offers many advantages over an

ungrounded system, including:
Reduced magnitude of transient overvoltages
Simplified ground fault location
Improved system and equipment fault protection
Reduced maintenance time and expense
Greater safety for personnel
Improved lightning protection
Reduction in frequency of faults.


Earthing Methods 2
Solid earthing
Neutral connection on Generator /

Transformer is connected to earth by

a solid Conductor
Cost Reductions due to avoidance of
sensitive relays and earthing device,
Grading of insulation towards neutral
But Circulation of third harmonic
currents between neutrals


Solidly Grounded Systems

A solidly grounded system is one in which the neutral points have been

intentionally connected to ground with a conductor having no intentional

It is a simple and effective method of grounding and inexpensive.
The neutrals of any star connected transformers, generators are connected to
It minimizes the magnitude of the overvoltage that will appear on the
unfaulted phases during a ground fault, resulting in a reduction in the stress on
This partially reduces the problem of transient overvoltages found on the
ungrounded system, provided the ground fault current is in the range of 25 to
100% of the system three phase fault current.
While solidly grounded systems are an improvement over ungrounded
systems, and speed the location of faults, they lack the current limiting ability
of resistance grounding.


Earthing Methods 3
Resistance earthing
Neutral connection on

Generator / Transformer is
connected to earth (0V) through
a fixed resistance to limit the
earth fault current
Mainly used below 33 KV
Full line to line insulation
required towards neutral


Resistive Grounded Systems

Resistance grounding is by far the most effective and preferred method.
It solves the problem of transient overvoltages, thereby reducing

equipment damage.
It accomplishes this by allowing the magnitude of the fault current to
be predetermined by a simple ohms law calculation
Thus the fault current can be limited, in order to prevent equipment
I =V/R
I = Limit of Fault Current.
V = Line-to-neutral Voltage of System
R = Ohmic Value of Neutral grounding Resistor
Limiting fault currents to predetermined maximum values permits the
designer to selectively co-ordinate the operation of protective devices,
which minimizes system disruption and allows for quick location of the

Resistive Grounded Systems

There are two broad categories of resistance grounding:

low resistance
high resistance.
In both types of grounding, the resistor is connected between the
neutral of the transformer secondary and the earth ground.

Low Resistance Grounding

Low resistance grounding of the neutral limits the ground fault current
to a high level (typically 50 amps or more) in order to operate
protective fault clearing relays and current transformers.
These devices are then able to quickly clear the fault, usually within a
few seconds.
Low resistance grounding resistors are commonly found on medium
and high voltage systems.


Resistive Grounded Systems

High Resistance Grounding
High resistance grounding of the neutral limits the ground fault current
to a very low level (typically under 25 amps).
It is used on low voltage systems of 600 volts or less, under 3000
By limiting the ground fault current, the fault can be tolerated on the
system until it can be located, and then isolated or removed at a
convenient time.
High resistance neutral grounding can be added to existing ungrounded
systems without the expense of adding fault clearing relays and
This provides an economical method of upgrading older; ungrounded
High resistance neutral grounding combined with sensitive ground
fault relays and isolating devices, can quickly detect and shut down the
faulted circuit.

Earthing Methods 4

Reactance earthing
Neutral connection on

Generator / transformer is
connected to earth (0V) through
a fixed reactance to limit the
earth fault current
Can be cheaper compared to


Earthing Methods 5- Petersen Coil (arc suppression)

Peterson coil is a tunable iron cored

reactor connected between the neutral
and ground.
Neutral connection on transformer is
connected to earth (0V) through a
variable reactance to neutralize the
capacitive earth fault current. Results in
arc extinction.
Elimination of the fault current that
could cause the arcing ground condition.
Normally it does not carry current
During fault: reactive component of
current I = capacitive component of
current I
No current at the fault, preventing
restrikes and eliminates the cause of
voltage buildup


Earthing Methods 6
NEC earthing (with and without resistance)
In HV delta systems no earth

connection is available. A 3 phase

neutral earthing compensator is
connected to allow earth fault
currents to flow - allowing detection
of these faults.
Due to its composition, a zigzag
transformer is more effective for
grounding purposes because it has
less internal winding impedance
going to the ground than when


Earthing Methods 6
When a ground fault occurs downstream of the Zigzag
transformer, ground fault current flows through the fault, back
through ground and the NGR to the Zigzag where the current is
divided equally in each leg of the Zigzag. Since these three
currents are all equal and in time phase with each other (zero
sequence), and because of the special Zigzag winding
connections, they see a very low impedance. This allows the
ground fault current to flow back into the system. It can be seen
that the ground fault current is only limited by the resistance of
the ground fault, the NGR, and the small reactance of the Zigzag.