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Underground Distribution
System Design Guide
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Underground Distribution
System Design Guide
Prepared by

Edward S. Thomas, PE
Utility Electrical Consultants, PC
620 N.West St., Suite 103
Raleigh, NC 27603-5938


Bill Dorsett
Booth & Associates, Inc.
1011 Schaub Drive
Raleigh, NC 27606


Cooperative Research Network

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
4301 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22203-1860
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), founded in 1942, is the national service organization supporting
more than 900 electric cooperatives and public power districts in 47 states. Electric cooperatives own and operate more than
42 percent of the distribution lines in the nation and provide power to 40 million people (12 percent of the population).

© Underground Distribution System Design Guide

Copyright © 2008, by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without prior written approval of the National Rural Electric Cooperative
Association, except that reasonable portions may be reproduced or quoted as part of a review or other story about this

Legal Notice
This work contains findings that are general in nature. Readers are reminded to perform due diligence in applying these
findings to their specific needs, as it is not possible for NRECA to have sufficient understanding of any specific situation
to ensure applicability of the findings in all cases.
Neither the authors nor NRECA assume liability for how readers may use, interpret, or apply the information, analysis,
templates, and guidance herein or with respect to the use of, or damages resulting from the use of, any information,
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on Confidential Information.


Edward S. Thomas, PE Bill Dorsett

Utility Electrical Consultants, PC Booth & Associates, Inc.
620 N.West St., Suite 103 1011 Schaub Drive
Raleigh, NC 27603-5938 Raleigh, NC 27606
Phone: 919.821.1410 Phone: 919.851.8770
Fax: 919.821.2417 Fax: 919.859.5918
Contents – iii

con t e n t s

Section 1 Design of an Underground Distribution System 1

System Components 2
Types of UD Systems 6
Reliability of UD Systems 14
Design Considerations for System Operation and Maintenance 17
Future Upgrades and Replacements 19
Economic Comparison of System Configurations 20
UD Loss Economics 32
Steps for Layout of a UD System 38
Summary and Recommendations 50

Section 2 Cable Selection 51

Typical Cable Configuration 51
Conductor Size Designations 53
Conductor Materials and Configuration 53
Cable Insulation Materials 57
Insulation Fabrication 60
Conductor Shields and Insulation Shields 64
Cable Specification and Purchasing 74
Cable Acceptance 77
Summary and Recommendations 77

Section 3 Underground System Sectionalizing 79

General Sectionalizing Philosophy 79
Overcurrent Protection of Cable System 88
Effect of Inrush Current on Sectionalizing Devices 96
Selection of Underground Sectionalizing Equipment 100
Faulted-Circuit Indicators 105
Summary and Recommendations 118

Section 4 Equipment Loading 121

Primary Cable Ampacity 121
Pad-Mounted Transformer Sizing 144
Summary and Recommendations 163

Section 5 Grounding and Surge Protection 165

Cable Grounding System Function 166
Factors Affecting Cable Grounding System Performance 177
Counterpoise Application for Insulated Jacketed Cable 188
System Ground Resistance Measurement and Calculation 192
Underground System Surge Protection 207
Summary and Recommendations 236
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c o n te n t s

Section 6 Ferroresonance 239

Allowable Overvoltages During Ferroresonance 240
Distribution Transformer Connections 241
Qualitative Description of Ferroresonance 242
Ferroresonance When Switching at the Primary Terminals of Overhead
and Underground Transformer Banks 252
Ferroresonance with Cable-Fed Three-Phase Transformers with Delta
or Ungrounded-Wye Connected Primary Windings 254
Ferroresonance with Cable-Fed Three-Phase Transformers with
Grounded-Wye Primary Winding and Five-Legged Core 260
Ferroresonance with Cable-Fed Three-Phase Transformers with
Grounded-Wye Primary Windings and Triplex Construction 266
Ferroresonance in Underground Feeders Having More Than
One Transformer 270
Summary of Techniques for Preventing Ferroresonance in
Underground Systems 273
Summary and Recommendations 276
References 279

Section 7 Cathodic Protection Requirements 281

Special Note 281
Introduction 281
What to Protect 282
Where to Protect 282
Types of Cathodic Protection Systems 285
Amount of Cathodic Protection 286
Cathodic Protection Design with Galvanic Anodes 287
Cathodic Protection Installation and Follow-Up 294
Calculation of Resistence to Ground 296
Summary and Recommendations 297

Section 8 Direct-Buried System Design 299

Trench Construction Considerations 299
Trench Design Components 300
Trench Layout/Routing Considerations 303
Depth of Burial 304
Joint-Occupancy Trenches 307
Summary and Recommendations 309

Section 9 Conduit System Design 311

Conduit System Design 311
Cable Pulling 332
Summary and Recommendations 341
Contents – v

con t e n t s

Section 10 Joints, Elbows, and Terminations 343

Joints, Elbows, and Terminations for 200-Ampere Primary Circuits 344
Joints, Elbows, and Terminations for 600-Ampere Primary Circuits 353
Joints, and Terminations for Secondary Circuits 355
Summary and Recommendations 357

Section 11 Cable Testing 359

Reasons for and Benefits of Cable Testing by the User 359
Primary Cable Tests by the User 359
Secondary Cable Tests by the User 369
Tests by the Cable Manufacturer 370
Summary and Recommendations 372

Appendix A Calculations for Reliability Studies 373

Reliability Index 373
Acceptability Criteria 374
Calculation of Reliability 374
Importance of Sectionalizing 375

Appendix B Transformer and Secondary Voltage Drop 377

Voltage Flicker 385

Appendix C Sample Specification UGC2 for 600-Volt

Secondary Underground Power Cable 389
Scope 389
General Specifications 390
Referenced Specifications 390
Conductor 391
Insulation 391
Tests 392
Miscellaneous 393
Markings 393
Multiconductor Cable Assemblies 393

Appendix D Checklist for Information Requirements 395

Project Information Checklist 395
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c o n t e nt s

Appendix E Sample Specification for 15-, 25-, and 35-kV Primary Underground
Medium Voltage Concentric Neutral Cable (Specification UGC1) 397
Purpose 397
General Specifications 397
Referenced Specifications 398
Conductor 399
Conductor Shield (Stress Control Layer) 400
Insulation 400
Insulation Shielding 400
Concentric Neutral Conductor 401
Overall Outer Jacket 401
Dimensional Tolerances 402
Tests 402
Miscellaneous 403

Appendix F Allowable Short Circuit Currents for Solid Dielectric Insulated Cables 405

Appendix G Ampacity Tables 415

Appendix H Industry Specifications 425

Appendix I Component Manufacturers 427

Appendix J Cable-Pulling Examples 431

Abbreviations 435
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1.1 UD System Components 2

1.2 Schematics for Different Types of Switchgear 3
1.3 Flat Pad for Equipment Mounting 5
1.4 Ground Sleeve 5
1.5 Box Pad for Equipment Mounting 5
1.6 Underground Substation Circuit Exit 6
1.7 Radial Main Feeder 7
1.8 Radial Main Feeder with Faulted Cable Section 8
1.9 Open-Loop Feeder 9
1.10 Open-Loop Feeder with Faulted Cable Section 9
1.11 Radial Feeder 10
1.12 Open-Loop Feeder in Shopping Center 11
1.13 Multiple-Loop System 11
1.14 Area Lighting System 12
1.15 Loop-Feed Design of UD System Under Normal Conditions 16
1.16 Loop-Feed Design of UD System with Damaged Cable Section 16
1.17 Open-Loop System, 37-Lot Subdivision 21
1.18 Open-Loop System, Single Residential Consumer 22
1.19 Single-Phase Sub-Feeder 24
1.20 Three-Phase Sub-Feeder 25
1.21 Front Property Placement 28
1.22 Back Property Placement 28
1.23 Methods for Providing Secondary Service 31
1.24 Road Crossing to Feed Secondary Pedestal 40
1.25 Service and Transformer Layout for 75-Lot Subdivision 40
1.26 Primary Cable Layout for 75-Lot Subdivision 42
1.27 Minimum Required Working Space 43
1.28 Sample Easement 47
1.29 Staking Sheet for Service to a Commercial Consumer 49

2.1 Jacketed Concentric Neutral Cable 52

2.2 Bare Concentric Neutral Cable 52
2.3 Medium-Voltage Power Cable with Tape Shield and L.C. Shield 52
2.4 Concentric Lay Strand Options 56
2.5 Standard Strand Arrangements for Multilayer Conductors 56
2.6 Comparative Hot Creep vs. Temperatures for Cable Insulation Materials 60
2.7 General Layout of a Cable Extrusion Line 62
2.8 Typical Extrusion Methods 63
2.9 Capacitive and Dielectric Loss Current Flow in Insulation Shield 66
2.10 Cable Identification Markings 73
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3.1 Symmetrical Current 82

3.2 Asymmetrical Short-Circuit Current 82
3.3 Sample Distribution Circuit with Typical Locations of Sectionalizing
Devices Show 86
3.4 Cross Section of Cable Showing Components Subject to
Through-Fault Damage 88
3.5 Example of 70-Ampere, Type “L” Recloser Curves for Cable Protection 90
3.6 Current Limiting Fuses for Padmounted Switching Cabinets 104
3.7 Inrush Current Resulting from Operation of Three-Phase Recloser 107
3.8 Inrush Current Resulting from Operation of Single-Phase Recloser 107
3.9 Trip Response for Peak-Current-Sensitive Units 108
3.10 Trip Response for 450A and 800A FCIs 109
3.11 Trip-Set Characteristics for Adaptive-Trip FCI 110
3.12 FCI Placement on Overhead Feeder with Underground Segment 111
3.13 FCI Placement on Three-Phase Underground Feeder 111
3.14 FCI Placement for Single-Phase Open Loop 112
3.15 FCI Placement for Underground Subdivision with Three-Phase Source 112
3.16 Current-Reset FCI 113
3.17 Low-Voltage-Reset FCI 114
3.18 High-Voltage-Reset FCI 114
3.19 Time-Reset FCI 115
3.20 Correct Placement of FCI Sensor 116
3.21 Incorrect Placement of FCI Sensor 116
3.22 Reset FCI 117

4.1 Ratio of Shield Loss to Conductor DC Loss at 90°C as a Function

of Shield Resistance, 1/C 35-kV Aluminum Power Cables in
Triplexed Formation 124
4.2 Relationship Between Load Factor and Loss Factor Per Unit 125
4.3 Thermal Resistivity vs. Moisture Content for Various Soil Types 127
4.4 Thermal Resistivity of Soil at Various Locations 127
4.5 Effect of Depth on Soil Temperatures as Influenced by Seasonal
Temperature Variations 128
4.6 Trefoil or Triangular Cable Configuration 130
4.7 Flat Conductor Configuration, Maintained Spacing 130
4.8 Direct-Buried Duct Bank Installation Using Rigid Nonmetallic Conduit 132
4.9 Single-Phase U-Guard Installation with Vented Base 136
4.10 Three-Phase Cable Installation Configurations 138, 423
4.11 Typical Dead-Front, Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer 145
4.12 Actual Load Cycle and Equivalent Load Cycle 147
4.13 Thermal Equivalent Load Cycle 147
4.14 Case Temperature Measurement Location—Pad-Mounted Distribution
Transformer 159
4.15 Relationship Among NEMA Starting Code Letters, Starts per Hour, and
Transformer kVA per Motor HP for Transformer Thermal Considerations 160
4.16 Maximum Motor Starts per Hour for Transformer Mechanical Considerations 162
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5.1 Typical Distribution Transformer Core Form Design and Neutral

Grounding Circuit 169
5.2 Variation of Surge Impedance with Surge Current for Various Values
of 60-Cycle Resistance 171
5.3 Surge Characteristics of Various Ground Rods 171
5.4 Arrester Lead Length for Two Riser Pole Installations 173
5.5 Three-Phase Installation Showing Optimum Riser Pole Arrester
Lead Connections 173
5.6 Typical Primary and Secondary Underground Installation 174
5.7 Schematic Diagram Showing Surge Current Paths After Lightning
Arrester Discharge 175
5.8 Maximum Jacket Voltage (Neutral to Ground) Produced by Lightning
Current Surge in Ground Rod 175
5.9 BCN Cable Riser Pole Installation Surge Arrester Discharge Paths 178
5.10 Ground Rod Being Driven by Hydraulic Tool 180
5.11 Resistance of Vertical Ground Rods as a Function of Length
and Diameter 181
5.12 Resistance of Multiple Ground Rods 182
5.13 Installation of Three Rods for a Riser Pole Ground 183
5.14 Installation of Four Rods for a Riser Pole Ground 183
5.15 Grounding Assembly for Pad-Mounted Single-Phase Transformers 185
5.16 Grounding Grid for Pad-Mounted Equipment Installation 185
5.17 Installation of JCN Connection in Above-Grade Pedestal 186
5.18 Grounding Assembly for JCN Underground Primary Cable 187
5.19 Intermediate Grounding Assembly, Underground Primary Cable 187
5.20 Counterpoise 60-Hz Resistance Variation with Length and Different
Soil Resistivities 188
5.21. Effect of Length on Transient Surge Impedance of Counterpoise 189
5.22 Counterpoise Application to Reduce Jacket Voltage 190
5.23 Earth Resistance 193
5.24 Correct Ground Resistance Test Setup 193
5.25 Incorrect Ground Resistance Test Setup 193
5.26 Clamp-On Ground Resistance Tester 195
5.27 Circuit Diagram for Multigrounded System 195
5.28 Ground Resistance Test Setup for Clamp-On Tester 195
5.29 Setup for Soil Resistivity Test 196
5.30 Effects of Moisture on Soil Resistivity 198
5.31 Effects of Salt Content on Resistivity in Soil Containing
30 Percent Moisture 198
5.32 Coefficient K1 for Ground Resistance Calculations 201
5.33 Grouping of Four Ground Rods with 16-Foot Spacing 203
5.34 Grouping of Four Ground Rods with 5-Foot Spacing 203
5.35 Types of Arresters and Their Construction 208
5.36 Comparison of Nonlinear Characteristics of SiC and MOV Valve Elements 209
5.37 Effect of Fast Rise Times on IR Discharge 210
5.38 Series- and Shunt-Gapped MOV Distribution Arresters 210
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5.39 Dead-Front Arrester Elbow Configuration 211

5.40 Dead-Front Surge Arresters 212
5.41 Temporary 60-Hz Overvoltage Capability Curves—Typical MOV
Distribution Arrester 215
5.42 Typical Test Current Waveshape—Sinusoidal Wavefront 217
5.43 Lightning Rise Time to Peak 218
5.44 Arrester Lead Length Equal to Three Feet 219
5.45 Arrester Lead Length Equal to 1.5 Feet 220
5.46 Zero Arrester Lead Length 221
5.47 Representation of Distributed Parameter Distribution Line 222
5.48 Change in Surge Impedance at a Junction Point—Effect on Traveling
Voltage Wave 223
5.49 Traveling Wave Behavior at Junction Points Terminated with Various
Surge Impedances 224
5.50 Traveling Waves at a Cable Open-End Point Terminated by an
MOV Arrester 225
5.51 Arrester Locations 227
5.52 Cable-End Arresters at Open Point 230
5.53 Arrester Upstream from Open Point (Third Arrester) 231
5.54 Two Elbow Arresters and a Feed-Through 231
5.55 Elbow Arrester and Parking Stand Arrester 232
5.56 Bushing Arrester and Parking Stand Arrester 232
5.57 Elbow Arrester on Feed-Through Insert on Transformer Upstream
from Open Point 232
5.58 Bushing Arrester on Transformer Upstream from Open Point 232
5.59 Lateral Tap Cable-End Arrester (Radial Feed Circuit) 232
5.60 Tap-Point Arrester 232
5.61 Typical Underground Subdivision Loop Feed with Open Point 232

6.1 Transformer Connections for Four-Wire Wye and Four-Wire

Delta Services 242
6.2 Series RLC Circuit with Sinusoidal Excitation 243
6.3 Cable-Fed Three-Phase Transformer Susceptible to Ferroresonance 245
6.4 Conductor Spacings for an Overhead Line on an Eight-Foot Crossarm 247
6.5 Equivalent Capacitance Network for an Overhead Multigrounded
Neutral Line 247
6.6 Cross Section of a Multiwire Concentric Neutral Cable 248
6.7 Floating-Wye/Delta Transformer Bank with Fused Cutouts at
Primary Terminals 253
6.8 Three-Phase Cable-Fed Transformer with a Delta-Connected
Primary Winding 255
6.9 Voltage and Current Waveforms During Ferroresonance with
a 150-kVA Delta Grounded-Wye Bank 255
6.10 Five-Legged Wound-Type Core with Grounded-Wye Primary Windings 260
6.11 Three-Phase Cable-Fed Transformer with a Grounded-Wye Primary
Winding on a Five-Legged Core 262
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6.12 Open-Phase Voltage Waveforms with Five-Legged Core

Grounded-Wye Transformers 262
6.13 Overhead System Supplying a Cable-Fed Grounded-Wye
Transformer on a Five-Legged Core 267
6.14 Triplex-Type Wound Core with Grounded-Wye Primary Windings 269
6.15 Cable-Fed Triplex-Core Transformer with Grounded-Wye
Primary Windings 269
6.16 Circuit with “S” Cable Sections and “N” Five-Legged Core
Grounded-Wye Primary Transformers 270
6.17 Circuit Configuration for Switching Example 6.2 271
6.18 Single-Line Diagram of a Portion of a UD System 274

7.1 Dissimilar Metal Effects Between Buried Metals Connected to the

Neutral of an Electric Distribution Line 282
7.2 Electric System Map Shaded to Show Corrosive Soil Locations 283
7.3 Measurement of Potential to a Copper-Copper Sulfate Half Cell 283
7.4 Dissimilar Metal Effects Between Copper and Steel 284
7.5 Dissimilar Soil Effects on Buried Copper Wires 284
7.6 Measurement of Earth Resistivity with a Four-Terminal Ground Tester 284
7.7 Potentials of a Copper-Steel Couple Before and After Connecting
a Zinc Anode 285
7.8 Equivalent Circuit for a Galvanic Anode Connected to the Electric Neutral 287
7.9 Anode Positioning 295
7.10 Anode Connector 295
7.11 Test Station Connector 295

8.1 Typical Trench Warning Tape 301

8.2 Cable Route Marker 302
8.3 Burial Depth Requirements 305
8.4 Joint Trench Use 308

9.1 Typical Duct Configurations 316

9.2 Typical Duct Line and Manhole Arrangement 319
9.3 Typical Arrangements for System in Figure 9.2 319
9.4 Preferred Location of Duct Lines in Roadways 326
9.5 Typical Manhole Configurations 326

9.6 Rectangular Manhole Construction Details 327

9.7 Rectangular Manhole Installation Details 328
9.8 Octagonal Manhole Construction Details 329
9.9 Octagonal Manhole Installation Details 330
9.10 Cable/Conduit Friction and Pulling Tension 333
9.11 Cable Configurations in Conduit 334
9.12 Sidewall Bearing Pressure 336
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10.1 Voltage Stress Concentration 344

10.2 Voltage Stress Distribution in a Typical Premolded Joint Housing 344
10.3 Premolded Permanent Straight Joint for Primary Cables 345
10.4 Jacket Replacement Assembly (Method C) 346
10.5 Premolded Permanent Wye Joint for Primary Cables 347
10.6 Dead-Break Elbow for Primary Cables 348
10.7 Load-Break Elbow for Primary Cables 348
10.8 Typical 200-Ampere Elbow Accessories 349
10.9 Heat-Shrink Jacket Seal at Elbow 349
10.10 Premolded Indoor Termination (Slip-On Stress Cone) for Primary Cables 351
10.11 Premolded Integral Indoor/Outdoor Termination for Primary Cables 351
10.12 Premolded Modular Indoor/Outdoor Termination with Separate Skirts
for Primary Cables 351
10.13 Porcelain Indoor/Outdoor Terminal for Primary Cables 352
10.14 Cold-Shrink Indoor/Outdoor Termination for Primary Cables 352
10.15 Stick-Operable, Dead-Break Elbows 353
10.16 Dead-Break 600-Ampere Elbow Connector and Accessories for
Primary Cables 354
10.17 Housing Assembly Joint for Secondary Cables 355
10.18 Cold-Shrink Joint for Secondary Cables 355
10.19 Heat-Shrink Joint for Secondary Cables 355
10.20 Sealed Stud Termination for Secondary Cables 356
10.21 Bus and Rubber Cover Termination for Secondary Cables 356
10.22 Housing and Sleeve Assembly Termination for Secondary Cables 356

11.1 Test Setup for the Hot Silicone Oil Test 364
11.2 Typical Test Setup for the Stripping Test of the Insulation Shield 365
11.3 Typical High-Voltage Proof Tester Showing a Sectionalized Discharge
Stick for Grounding the Cable 368

A.1 Components Affecting Outage Rate to the Consumer 374

A.2 Sectionalized UD Area 376

B.1 Distance for Various Conductor Arrangements 381

B.2 Permissible Voltage Flicker Limits 386
Illustr a ti o n s – x i ii

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F.1 Aluminum Conductor/Thermoplastic Insulation (PE/HMWPE)—

Allowable Short Circuit Currents Based on 75°C Initial Conductor
Temperature and 150°C Final Temperature 406
F.2 Copper Conductor/Thermoplastic Insulation (PE/HMWPE)—
Allowable Short Circuit Currents Based on 75°C Initial Conductor
Temperature and 150°C Final Temperature 407
F.3 Aluminum Conductor/Thermoset Insulation (TR-XLPE/EPR)—
Allowable Short Circuit Currents Based on 90°C Initial Conductor
Temperature and 250°C Final Conductor Temperature 408
F.4 Copper Conductor/Thermoset Insulation (TR-XLPE/EPR)—
Allowable Short Circuit Currents for 90°C Rated Insulation
Based on 90°C Initial Conductor Temperature and 250°C Final
Conductor Temperature 409
F.5 Aluminum Conductor/Thermoplastic Insulation (PE/HMWPE)—
Allowable Short Circuit Currents for Conductor to Not Exceed
Insulation Emergency Operating Temperature Rating Based
on 75°C Initial Conductor Temperature and 90°C Final
Conductor Temperature 410
F.6 Copper Conductor/Thermoplastic Insulation (PE/HMWPE)—
Allowable Short Circuit Currents for Conductor to Not Exceed
Insulation Emergency Operating Temperature Rating Based
on 75°C Initial Conductor Temperature and 90°C Final
Conductor Temperature 411
F.7 Aluminum Conductor/Thermoset Insulation (TR-XLPE/EPR)—
Allowable Short Circuit Currents for Conductor to Not Exceed
Insulation Emergency Operating Temperature Rating Based
on 90°C Initial Conductor Temperature and 130°C Final
Conductor Temperature 412
F.8 Copper Conductor/Thermoset Insulation (TR-XLPE/EPR)—
Allowable Short Circuit Currents for Conductor to Not Exceed
Insulation Emergency Operating Temperature Rating Based
on 90°C Initial Conductor Temperature and 130°C Final
Conductor Temperature 413
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1.1 Lamp and Ballast Characteristics—240 Volts 14

1.2 Front Versus Rear Property Line Placement 17
1.3 Additional Materials for an Open-Loop System 20
1.4 Sample Spare Cable Cost, Single Residential Consumer 22
1.5 Sample Radial System Cost, Commercial Consumer 23
1.6 Additional Cost per Kilowatt, Open-Loop and Spare Cable Systems 23
1.7 Single-Phase Sub-Feeder Cost 24
1.8 Three-Phase Sub-Feeder Cost 25
1.9 25-kV Versus 15-kV Cable and Components 26
1.10 Added Cost of Dual-Voltage Transformers 26
1.11 Voltage Conversion Cost at Year 10 26
1.12 Voltage Conversion Cost at Year 20 27
1.13 Option 1—Direct-Buried Cable 30
1.14 Option 2—PVC Rigid Conduit 30
1.15 Option 3—Cable in HDPE Flexible Conduit 31
1.16 Present Worth of Cable Installation Options 31
1.17 Separate Service Cables 32
1.18 Secondary Pedestal 32
1.19 Sample Cable Loss Analysis 35
1.20 Sample Secondary Cable Data 36
1.21 Savings from Deferred Transformer Energization 37
1.22 Savings from Deferred Transformer Installation 38

2.1 Dimensional Characteristics of Common Conductors

(Standard Concentric-Lay) 53
2.2 Conductor Physical and Electrical Characteristics 54
2.3 Configurations of 4/0 AWG Aluminum Conductor 57
2.4 RUS Insulation Thickness 59
2.5 Insulation Shield Strippability Ratings 66
2.6 Concentric Neutral Configurations for Common Aluminum Cables 67
2.7 Comparison of Jacketing Material Test Data 71
2.8 Static Coefficient of Friction for Jacketing Materials in PVC Conduit 72

3.1 Multiplying Factors to Determine Asymmetrical Fault Currents

Where Symmetrical Fault Currents Are Known 83
3.2 Effective Cross-Sectional Area of Shield 91
3.3 Values of T1, Approximate Shield Operating Temperature, °C, at
Various Conductor Temperatures 92
3.4 Values of T2, Maximum Allowable Shield Transient Temperature, °C 92
3.5 Values of M for the Limiting Condition Where T2 = 200°C 92
3.6 Values of M for the Limiting Condition Where T2 = 350°C 92
3.7 Approximate Levels of I2t (Amperes2 x Seconds) That May Result in
Destructive Transformer Failure for Internal Faults 95
3.8 Approximate Levels of Fault Current Symmetrical (Amperes) That May
Result in Destructive Transformer Failure for Internal Faults 95
Ta b l e s – x v



4.1 Ampacities for Single-Phase Primary Underground Distribution Cable—

XLPE, TR-XLPE, and EPR Insulated 123
4.2 Typical Ambient Soil Temperatures at a Depth of 3.5 Feet 128
4.3 Ampacity for 15-kV Copper Conductor, Direct Buried, Single Circuit,
75% and 100% Load Factor 130
4.4 Ampacity Table for 15-kV Aluminum Conductor, Direct Buried, Single
Circuit, 75% and 100% Load Factor 131
4.5 Pros and Cons of Installing Cable Circuits in Conduit 133
4.6. Ampacity Values—15-kV Cable, Trefoil Configuration,
Copper Conductor 135
4.7 Ampacity Values—15-kV Cable, Trefoil Configuration,
Aluminum Conductor 135
4.8 Abstract of ICEA Standards for Maximum Emergency-Load and
Short-Circuit-Load Temperatures for Various Insulations 137
4.9 Correction Factors to Convert from 25°C Ambient Soil Temperature
to 20°C and 30°C 139
4.10 Correction Factors for Various Ambient Air Temperatures 139
4.11 Typical Ampacities for Various Sizes and Types of 600-Volt Secondary
UD Cable—Stranded Aluminum Conductors 143
4.12 Average Temperatures for July and August Averaged for the Previous
10 Years 146
4.13 Daily Peak Loads Per Unit of Nameplate Rating for Self-Cooled
Oil-Immersed Transformers to Give Minimum 20-Year Life Expectancy 148
4.14 Application of Single-Phase Distribution Transformers to Serve
Residential Consumers—Sample Loading Guide 150
4.15 Typical Watts-Per-Square-Foot Factors for Commercial Buildings 153
4.16 Typical Electrical Load Power Factor Values 153
4.17 Typical Electrical Load Demand Diversity Factor Values 154
4.18 Estimated Electrical Demand (Summer) and Energy Consumption
(Sample Family Restaurant) 155
4.19 Estimated Peak Duration 156
4.20 Transformer Loading Capability Table 156
4.21 Typical Three-Phase Pad-Mounted Transformer Capacities—
Short-Term Overload Capabilities (in kVA) 156
4.22 Surface Temperatures Measured at Various Locations on the
Cases of Pad-Mounted Transformers. 159
4.23 Surface Contact Time to Produce Burning 160
4.24 NEMA Starting Code Letters 161

5.1 Surge Withstand Strengths of Polyethylene Insulating Jackets for

15-kV, 25-kV, and 35-kV Class JCN Cable 176
5.2 2007 NESC Ground Rod Requirements for JCN Cable Installations 184
5.3 Spacing of Test Probes for Testing Resistance of a Single Ground Rod 194
5.4 Spacing of Test Probes for Testing Resistance of an Electrode System 194
5.5 Soil Resistivities for Different Soil Types and Geological Formations 197
5.6 Effect of Temperature on Soil Resistivity 198
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5.7 Ground Resistance in Varying Soil Resistivities 204

5.8 Comparison of Protective Characteristics of Heavy-Duty Distribution
Class Silicon Carbide, MOV, and Riser Pole MOV Arresters 209
5.9 Typical Electrical Ratings and Characteristics of Dead-Front
Surge Arresters 213
5.10 Comparison of Standard Requirements for Surge Arrester Classifications 214
5.11 Metal Oxide Surge Arrester Ratings in (kV) rms 215
5.12 Protective Margin, 24.9-kV Underground Distribution System:
125-kV BIL Insulation, 18-kV Arresters at Riser Pole Only,
10-kA Lightning Discharge, Surge Voltage Doubled by Reflection 219
5.13 Protective Margin, 12.47-kV Underground Distribution System:
95-kV BIL Insulation, 9-kV Arresters at Riser Pole Only,
10-kA Lightning Discharge, Surge Voltage Doubled by Reflection 220
5.14 Recommended Arrester Locations 229
5.15 MOV Riser Pole Arrester: Arrester Rating, 10 kV; Equipment BIL,
95 kV; Aged BIL, 76 kV 234
5.16 MOV Riser Pole Arrester and Dead-Front Cable-End Arrester (No. 4):
Arrester Rating, 10 kV; Equipment BIL, 95 kV; Aged BIL, 76 kV 234
5.17 MOV Riser Pole Arrester: Arrester Rating, 21 kV; Equipment BIL,
125 kV; Aged BIL, 100 kV 235
5.18 MOV Riser Pole Arrester and Dead-Front Cable-End Arrester (No. 4):
Arrester Rating, 21 kV; Equipment BIL, 125 kV; Aged BIL, 100 kV 235
5.19 MOV Riser Pole Arrester Plus Dead-Front Cable-End Arrester (No. 4)
and Dead-Front Third Arrester (No. 3): Arrester Rating, 21 kV;
Equipment BIL, 125 kV; Aged BIL, 100 kV 236
5.20 Ground Resistance Testers 237

6.1 Values for Equivalent Capacitances of an Overhead Line with

4/0 ACSR Phase Conductors and a 1/0 ACSR Neutral Conductor 248
6.2 Representative Capacitance and Three-Phase Charging for XLPE
Insulated Cables with 175 Mils Insulation 249
6.3 Representative Capacitance and Three-Phase Charging or XLPE
Insulated Cables with 220 Mils Insulation 249
6.4 Representative Capacitance and Three-Phase Charging for XLPE
Insulated Cables with 260 Mils Insulation 250
6.5 Representative Capacitance and Three-Phase Charging for XLPE
Insulated Cables with 345 Mils Insulation 250
6.6 Phase-to-Ground Capacitance of Three-Phase Grounded-Wye
Capacitor Banks 251
6.7 Maximum Allowed Cable Lengths in 12.47-kV Systems to Limit
Open-Phase Voltages to 1.25 PU 265
6.8 Maximum Allowed Cable Lengths in 24.9-kV Systems to Limit
Open-Phase Voltages to 1.25 PU 265
6.9 Maximum Allowed Cable Lengths in 34.5-kV Systems to Limit
Open-Phase Voltages to 1.25 PU 266
6.10 Transformer and Cable Data for the System of Figure 6.17 272
Ta b l e s – x v i i



7.1 Typical DC Potentials in Soil 283

7.2 Suggested DC Potentials for Cathodic Protection 286
7.3 Calculated Resistance and Conductance to Ground of Individual
Ground Rods as Related to Soil Resistivity 288
7.4 Potentials to a Copper-Copper Sulfate Half Cell 289
7.5 Sacrificial Anode Resistance, Output Current, and Estimated Life 290
7.6 Conductance to Ground of BCNs with Effective Diameters as Indicated 291

8.1 Minimum Cover Requirements 304

8.2 Requirements for Random-Lay Joint Trench 309

9.1 Classifications of Plastic Conduit 314

9.2 PVC Duct Dimensions—Minimum Wall Thickness 314
9.3 Comparison of Characteristics for Four-Inch Size PVC Duct 314
9.4 PVC Duct—Impact Strength (Foot-Pounds) 315
9.5 PVC Duct Collapse Pressure (PSI) 318
9.6 Conduit Fill 320
9.7 Conductor Shield Thickness 320
9.8 Insulation Shield Thickness 320
9.9 Concentric Neutral Thickness—Aluminum Cables 320
9.10 Concentric Neutral Thickness—Copper Cables 321
9.11 Secondary Cable Insulation Thickness 321
9.12 220-Mil Primary Cable: Minimum Size of Conduit Necessary to
Accommodate Primary Underground Power Cable: 15-kV Cable—
220-Mil Insulation Wall, Concentric Neutral Construction 322
9.13 260-Mil Primary Cable: Minimum Size of Conduit Necessary to
Accommodate Primary Underground Power Cable: 25-kV Cable—
260-Mil Insulation Wall, Concentric Neutral Construction 323
9.14 345-Mil Primary Cable: Minimum Size of Conduit Necessary to
Accommodate Primary Underground Power Cable: 34.5-kV Cable—
345-Mil Insulation Wall 324
9.15 Conduit Fill—Secondary Cable: Minimum Size of Conduit Necessary
to Accommodate 600-Volt Secondary Underground Power Cable 325
9.16 Recommended Dynamic Friction Coefficients for Straight Pulls and
Bends Using Soap/Water or Polymer Lubricants 333
9.17 Inside Bend Radius for 90° Schedule 40 Conduits 335
9.18 Recommended Maximum Sidewall Bearing Pressures 337
9.19 Cable Configuration for Various Jam Ratios 338
9.20 Recommended Maximum Pulling Tension Stress for Pulling Eyes
on Copper and Aluminum Conductors 339
9.21 Recommended Maximum Pulling Tension Limits for Basket-Type
Pulling Grips 339
x v i i i – Ta b l e s



10.1 Electrical Rating of Elbows 350

10.2 Relative Corrosion Resistance of Metal Combinations for
Outdoor Terminations 353

11.1 Dimensions for Primary Cables to ICEA Specification S-94-649-2000

with Concentric Neutral (Concentric Stranding) 361
11.2 Dimensions for Primary Cables to ICEA Specification S-94-649-2000
with Concentric Neutral (Compressed Stranding) 362
11.3 Cable Diameter Tolerances 363
11.4 Adders for Extruded Insulation Shield (Mils) to Obtain Nominal
Diameter Over Insulation Shield of Cable 363
11.5 DC Proof-Test Voltages (Conductor to Ground) for Primary Cables 367
11.6 Insulation Thickness of Secondary Cables 369
11.7 Manufacturers’ Voltage Withstand Tests on Completed Cable 371
11.8 Manufacturers’ Voltage Tests on Cables Rated 0 to 600 Volts 371

A.1 Acceptable Outage Hours Per Year Per Consumer 374

B.1 Allowable Voltage Drop on a 120-Volt Base 377

B.2 Resistance of Class B Concentric-Strand Aluminum Cable with
Thermosetting and Thermoplastic Insulation for Secondary
Distribution Voltages (to 1 kV) at Various Temperatures and
Typical Conditions of Installation 380
B.3 Corrections for Multiconductor Cables 382
B.4 Comparison of Conductor Diameter and Approximate Cable
Outside Diameter of Typical Single, Class B Concentric-Strand
Aluminum Cables 382
B.5 60 Hz Reactance of Conductors in the Same Conduit 384

C.1 Nominal Composite Insulation Layer Thickness (Ruggedized) 392

C.2 Nominal Insulation Thickness (Non-Ruggedized) 392

E.1 Extruded Conductor Shield Thickness 400

E.2 Nominal, Minimum, and Maximum Insulation Thickness 400
E.3 Insulation Shield Thickness for Cables with Wire Neutral 401
E.4 Extruded-to-Fill Jacket Thickness 402
Ta b l e s – x i x



G.1 Configuration No. 1—15-kV Copper 415

G.2 Configuration No. 1—15-kV Aluminum 415
G.3 Configuration No. 1—25-kV Copper 416
G.4 Configuration No. 1—25-kV Aluminum 416
G.5 Configuration No. 2—15-kV Copper 416
G.6 Configuration No. 2—15-kV Aluminum 416
G.7 Configuration No. 2—25-kV Copper 417
G.8 Configuration No. 2—25-kV Aluminum 417
G.9 Configuration No. 2, 3-Inch Type DB Conduit—15-kV Aluminum 417
G.10 Configuration No. 2, 3.5-Inch Type DB Conduit—25-kV Aluminum 417
G.11 Configuration No. 3—15-kV Copper 418
G.12 Configuration No. 3—15-kV Aluminum 418
G.13 Configuration No. 3—25-kV Copper 418
G.14 Configuration No. 3—25-kV Aluminum 418
G.15 Configuration No. 4—15-kV Copper 419
G.16 Configuration No. 4—15-kV Aluminum 419
G.17 Configuration No. 4—25-kV Copper 419
G.18 Configuration No. 4—25-kV Aluminum 419
G.19 Configuration No. 5—15-kV Copper 420
G.20 Configuration No. 5—15-kV Aluminum 420
G.21 Configuration No. 5—25-kV Copper 420
G.22 Configuration No. 5—25-kV Aluminum 420
G.23 Configuration No. 6—15-kV Copper 421
G.24 Configuration No. 6—15-kV Aluminum 421
G.25 Configuration No. 6—25-kV Copper 421
G.26 Configuration No. 6—25-kV Aluminum 421
G.27 Configuration No. 6, 6-Inch Type EB Conduit—15-kV Aluminum 422
G.28 Configuration No. 6, 6-Inch Type EB Conduit—25-kV Aluminum 422
G.29 Configuration No. 7—15-kV Copper 422
G.30 Configuration No. 7—15-kV Aluminum 422
G.31 Configuration No. 7—25-kV Copper 423
G.32 Configuration No. 7—25-kV Aluminum 423

I.1 Cable Installation Equipment Manufacturers (Trenchers, Backhoes,

Cable Plow, Guided Boring Tools, Piercing Tools, Hydraulic
Pipe Pusher, Track-Mounted Cable Plows, Trench Compactors,
Auger-Type Boring Tools) 427
I.2 Cable Installation Equipment Manufacturers (Primary Circuit Joints,
Elbows, and Terminations; Secondary Circuit Joints and Terminations) 428
I.3 Manufacturers of Joint, Elbow, and Termination Accessories and Kits 429
I.4 Partial Listing of Cable Testing Equipment Suppliers 429
x x – Ex am p l e s

e x a m p l es


1.1 Cable Loss Calculations 35

1.2 Calculating Losses on Secondary Cables 36
1.3 Typical Costs Associated with Transformer Losses 37

3.1 Device Rated in Maximum Asymmetrical Current Capacity 83

3.2 Device Rated for Maximum Circuit X/R Ratio 84
3.3 Determine Minimum Shield Size for Known Through-Fault Current 93

4.1 Comparing the Ampacity of Trefoil and Flat-Spaced Configurations 131

4.2 Single-Phase UD Cable Ampacities 140
4.3 Emergency Overload Rating Cable in Protective Riser 141
4.4 Three-Phase Substation Exit Ampacity 141
4.5 Average Daily Temperature Selection for a Summer-Peaking Utility 146
4.6 Selection of Maximum Permissible Transformer Per-Unit Loading 149
4.7 Pad-Mounted Transformer Sizing for New UD Residential Consumers 151
4.8 Sizing Commercial Transformers 157
4.9 Dedicated Transformer Load 160

5.1 No Counterpoise Added (Switches S1, S2, and S3 Open) 191

5.2 Attaching a 100-Foot Counterpoise to the Riser Pole Ground Rod and
the Other End to a Remote, Smaller Resistance (Switch S2 Closed;
S1 and S3 Open) 191
5.3 Continuous or Full-Length Counterpoise (Switches S1 and S3 Closed;
S2 Open) 191
5.4 A Single 8-Foot × 3/4-Inch Ground Rod Driven in Soil with a
Resistivity of 250 Ohm-M 201
5.5 Two 8-Foot × 3/4-Inch Ground Rods Placed 5 Feet Apart 202
5.6 Two Rods Spaced 16 Feet Apart 202
5.7 Group of Four Rods 203
5.8 Increase in Rod Length 204
5.9 Change in Soil Resistivity 204
5.10 The Effect of a Two-Layer Soil with a Top-Layer Resistivity of
250 Ohm-M and a Bottom-Layer Soil Resistivity of 50 Ohm-M 205
5.11 Counterpoise of #2 AWG Conductor Buried 30 Inches Deep for a
Distance of 100 Feet 206
5.12 More Conductive Soil 206
5.13 Counterpoise Burial Depth 206
5.14 Protective Margin Calculation for Riser Pole Application—
Industry Standard 4 kA/µs Average Rise Time for Lightning
Strokes Assumed 217
5.15 MOV Riser Pole Arrester: Arrester Rating, 10 kV 234
5.16 MOV Riser Pole Arrester and Dead-Front Cable-End Arrester
(No. 4): Arrester Rating, 10 kV 234
5.17 MOV Riser Pole Arrester: Arrester Rating, 21 kV 235
Exa m p l e s – x x i

exa m p l e s


5.18 MOV Riser Pole Arrester and Dead-Front Cable-End Arrester

(No. 4): Arrester Rating, 21 kV 235
5.19 MOV Riser Pole Arrester Plus Dead-Front Cable-End Arrester (No. 4)
and Dead-Front Third Arrester (No. 3): Arrester Rating, 21 kV 236

6.1 Maximum Lengths of Cable Circuit Possible 264

6.2 Energizing Multiple-Transformer System with Single-Pole 272

7.1 Measuring Earth Resistivity 284

7.2 Calculating the Neutral Conductance to Ground Per 1,000 Feet of Cable 288
7.3 Determining Required Shift in Potential 289
7.4 Calculating Required Anode Output Current 289
7.5 Selecting Anode Types, Sizes, and Numbers 291
7.6 Estimating Neutral Conductance to Ground of BCN Cable 292
7.7 Determining Required Shift in Neutral Potential 292
7.8 Determining Output Current and Anodes Required 293

11.1 Diameter Calculation 363

B.1 Transformer Voltage Drop Calculation 379

B.2 Secondary Cable Resistance and Reactance 383
B.3 Complete Secondary Voltage Drop Calculation 385
B.4 Voltage Flicker Calculation 387

G.1 Ampacity Reduction for Direct-Buried Versus Conduit Encasement

for Flat-Spaced Installation 417
G.2 Increase in Ampacity for Duct Bank Installation When Type EB
Conduit is Used Versus Schedule 40 422

J.1 Cable Pulling Example 1: Maximum Straight-Pull Distance for Three

25-kV Cables Installed in Five-Inch PVC Conduit 431
J.2 Cable Pulling Example 2: Feasibility of Pulling Three 25-kV Cables
into a Six-Inch PVC Conduit 432
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Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 1

1 Design of an Underground
Distribution System

In This Section: System Components Economic Comparison of System

Types of UD Systems Configurations
Reliability of UD Systems UD Loss Economics

Design Considerations Steps for Layout of a UD System

Future Upgrades and Replacements Summary and Recommendations

Since their introduction, underground distribution This section gives the engineer guidelines
(UD) systems have proved generally popular with for designing a high-quality UD system. Before
electric consumers. Although some of this popu- starting a design, the engineer must have com-
larity is due to aesthetics—eliminating pole lines prehensive knowledge of the components of a
and overhead conductors and “ugly” tree trim- UD system. Next, the engineer must under-
ming—greater reliability is the greater attraction. stand how these components can be config-
Consumers facing outages due to wildlife, falling ured to form different types of UD systems and
tree limbs, and ice storms think underground sys- the special design concerns of each. During
tems more desirable. Unfortunately, many of the the design process, the engineer must consider
present UD systems are less reliable and have the following:
more operational problems than do comparable
overhead distribution systems. To reverse this • UD system safety,
trend, cooperatives must undertake several • UD system reliability,
comprehensive steps: • UD system operation and maintenance,
• Future upgrades or replacement,
1. Specify high-quality materials and components, • The economics of different system
2. Stipulate every safety provision to ensure configurations, and
reliability of the system, • The economics of UD losses.
3. Design efficient systems that will have the
lowest reasonable cost for both installation The final design task is layout of the UD
and operation, and system. On completing this task, the engineer
4. Plan carefully to minimize problems during will have a final plan and staking sheets to give
construction and provide for future opera- to construction crews.
tion and replacement of these systems.
2 – Se c t io n 1

System In the past, some UD systems anyone enters. This require-
Components were total underground systems A typical UD system ment increases the time
with all components located needed to access the equip-
below ground. Placing trans- consists of buried ment and, thus, also increases
formers, sectionalizing devices, cables and the duration of any outage.
and switches below ground re- Because of these problems,
quires buried vaults. Because a total underground system is
water often accumulates in equipment. impractical and unreliable. A
these vaults, the equipment more reliable system consists
has to be suitable for operation of underground cables and
under water. Moisture also ac- pad-mounted equipment
celerates the corrosion of this equipment and (transformers, sectionalizing devices, and
leads to premature equipment failure. switches). The pad-mounted equipment is
This type of system is very difficult to operate placed on the surface instead of below ground.
and maintain. Maintenance and operation of the As a result, the equipment is easier to operate
equipment usually require a person to enter the and subject to fewer corrosion problems. This
underground enclosure. If the enclosure is full type of UD system, with its major system com-
of water, the water must be pumped out before ponents, is shown in Figure 1.1.

Cable Termination
Surge Arrester

Underground Cable Riser

Switchgear/ Pad-Mounted
Junction Cabinet Transformer Dead-Front
Cable Terminations Surge Arrester
Flat Pad
Box Pad

Ground Line

Underground Cable,
Cable Splice Secondary Voltage
Ground Electrode Ground Electrode Service Ground

Underground Cable,
Primary Voltage

FIGURE 1.1: UD System Components.

Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 3

UNDERGROUND CABLE configurations possible, this component pro-
The most extensive component of a UD system vides the engineer with many options in the
is the underground cable. The primary-voltage design of a UD system.
(15-, 25-, or 35-kV class) cable carries power
from a source to the primary bushing of a trans- CABLE TERMINATIONS AND JOINTS
former. The secondary-voltage (600-Volt class) Cable terminations and joints are other impor-
cable carries power from the secondary bushings tant components of a UD system. The joints pro-
of the transformer to the consumer. Section 2, vide a way to connect two underground cables.
Cable Selection, describes cable construction and The terminations provide a way to connect
gives guidelines for specifying high-quality cable. underground cables to transformer bushings,
switches, fuses, and other devices. Section 10
PAD-MOUNTED EQUIPMENT describes the different types of terminations and
The main types of pad-mounted equipment are how to use them on a UD system.
transformers, protective devices, and switching
devices. Pad-mounted transformers function the SURGE ARRESTERS AND
same as those overhead. Pad-mounted switchgear GROUNDING ELECTRODES
usually functions as a combination of switches Surge arresters are used to protect underground
and sectionalizing devices. For example, a single systems from overvoltages induced by lightning
enclosure can provide switching on the main and other transients. To operate effectively, ar-
feed and fusing on two taps off the main feed. resters must be properly connected to the cable
Figure 1.2 shows the schematics for several types grounding system. The grounding system must
of switchgear. Section 3, Underground System have ground electrodes that are in optimum
Sectionalizing, reviews the different types of contact with the soil. Examples of ground
pad-mounted switchgear. Because of the many electrodes are:


kV Ampere, RMS Short-Circuit
Fuse Mini-Rupter MVA 3-Phase
Nom. Max BIL Load Sym. at
Max Cont. Dropping Rated Voltage

14.4 17.0 95 200 600 600 350

25 27 125 200 600 400 540




PME-9 PME-10 PME-11 PME-12

FIGURE 1.2: Schematics for Different Types of Switchgear. Adapted from S&C Electric Company, 2005.
4 – Se c t io n 1

• Driven ground rods, compartments of transformers, fuse cabinets,
• Buried counterpoise wires, or switchgear. If the settling is severe, the pad
• Semiconducting jacketed cables, and may not support all the equipment weight. If
• Metallic water or sewer systems. some of the equipment weight is transferred to
the attached cables, this settling can damage
Figure 1.1 shows driven ground rods as the transformer bushings, connectors, and switch
ground electrodes. Detailed information on terminals.
cable grounding systems and surge protection is
contained in Section 5. Types of Equipment Mountings
The most basic type of equipment mounting is a
EQUIPMENT MOUNTINGS flat, or monolithic, pad. The flat pad provides a
Equipment mountings provide a flat, rigid sur- uniform surface for mounting equipment and has
face for supporting pad-mounted equipment. It openings for cable access into the equipment en-
is very important to mount the closure as shown in Figure
bottom edge of pad-mounted 1.3. Because this pad is placed
equipment flush to the flat sur- directly on the ground, there
face of the supporting pad. The soil beneath is limited space for cable train-
Doing so prevents persons the pad must be ing and cable terminations.
from poking a wire or other However, this type of pad is
object into the interior com-
well compacted. usually adequate for single-
partment of pad-mounted phase pad-mounted transform-
equipment and meets the ers and small single-phase
requirements of American National Standards sectionalizing devices.
Institute/Institute of Electrical and Electronics Some types of cable installations require more
Engineers (ANSI/IEEE) C57.12.28 (Standard for space than is available with a flat pad. For ex-
Pad-Mounted Equipment-Enclosure Integrity) ample, large-diameter cables are stiffer and have
and ANSI/IEEE37.74 (Standard Requirements a larger minimum bending radius than do small-
for Subsurface, Vault and Pad-Mounted Load diameter cables. Thus, the large-diameter cables
Interrupter Switchgear and Fused Load-Inter- require more space for cable training. Another
rupter Switchgear for Alternating Current Sys- consideration is cold weather. Low temperatures
tems Up to 38 kV). The former code has make cables stiffer and more difficult to install
become a standard for specifying tamper-resis- or operate. Providing additional cable space
tant pad-mounted equipment enclosures. This helps minimize these problems. Therefore, co-
tamper-resistant design helps prevent vandalism operatives in areas with extended periods of
to utility equipment and protect the public from cold weather may prefer using a ground sleeve
contact with energized parts. (“basement”) or a box pad instead of a flat pad.
The equipment must also attach securely to A ground sleeve or box pad also provides the
the mounting surface to prevent it from being extra space needed for large-diameter cables.
moved or tipped over by people, animals, lawn Typical installation of a ground sleeve is
mowers, or vehicles. Secure attachment is partic- shown in Figure 1.4. The ground sleeve is in-
ularly important when polyethylene pads are stalled below the ground surface, with the
used. The pad’s slick surface makes it easy for equipment mounting surface elevated two to
an unsecured piece of equipment to slide. three inches above final grade. This type of
Another important factor in a stable installa- mounting provides additional space for cables
tion is proper soil compaction beneath the pad. below grade, but is suitable for equipment with
Without proper compaction, the soil will settle only one entry compartment such as three-phase
and erode, leaving the pad with little support. pad-mounted transformers and junction cabinets.
When this happens, pads can tilt or warp (if Ground sleeves are generally limited in their
made of polyethylene) and expose the interior ability to support heavier pieces of equipment.
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 5

FIGURE 1.3: Flat Pad for Equipment Mounting.

FIGURE 1.5: Box Pad for Equipment Mounting.

provides plenty of room to work with the ca-

bles. This type of pad is ideal for supporting
pad-mounted switchgear that has multiple cable
entry compartments.

Pad Materials
Manufacturers offer a varied selection of pad
materials, including the following:

• Steel-reinforced concrete,
• Fiberglass-reinforced concrete,
• Fiberglass, and
• Polyethylene.

Because these materials have very different

properties, the engineer must carefully select
the material type suitable for the intended ap-
plication. The material and pad design must
FIGURE 1.4: Ground Sleeve. Source: Nordic have the strength required to support the
Fiberglass Inc., Warren, Minn., 2002. equipment weight. This is of particular con-
cern with box pads, because all the equipment
weight is supported by the outside pad walls,
The third type of mounting and is especially important,
is a box pad (see Figure 1.5). for example, when box pads
The box pad is placed in the are used for transformers
ground rather than on the sur-
Pad material must 500-kilovolt amperes (kVA)
face, with typically three to six be suitable for the and larger. Care must be ex-
inches exposed above grade. ercised in making sure the
intended application.
A perimeter lip supports the box pad manufacturer clearly
pad-mounted equipment. The states the strength rating of
remaining space is open and the box pad walls.
6 – Se c t io n 1

Also of concern are polyethylene pads with A final property to review is pad buoyancy.
wooden braces. A puncture through the poly- Some of the polyethylene pads tend to float and
ethylene allows water to enter the pad and rot can overturn pad-mounted equipment. There-
the wooden braces. When the wooden braces fore, these pads would not be suitable for use in
rot, part of the pad strength is lost, and war- areas that are subject to flooding.
page results. In summary, pads must be of a design that
A second property to review is the performance will have long-term durability under adverse
of the material outdoors where it is exposed to conditions, meet system operating needs, and
frost and ultraviolet radiation. The pad materials maintain equipment security. All these factors
must not break down or crack from ultraviolet must be balanced when selecting a pad design
exposure or frigid conditions. Cracks or material for a particular UD system.
breakdown lead to a loss of mechanical strength.


Disconnect Switches
Systems Underground cable is often used for substation
circuit exits from distribution substations. Under-
ground circuit exits help reduce congestion on
poles just outside a substation, making the area
around a substation more attractive and work-
able. As an added benefit, underground substa- Surge Cable
Arrester Termination
tion circuit exits are protected from ice loading,
wildlife contacts, and vehicle damage, and, thus,
may be more reliable than overhead exits. Neutral
In most cases, each underground substation
circuit exit will terminate on a riser pole and
feed overhead circuit conductors. Therefore, this
type of UD system consists of underground pri-
mary-voltage cable, cable terminations, surge ar-
resters, and grounding electrodes. The conduit,
cable terminations, surge arresters, grounding
electrodes, and disconnect switches are commonly
referred to as a riser assembly. See Figure 1.6. Riser Vent

When designing underground substation circuit

exits, the engineer must be particularly concerned
with reliability. If the underground cable fails, the Undergroung Circuit
Exit Cable
circuit outage interrupts power to many consumers.
Placing the cable in a conduit system or concrete- Electrode
encased duct bank helps protect it from mechan-
ical damage. Section 9 contains information on FIGURE 1.6: Underground Substation
duct bank installations. Another way to improve Circuit Exit.
reliability is to install a spare
cable or provide backup capa-
bility from another source. Al- Design concerns for A special concern for un-
though spare cables or backup derground circuit exits is cable
options do not change the risk substation circuit exits
ampacity. These cables carry
of cable failure, they do reduce are reliability, system large loads and may operate
the power restoration time if close to their ampacity rating.
only one cable is damaged.
growth, and ampacity.
Therefore, the engineer must
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 7

carefully determine the cable operating condi- and choose the 200-ampere or 600-ampere class
tions, system growth, and the resulting ampacity. of cable terminations. Section 4 provides de-
tailed information on cable ampacity, and Sec-
MAIN FEEDERS tion 10 provides information on the types of
Underground cable can serve as a distribution cable terminations.
main feeder. A main feeder is that portion of a
distribution circuit between the substation and Radial Main Feeder
the first in-line overcurrent protective device. The radial main feeder has one source and de-
The protective device in the substation clears a livers power to a load area along a single path.
fault on a main feeder. Therefore, a main feeder This feeder can also serve several load areas by
fault causes an outage to the entire circuit. Be- using a junction box or sectionalizing switch
cause most faults on an underground main with fused taps. This type of arrangement is
feeder are cable failures and are permanent, shown in Figure 1.7 and may have the following
power to the circuit may remain off until the components:
cable is repaired. The utility engineer must con-
sider this characteristic when designing a main • Underground primary-voltage cable,
feeder, particularly when deciding between a ra- • Cable terminations,
dial or open-loop feeder. • Pad-mounted junction box or sectional-
The engineer must also determine the maxi- izing switch,
mum load to be carried by the main feeder in • Surge arresters, and
order to select a cable with adequate ampacity • Grounding electrodes.


Junction Box or
Switching Cabinet
Junction Box or
Sectionalizing Switch

Primary Voltage Cable

To Load Area

Junction Box or
Sectionalizing Switch


FIGURE 1.7: Radial Main Feeder.

8 – Se c t io n 1

Power On

Load-Side Switch Junction Box or
Sectionalizing Switch

Open Fault

Power On Power Off


Power Off

FIGURE 1.8: Radial Main Feeder with Faulted Cable Section.

The junction box or sectionalizing switch substantial mechanical protection from dig-ins
provides sectionalizing of the load areas and and should be considered in areas congested
limited sectionalizing of the main feeder. For ex- with other underground utilities. A conduit sys-
ample, consider a fault in the second line sec- tem provides limited mechanical protection.
tion as shown in Figure 1.8. This fault trips the However, it does decrease outage time by allow-
protective device at the substation and interrupts ing the cooperative to replace a section of
power to all consumers on the faulted circuit. faulted cable without disturbing the earth sur-
The cooperative can restore power to the first face. This saves substantial time, particularly
load area by placing the faulted cable(s) in a when the main feeder is located beneath a road-
parking stand, or by opening the load-side way. The spare cable or conduit provides no
switch on the first sectionalizing switch to isolate mechanical protection but does decrease
the faulted cable. Figure 1.8 shows this option. restoration time if only one cable is faulted. Be-
Because the radial feeder has no alternative cause the costs of these installation methods
source or path, the cooperative cannot restore vary significantly, each cooperative must weigh
power to the other consumers until crews repair the advantages of these more expensive installa-
the cable fault. tions against their costs.
It is possible to improve the reliability of a Under any circumstance, the simple radial
radial system by installing the cable in a con- does have limited operational flexibility and
crete-encased duct bank or in a conduit system, should not be used to serve a large number of
or by installing a spare cable or conduit in the consumers. Information on comparative system
trench. A concrete-encased duct bank provides reliability may be found in Appendix A.
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 9

Open-Loop Feeder stand. In a sectionalizing switch, leaving one of
In dense load areas, an underground main feeder the switches open creates an open point.
may tie together two substations. A main feeder The open-loop feeder (see Figure 1.9) provides
may also tie two circuits from the same substation. much higher system availability than does the
This type of arrangement would operate as an radial system. With an open-loop system, utility
open-loop system. The components of this system crews can isolate a faulted cable section and re-
are the same as those of a radial system. However, store power to all consumers. A cable fault in
the open-loop feeder has two sources, unlike the the second line section interrupts power to all
radial feeder that has only one source. Each source consumers on that circuit. After isolating the
provides power along a single path to the desig- faulted cable section, as shown in Figure 1.10,
nated open point in a junction box or a section- crews can feed the first section from Substation
alizing switch. In a junction box, the open point No. 1 and remaining line sections from Substation
results from placing one set of cables in a parking No. 2. Because crews can restore power to all

Substation No. 1 Substation No. 2


N.O. = Normally Open Point
Sectionalizing Switch

FIGURE 1.9: Open-Loop Feeder.

Substation No. 1 Substation No. 2




N.O. = Normally Open Point
Sectionalizing Switch

FIGURE 1.10: Open-Loop Feeder with Faulted Cable Section.

1 0 – Se c t io n 1

load areas before repairing the cable fault, the deliver power to consumers. Therefore, sections
outage time is much shorter than with a radial of cable on a sub-feeder often terminate in pad-
feeder. As a result, it is not critical to install the mounted transformers. The sub-feeder can have
cable in a concrete-encased duct bank or conduit. several configurations ranging from a simple ra-
However, as already noted, in areas congested dial feeder to a complex multiloop feeder.
with underground utilities, the concrete-encased
duct bank will help protect cables from dig-ins. Radial Feeder
Again, it is important to judge the benefits of in- The simplest type of load area feeder is a radial
stalling duct bank or conduit against the addi- feeder. The radial feeder is usually the most
tional cost. An open-loop feeder also requires practical way to serve a single consumer. How-
that the designer consider the ampacity of the ever, a single consumer with critical loads, such
feeder cables while serving all possible loop as a hospital or police station, often requires a
segments, which may dictate the use of a larger more reliable system. Methods for improving re-
cable size than otherwise needed. liability include the following:
Open-loop feeders provide much more oper-
ating flexibility than do simple radial feeders. • Changing to an open-loop configuration,
System reliability considerations generally dictate • Adding a spare cable or conduit to the
open-loop feeders as the preferred design. trench, and
• Placing the cable in a conduit or duct bank.
The more common underground feeder is the sub- The radial feeder can be extended to serve
feeder, also called a load area feeder. This type multiple consumers as shown in Figure 1.11.
of feeder has at least one stage of sectionalizing However, a cable fault interrupts power to all
between it and the protective device at the sub- consumers beyond the fault location. For exam-
station. As a result, a fault on a sub-feeder does ple, a fault between transformers T1 and T2 re-
not interrupt power to the en- sults in a power outage to
tire circuit and, thus, affects transformers T2 through T5.
fewer consumers than does a A cable fault on a The power remains off until
similar fault on a main feeder. the cable is repaired. As the
The two types of feeders sub-feeder affects number of consumers increases,
also have different functions. fewer consumers than it becomes more practical to
The basic function of a main consider an open-loop system.
feeder is to deliver power to
does a similar fault The subsection Economic
load area feeders. The main on a main feeder. Comparison of System Con-
function of a sub-feeder is to figurations, which comes later

Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformers

Riser Pole

T1 T2 T3 T4 T5

Power On Power Off

FIGURE 1.11: Radial Feeder.

Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 1 1

Riser Pole Three-Phase Feeder Riser Pole

Three-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformers

Normally Open Point

FIGURE 1.12: Open-Loop Feeder in Shopping Center.

Riser Pole Riser Pole

Sectionalizing Sectionalizing
Switch Switch




N.O. Three-Phase, Pad-Mounted
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted
N.O. Normally Open Point N.O.

FIGURE 1.13: Multiple-Loop System.

in this section, provides information on the for UD systems serving multiple or critical
economics of radial versus open-loop systems. consumers. An open-loop feeder also requires
that the designer consider the ampacity of the
Open-Loop Feeder primary cables and devices while serving all
As mentioned earlier, the open-loop feeder possible loop segments, which may dictate the
has two sources and, therefore, provides better use of a larger cable size than otherwise needed.
system availability. Large subdivisions or com-
mercial shopping areas are ideal applications of Multiple-Loop Feeder
open-loop systems. Figure 1.12 shows an open- In heavy load areas, multiple-loop feeders are
loop feeder in a shopping center. Utility crews necessary to improve sectionalizing and to allow
can isolate any section of faulted cable and the coordination of overcurrent protective devices.
restore power to all transformers. This feature A typical multiple-loop system is shown in Fig-
makes the open-loop feeder a preferred design ure 1.13. This type of system usually has a sub-
1 2 – Se c t io n 1

feeder that serves as an open-loop system be- or self-healing insulating jacket (see Section 2).
tween two sources. The sectionalizing switches Cable dig-ins by other utilities or consumers also
on the sub-feeder have fused taps that serve damage cable. To minimize dig-ins by con-
other open-loop feeders. This arrangement sumers, cable should be installed two to three
provides excellent system availability. It also feet off the property line. Doing so helps pre-
speeds up fault location because the large load vent cable damage if the consumer installs a
area has been sectionalized into small load fence on the property line. Another method for
groups. A multiple-loop feeder also requires that minimizing dig-in damage is to use conduit. The
the designer consider the ampacity of the feeder conduit offers some mechanical protection, par-
cables and devices while serving all possible ticularly from hand digging. As noted, the coop-
loop segments, which may dictate the use of a erative may particularly want to use conduit in
larger cable size than otherwise needed. areas congested with other utilities.
A third design concern with secondary systems
TRANSFORMER AND SECONDARY SYSTEMS is voltage drop and voltage flicker. The engineer
Pad-mounted transformers and underground must design a system that provides the consumer
secondary-voltage cable constitute the final seg- with acceptable voltage levels throughout the
ment of a UD system. To properly design this day and during motor starting. Appendix B lists
part of the system, the engineer must first select the acceptable voltage levels and gives methods
the appropriate equipment rating and cable for calculating voltage drop and flicker.
ampacity. Section 4 provides information for
making these selections. STREET AND AREA LIGHTING
Second, the engineer must consider reliability. Public safety and consumer convenience require
Most secondary cable faults are the result of me- street and area lighting in the area served by a
chanical damage to the cable. Utilities can mini- large percentage of underground projects. Most
mize mechanical damage by following the prop- cooperatives furnish this service, so the engineer
er installation techniques described in Section 9 must make accommodations in underground sys-
and by specifying cable with an abrasion-resistant tems to include it. The engineer needs to devel-
op a plan at the start of the project for eventual
(if not actual) street and area lighting. Conduits
Lighting Package and pedestals can then be installed at strategic
locations that will minimize future trenching in
lawns or around consumer facilities.
This type of UD system is shown in Figure 1.14.
It uses a combination of overhead components
(poles and a lighting package) and underground
Pole components (underground secondary-voltage
cable, surge arresters, and grounding electrodes).
Cable Riser
Street and area lights are generally self-con-
tained units with an integral photoelectric cell for
control. These standard light packages usually
operate from 120-Volts single phase or 120/240-
Volts single phase. The cooperative may want
to consider using the same lighting package that
it uses in overhead areas. Doing so will avoid
unnecessary duplication of stock and minimize
Underground confusion during installation and maintenance.
Ground Electrode Cable
If the lighting package requires a 120-Volt,
two-wire power supply, service may be pro-
FIGURE 1.14: Area Lighting System. vided through a two-wire duplex underground
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 1 3

cable. If the cooperative has a current will travel along the
large amount of underground Metallic lighting poles lighting conductors and be
street lighting, purchasing a propagated into the secondary
twisted duplex cable with a must be grounded of the transformer and into all
ruggedized insulation system and bonded to the connected services. In areas
will be most economical. This with intense lightning activity,
cable will essentially comply
system neutral for the cooperative should consider
with the secondary cable spec- lightning protection installing secondary lightning
ification presented in Appen- arresters on each transformer
and for public safety.
dix C. When this duplex is that serves a lighting installation.
used, the conductor may be Where aesthetics are of prime
either copper or aluminum. importance, cooperatives may
When aluminum is used, the size should not be choose to install metal lighting poles. In such
smaller than No. 6 American Wire Gauge (AWG). cases, the height of the fixture mounting should
Satisfactory performance may be achieved with not be compromised; it should be installed in
copper conductors as small as No. 10 AWG. In accordance with standard practices for the partic-
areas where deep frost lines are routine, larger ular type of light and the size of the area to be
aluminum conductors, possibly No. 2 AWG, lighted. With metal poles, the pole interior may
might be considered as a minimum gauge. generally be used as a raceway to conceal the
In cases of infrequent use or where ruggedi- conductor along its entire length. In these cases,
zed duplex cable is not readily available, sunlight resistance will not be required on Type
Type UF (underground feeder) commercial UF cables if the cables are shielded from sun-
cable may be substituted. This cable should be light along their entire length. Metal poles will
purchased only with copper conductors No. 10 still require adequate grounding to avoid prob-
AWG or larger. The Type UF cable must be lems with lightning surges. Metallic poles should
rated as sunlight-resistant. Otherwise, the cable also be directly connected to this same ground-
may deteriorate where it is exposed to sunlight ing system, which is also positively connected to
between the pole riser conduit and the bottom the neutral of the secondary supply conductors.
of the lighting support bracket. If the poles are direct buried, they generally
Lighting packages may be installed on wood have an insulating coating for corrosion protec-
poles at a height appropriate for the size of the tion. If direct-buried poles are installed or if the
lamp and the area to be lighted. On wood poles are installed on poured concrete founda-
poles, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) conduit should tions, a ground rod is also recommended. If
be used to protect the cable riser. Schedule 40 poles are installed on a metal screw anchor
PVC is recommended as a minimum. U-guards base, the ground rod may be eliminated.
are not recommended because irregularities in The main limitation on the layout of street
wood poles may allow the smaller cable used lighting conductors is voltage drop. As most
for lighting service to protrude or be pinched contemporary lighting systems are either mer-
between the U-guard and the pole surface. Each cury vapor, metal halide, or high-pressure
wood pole installation must be equipped with a sodium systems, the most critical case is during
pole-grounding conductor (No. 6 AWG copper) starting of the most distant light. This is the time
that is attached to a driven ground rod. This is of highest current draw and lowest power factor.
particularly important because street and area The magnitude and power factor of the starting
lights are often among the highest objects in a current depend on the type of ballast, as does
subdivision served by an underground system. the acceptable voltage range for satisfactory op-
In cases of lightning strikes, the lightning must eration. Table 1.1 gives examples of typical light
have a relatively low impedance path into the characteristics. It is obvious that the regulator
earth. If pole grounding conductors are not in- ballasts offer a substantial advantage in allowing
stalled, a much larger portion of the lightning long runs of small secondary voltage conductors
1 4 – Se c t io n 1

TABLE 1.1: Lamp and Ballast Characteristics—240 Volts. Source: General Electric Lighting Systems Product Catalog 1985.

Allowable Operating Starting

Voltage Current Current Allowable
Size and Type Lumens Fluctuation (amperes) (amperes) Power Factor Voltage Dip
175-watt mercury vapor, normal power 7,950 240V±5% 1.6 2.6 55% 20%
factor reactor ballast
400-watt mercury vapor, normal power 21,000 240V±5% 3.4 5.1 54% 20%
factor reactor ballast
400-watt mercury vapor, regulator ballast 21,000 240V±13% 2.1 0.9 90% 50%
100-watt high-pressure sodium, normal 9,500 240V±5% 1.6 1.9 34% 10%
power factor reactor
250-watt high-pressure sodium, normal 27,500 240V±5% 2.8 3.6 42% 10%
power factor reactor
100-watt high-pressure sodium, high 9,500 240V±5% 0.6 0.9 90% 10%
power factor reactor
250-watt high-pressure sodium, high 27,500 240V±5% 1.4 2.4 90% 10%
power factor reactor
400-watt high-pressure sodium, high 50,000 240V±5% 1.9 3.8 90% 10%
power factor reactor
250-watt metal halide floodlight, normal 20,500 240V±10% 1.3 1.0 90% 10%
power factor reactor ballast
400-watt metal halide floodlight, normal 36,000 240V±10% 2.0 1.7 90% 10%
power factor reactor ballast

without unstable lamp operation. Moreover, all no more than 10 percent when the largest proba-
types of high-pressure sodium and metal halide ble lamp is started. Consideration should also be
lamps are more sensitive than are mercury vapor given to selecting 240-volt ballasts as opposed to
lamps to voltage dips. Therefore, all lighting cir- 120-volt units, because they draw less current
cuits should be designed for a voltage drop of and generally create decreased operating losses.

Reliability of One of the most important advantages of a well- overhead systems. These experiences have
UD Systems designed UD system is greater reliability for con- made it clear that reliability engineering is a
sumers compared to an overhead system. UD necessary part of UD system design.
lines and equipment are located where they are
not vulnerable to most of the common hazards MEASUREMENT OF RELIABILITY
that cause outages on overhead facilities, such Reliability is usually measured in two ways. The
as trees, weather, some animals, and vehicles. first is the frequency of interruptions occurring
However, material or design defects in a UD sys- at a particular point on a system, referred to as
tem may reverse the reliability advantage of un- the interruption rate or outage rate. Outage rates
derground distribution. In fact, many early UD are measured in outages per year. The second
systems installed by cooperatives and other utili- measure is the average duration of an interrup-
ties turned out to be less reliable than comparable tion, also referred to as the restoration time.
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 1 5

Outage duration is usually measured in hours. A CABLE FAILURE RATES
combination of these two measurements yields In the mid-1980s, the failure rates for common-
the percentage of availability for a particular lo- ly used UD primary cables were unacceptable.
cation on a distribution system. A simple index The failure rates for cross-linked polyethylene
of reliability used by many utilities is hours of (XLPE) and high-molecular-weight polyethylene
outage per year, per consumer. (HMWPE) cables were approaching 0.02 and
For this discussion, outages are considered to 0.08 per mile per year, respectively. Further-
be sustained interruptions. Reliability calculations more, studies revealed that these failure rates
of this type usually do not consider momentary were continuing to worsen as the cables aged.
interruptions that are successfully cleared by au- The most common causes of failure were elec-
tomatic circuit reclosing operations. This analysis trochemical treeing of the insulation layer and
considers only those outages that require man- corrosion of the exposed neutral conductors.
ual intervention to restore service. Furthermore, In December 1987, the Rural Electrification
almost all faults attributable to underground sys- Administration (REA), currently called Rural Util-
tem components are permanent. ity Services (RUS), responded to the cable failure
System reliability undeniably affects many as- problem by issuing a revision of Bulletin 50-70
pects of a cooperative’s service. Although the (U-1), REA Specification for 15-kV and 25-kV
order of importance may vary with individual Primary Underground Power Cable. The main
situations, the results of distribution system out- specification changes were the following:
ages include the following:
• Removing all HMWPE cable from approval,
• Consumer dissatisfaction; • Increasing minimum insulation thickness to
• Consumer financial losses resulting from 220 mils for 15-kV cable and to 345 mils for
interrupted production, equipment damage, 25-kV cable, and
or other causes; • Requiring cable to be jacketed.
• Impairment of other cooperative facilities;
• Costs to the cooperative of service restora- At that time, RUS did not disapprove the use
tion; and of XLPE cable. Nevertheless, concerns about
• Lost cooperative revenue. XLPE were raised in studies, leading to the bul-
letin’s revision.
All these factors have a serious impact on satis- As a consequence of these experiences in the
factory cooperative system operation. Engineers, 1980s, cooperatives should procure new cable
therefore, must be aware of the basic principles with the requirement that the revised RUS specifi-
of reliability assessment so they can achieve cations be met. Any XLPE cable acquired should
satisfactory but economical UD system designs. also be tree retardant (TR-XLPE). As a result of
Appendix A provides a method for calculating recent vastly improved quality control in cable
UD system reliability. manufacturing processes, both TR-XLPE- and
Comprehensive reliability analysis also con- ethylene propylene rubber- (EPR) insulated ca-
siders the number of consumers or kVA of load bles provide improved reliability. Industry tests
each outage affects. Thus, facilities serving many are continuing to develop information on the
consumers (or kVA) may need to be designed expected failure rates for different insulation sys-
for higher reliability than should facilities serving tems. RUS is currently preparing an even further
few consumers (or kVA). The analysis presented refined U-1 specification to reflect these continu-
in this manual, however, does not consider this ing cable insulation improvements. Section 2
parameter because most cooperative UD sys- discusses cable selection in detail.
tems are fairly uniform in design and consumer
concentration. There is generally no need to dis- LOOP-FEED DESIGN
criminate in design quality between some parts The time spent to locate an underground cable
of the system and others. fault, excavate to the point of its failure, and
1 6 – Se c t io n 1

Riser Pole Riser Pole
install a UD cable repair joint is typically much
longer than that required to perform a compara-
ble repair on an overhead line. Therefore, if the
overhead type of radial distribution system con-
T1 T6
figuration were used for UD, the restoration time
for most UD outages would be much longer
Legend than is typical on overhead systems.
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted
T2 T5 This difficulty is overcome by using loop-feed
design for UD systems. Under loop-feed design,
N.O. Normally Open Point
each cable run serving several pad-mounted
T3 T4 transformers is connected with a power supply
N.O. point on both ends (see Figure 1.15). This
Transformer T4 formed loop is opened at some point to allow
Parking Stand use of radial overcurrent protection methods and
Arresters to prevent unwanted power transfers through
the cable. If the cable fails, a repair crew can
disconnect both ends of the failed cable section
X2 and close the circuit at the normal open point
Copper (see Figure 1.16). These actions promptly restore
Ground service to all consumers on the cable run. The
Conductor To T5
To T3 damaged cable can then be repaired or replaced
To Ground Rod
later without causing additional outage time.
FIGURE 1.15: Loop-Feed Design of UD System Under Normal Conditions. It must be noted that it is vitally important for
loop-feed UD systems to be fed from two
sources of the same feeder circuit out of a sub-
station, with no switching or sectionalizing de-
Riser Pole Riser Pole
vices in between. Having the two sources fed
from different feeder circuits could cause unex-
pected high-power flow through the UD system
T1 T6
if the sources were tied together during switch-
Damaged Cable Section ing operations on the UD loop. These high cur-
rent levels could result in exceeding cable
T2 T5 and/or termination current-carrying ratings, or
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted
could create outages on source fusing devices.
Transformer Furthermore, on single-phase UD looped sys-
T3 T4
tems, it is vitally important that both sources be
connected to the same phase for safe operation.
Transformer T5 Transformer T6
Parking Stand Parking Stand
Arresters Arresters
X3 X3 Well-designed UD systems can provide improved
X1 X1 reliability relative to overhead systems. However,
X2 X2 to achieve high reliability, the cooperative needs
To To to apply the specialized engineering knowledge
Ground Cable Fault Ground
Ground Rod To T4 Rod To gained from many years of experience with under-
Conductor Riser
Plate ground power distribution. This knowledge covers
Front View Showing Isolated, Damaged Cable Section the field performance records of different types of
cables, the proper application of surge arresters,
FIGURE 1.16: Loop-Feed Design of UD System with Damaged appropriate sectionalizing, and loop-feed de-
Cable Section. signs, all of which are treated by this manual.
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 1 7

Design The cooperative’s involvement with a UD system appearance of the property so they prefer the
Considerations does not end after installation; the cooperative utility to locate facilities along the rear property
for System must operate and maintain the system through- line instead of in front of their houses. However,
out its life. Because many components of a UD equipment along the rear property line is usually
Operation and
system are difficult to access, operation and main- difficult to access and thus difficult to operate
Maintenance tenance of the system can also be difficult. For and maintain, particularly when there is no
example, it is difficult to access a pad-mounted service alley or backyards are fenced and have
transformer that is surrounded by shrubbery or no access gate large enough to accommodate
located too close to fences or buildings. Like- a trencher or backhoe.
wise, it is difficult to repair a faulted cable that is In addition, the rear property line is not usual-
buried beneath landscaped areas or utility build- ly cleared of trees and may not be to final grade
ings. The engineer needs to be aware of these when cable is installed. As a result, preparing
problems when considering whether to place the rear of the lot for cable installation can be
facilities along the front or rear property line more costly and time-consuming than preparing
and also must consider the effect of joint-use the front property line. The installation cost also
trench on operation and maintenance activities. depends on the subdivision layout and the loca-
tion of other underground utilities. An economic
FRONT VERSUS REAR PROPERTY comparison of front versus rear property line
LINE PLACEMENT installation is covered later in this section under
One of the fundamental choices in UD system Economic Comparison of System Configurations.
design is whether to locate facilities along the A final consideration is the power restoration
front property line or along the rear property line. time following an outage. When facilities are
Usually, this is a joint decision between the utility located on the front property line, it is much
and the consumer or developer. Consumers or faster for utility crews to check for tripped fault
developers will have some authority because they indicators and to perform cable switching to
must normally give the utility an easement that isolate the faulted cable section. It is important
allows the installation of underground facilities. that the utility engineer inform the consumer of
Often the consumers or developers believe this advantage of front-line placement.
that pad-mounted equipment detracts from the Table 1.2 summarizes the advantages and dis-
advantages of front and rear property line place-
TABLE 1.2: Front Versus Rear Property Line Placement. ment. The engineer can be guided by this table
in selecting the cable route. In most cases, place-
Location Advantages Disadvantages ment along the front property line is more ad-
Placement along 1. More accessible for 1. More unsightly to consumer vantageous. However, subdivision layout, the
front property line operation and maintenance location of other utilities, or consumer relations
2. Greater potential for dig-ins may require placement along the rear property
2. Usually more accessible line. In these cases, installing the cable in con-
for installation 3. Potential for damage from duit or installing a spare conduit allows the utili-
vehicles ty better access when cables have to be repaired
3. Often reduces outage time
or replaced.
4. Reduces cable replacement
Placement along 1. Consumers preference for 1. Often requires more tree/ In some areas, the space allocated for under-
rear property line equipment in backyard brush clearing ground utilities is very limited. In these areas,
the utilities may agree to place facilities in a
2. Possible more economical 2. Difficult to access for common trench. Within this common (joint-use)
installation if lots share rear operation and maintenance trench, the different utilities usually maintain a
property lines
3. Usually higher cable minimum separation of 12 inches. The 2007 Na-
replacement costs tional Electrical Safety Code (NESC), Section 354,
1 8 – Se c t io n 1

does allow the random separation (less than 12 dimensions and arrangement of all utility lines.
inches) of some utilities. Section 8 of this guide, The utility that opens the trench must abide by
Direct-Buried System Design, contains informa- these dimensions. Second, the contract should
tion on the NESC requirements and installation define who is responsible for installing the facili-
guidelines for joint-use trench. ties. If each utility installs its own facilities, then
the contract needs to state the required notifica-
Operational Precautions tion period before opening and backfilling a
Before agreeing to share a common trench, the trench. If the other utilities receive proper notifi-
cooperative should consider the potential for cation but fail to send crews, the contract should
operational problems. Each utility will have to stipulate any consequences, such as those below:
maintain its own facilities, which may require
crossing other utilities to reach its facilities. To • Will the trench be closed or covered
minimize the risk of damaging other facilities temporarily?
during excavation, operation crews need a • Will the delinquent utility be charged?
drawing that shows a trench cross section and • Will a closed trench be reopened?
the location of all facilities within the trench. It
is also helpful to show the presence of joint-use Third, the contract should state who is re-
trench on the operating map for the area. sponsible for acquiring easements and any per-
A joint-use trench with ran- mits. The utility that opens the
dom lay of electric, telephone, trench should require copies
and cable television (CATV) of the easements and permits
cables creates additional oper-
Joint-use trench with before starting construction.
ating problems. This type of random separation Also before construction, any
trench requires telephone and existing underground facilities
often creates
CATV personnel to work next must be located. The contract
to power cables. Jacketed operating problems. must identify who is responsi-
power cables resemble tele- ble for requesting the location
phone cables. The cables must of these utilities. Special back-
be well marked to prevent fill and compaction needs
mistaken identity. The NESC requires all direct- must be addressed. If select backfill is required,
buried, jacketed, primary-voltage cable to have a the contract should identify the party responsi-
specific marking on its jacket. This marking is ble for acquiring the backfill material and decide
shown as Figure 350-1 in the 2007 NESC. The how the additional cost will be shared among
NESC also has special requirements for bonding the utilities.
and grounding of electric, telephone, and CATV Fourth, the contract should address shared
systems using random separation in Section costs. These costs include the following:
354D. Grounding and bonding are discussed
further in Section 8. • Cost to open and close the trench,
• Cost of the service if one utility installs
Typical Contractual Arrangements all facilities,
Joint-occupancy trenches require tremendous • Penalties for reopening a trench,
coordination and cooperation from each utility • Penalties for temporarily covering or
involved. To help structure these efforts and barricading an open trench, and
provide proper agreements on liability, the coop- • Cost adders for select backfill.
erative must prepare a contract for joint trench
use. This contract would be similar to the con- Fifth, the contract should state that it is trans-
tract for joint pole use. ferable to a new owner. This transferability is
First, the contract should address construc- particularly important for joint-use contracts with
tion concerns. It must state the required trench CATV utilities.
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 1 9

Future Upgrades The cooperative engineer can improve the de- install dual-voltage transformers and sectionaliz-
and Replacements sign of a UD system by anticipating and provid- ing devices rated for the higher voltage level.
ing for future system upgrades. Changes to a The economics of these changes depend on the
system in established yards, parking lots, or subdivision layout and the number of years be-
roadways are very expensive. If trenching meth- fore the voltage conversion. Before making
ods are used, the utility must these design changes, the en-
also restore the soil surface. gineer needs to do an eco-
Such restoration could include nomic study similar to the one
A UD system design
reseeding grass, repaving, or described in Future Voltage
pouring new concrete side- should provide for Conversions under the Eco-
walks or driveways. Trenching future upgrades. nomic Comparison of System
in established yards also tends Configurations subsection be-
to create conflicts with prop- ginning on the next page.
erty owners.
The engineer can help avoid these problems THREE-PHASE VERSUS
by planning for future conversions to three-phase SINGLE-PHASE INSTALLATION
circuits and higher voltage levels. The engineer Most large subdivisions are developed in stages
can also plan for future cable replacements by over time. For these types of subdivisions, the
considering the use of conduit systems. engineer should determine if a three-phase
feeder is required. A three-phase feeder is often
FUTURE VOLTAGE CONVERSIONS helpful for balancing a large amount of single-
Many utilities are converting to higher distribu- phase load and for providing better sectionaliz-
tion system voltages to decrease line losses, im- ing. The future subdivision plans may show a
prove circuit voltage profile, and increase clubhouse or sewer lift station. These types of
system capacity. These conversions are typically loads are often three-phase and, thus, require a
scheduled to occur over an extended time. The three-phase primary circuit.
engineer will, therefore, need to refer to the If the engineer thinks the subdivision will
long-range work plan to locate those areas des- eventually require three-phase power, he should
ignated for future voltage increases. For UD sys- consider installing a three-phase feeder instead
tems in these areas, the engineer needs to adapt of a single-phase feeder. It is much easier to in-
the design to minimize material and equipment stall three cables initially than to install one ini-
changeout at the time of voltage conversion. tially and two later. The subsection immediately
A simple design change involves installing following, titled Economic Comparison of Sys-
cable and cable terminations that are rated for tem Configurations, presents an economic com-
the higher voltage level. These two components parison of an initial versus delayed installation
will operate properly at the lower voltage and of a three-phase feeder. The engineer can per-
will not have to be changed when the voltage form a similar economic comparison for the UD
level is increased. This simple design change system he or she is designing.
eliminates the need to replace all the under-
ground primary voltage cable—a very expensive DIRECT-BURIED VERSUS
and time-consuming task. An economic evalua- PLACEMENT IN CONDUIT
tion under the subsection Economic Comparison At some point, most cables need to be replaced
of System Configurations (next page) shows that because of a cable failure or external damage.
the cooperative will save money by initially in- Replacing cable in a conduit system is less ex-
stalling the higher voltage cable. pensive than replacing direct-buried cable and
Voltage conversion also requires an increase does not disturb the ground surface. However,
in the insulation level of pad-mounted trans- the initial installation costs are higher than those
formers and sectionalizing devices. To avoid fu- for direct-buried cable. To determine which sys-
ture changeouts, the cooperative can initially tem is more economical, the engineer needs to
2 0 – Se c t i on 1

perform an analysis similar to the one described congested with other utilities. If a dig-in should
later in the Direct-Buried Versus Cable in Conduit occur, however, the conduit system will be more
subsection. This evaluation is difficult because it difficult to repair. Conduit systems may also re-
must quantify the expected life of the cable. quire larger cable sizes to offset de-rating factors
A conduit system can provide some benefits as a result of cable heating. Conduit can also
that are difficult to assign a value to. A conduit protect cable from gophers and prairie dogs;
system does provide some mechanical protec- therefore, conduit use in rodent-infested areas
tion to the cable and, therefore, could help pro- will likely prolong cable life.
long cable life in areas with rocky soils or areas

Economic To design an underground distribution system, costs require use of a carrying charge. The carry-
Comparison the cooperative engineer needs to compare vari- ing charges are annual payments needed to sup-
of System ous system configurations. Points of comparison port construction funds, including loan interest,
include the following: taxes, and insurance. The examples in this sec-
tion use a carrying charge of 12 percent. How-
• Service reliability,
ever, when doing comparisons, a carrying charge
• Present and future load requirements,
should be selected appropriate to current econom-
• System maintenance and operation, and
ics. Only a few examples consider an inflation rate.
• Economics.
The inflation rate used is three percent per year
Economics is not usually the deciding aspect and is not included in the carrying charges. Again,
when comparing different configurations. How- an appropriate value needs to be selected.
ever, being aware of the different system costs The installed-material costs used in these ex-
can help the cooperative engineer make eco- amples can vary significantly from region to re-
nomically sound design decisions. gion. Therefore, the examples should be used as
The following examples compare several sys- guidelines only. Economic decisions should be
tem configurations and show suitable methods for based on the cooperative’s own cost data and
calculating the relative economics of each. Some not on the costs shown in this subsection.
of these economic evaluations compare only ini-
tial costs—the purchase cost of the materials and LOOP VERSUS RADIAL
the installation cost for placing these materials As noted earlier in this section, an open-loop
into service. Other evaluations consider initial and system provides better system availability than a
future costs—operating, maintenance, and re- comparable radial system does. However, an
placement costs. Evaluations that consider future open-loop system requires additional under-
ground facilities—at a minimum, those listed in
Table 1.3. This table also shows the additional
TABLE 1.3: Additional Materials for an Open-Loop System.
costs of these materials. The single-phase riser
Additional Installed Installed assembly listed in Table 1.3 includes all materials
Item Quantity Unit Cost Total Cost (conduit, cable terminations, surge arresters, and
fused disconnect switches) for terminating un-
Single-Phase Riser Assembly, 25 kV 1 $ 460.00 $ 460.00
derground cable on a riser pole. This assembly
Trench and Backfill 500 ft 3.00 1,500.00 does not include the pole. The riser assembly in
subsequent tables is defined in the same way.
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV 500 ft 2.50 1,250.00
Because an open-loop system always re-
Underground Cable
quires more materials than a similar radial sys-
Elbow Terminator 1 63.00 63.00 tem, the initial cost is greater than that of a ra-
Elbow Arrester 1 237.00 237.00 dial system. In the following examples, this cost
difference is calculated for several types of un-
Feed-Through Standoff 1 175.00 175.00
derground systems.
TOTAL $ 3,685.00
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 2 1

Subdivisions This incremental cost for an open-loop system
Subdivisions usually have a high consumer den- could decrease considerably for a large subdivi-
sity. A cable failure here can interrupt power to sion. For example, consider a 100-lot subdivision
many consumers. As noted, power can be re- with lot sizes similar to those in Figure 1.17. The
stored to these consumers much faster on an cost for installing underground facilities will also
open-loop system than on a radial system. For- be similar, about $1,000 per lot, so the project
tunately, most subdivision layouts can be easily cost would be $100,000 for a radial system. If an
adapted to the installation of an open-loop sys- open-loop system can be established with 500
tem by extending the underground cable from or fewer feet of cable, then the additional cost
the last transformer to a second riser pole or un- remains $3,685. However, instead of $100 per
derground feeder source. lot, the cost is $36.85 per lot, with a levelized
To illustrate this, a 37-lot subdivision is shown annual cost of only $5.20 per consumer.
in Figure 1.17. The approximate cost for a radial In both of these examples, the cooperative
system is $37,145. The additional materials for can provide a more reliable system with an ad-
an open-loop system are highlighted and are ditional investment of 10 percent or less. This
consistent with those listed in Table 1.3. This in- improvement will increase consumer satisfaction
creases the project cost by $3,685, an additional and promotes a better relationship between the
cost of approximately $100 per lot. Assuming a cooperative and the consumer.
carrying charge of 12 percent and an amortiza-
tion period of 20 years, this $100 investment has Single Residential Consumer
a levelized annual cost of $13.40 per lot. To pro- It is usually practical to install an open-loop sys-
vide a more reliable electric system through a tem for a subdivision. In contrast, an open-loop
loop design, the cooperative will spend $13.40 a system to serve a single residential consumer
year for each consumer in the subdivision. may not be practical. For example, consider a






50 50 50 kVA
460' 460'


400' 400' 400'
50 50 50 37.5 28

Legend OW) ROW

00' R
35 (1
SR 14
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer ROW

Single-Phase, Primary Voltage, UD Cable ROW

Three-Phase Overhead Line

N.O. Normally Open Point

FIGURE 1.17: Open-Loop System, 37-Lot Subdivision.

2 2 – Se c t i on 1

single residential consumer served by 500 feet of of the cost of the radial system, a substantial in-
1/0 AWG Al primary underground cable. Figure crease over the 10 percent additional cost for the
1.18 shows this radial system and also highlights subdivision.
the materials required for an open-loop system. A more economical system for a single cus-
The radial system costs $4,792. Conversion to an tomer would be a spare cable placed in the
open-loop system requires the same materials same trench and on the same riser pole. The
listed in Table 1.3, at a cost of $3,685. Here, an cost of a spare cable with terminations and ar-
open-loop system costs an additional 77 percent resters is shown in Table 1.4.
This reduces the additional cost to $1,953,
which is 41 percent of the total project cost.
However, this system is less reliable than is an
open-loop system with separate trenches. Be-
cause the spare cable is in the same ditch as the
normal feed cable, both cables are exposed to
simultaneous damage during a dig-in. The open-
loop system in Figure 1.18 has two separate
trenches; therefore, a dig-in will usually damage
only one cable. Likewise, placing both cables in


the same riser exposes both cables to damage

whenever the pole is damaged.
Riser Pole Riser Pole Instead of serving only one consumer, a single
transformer may serve several consumers. Al-
though the cost for an open-loop or spare-cable
system will be the same, the cost is divided
Legend among more consumers. If the transformer is
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer serving six consumers, then the cost drops to
Single-Phase, Primary Voltage, UD Cable
$614 per consumer for an open-loop system,
and $326 per consumer for a spare-cable system.
N.O. Normally Open Point
For these situations, the cooperative must de-
FIGURE 1.18: Open-Loop System, Single cide if the benefits of improved reliability make
Residential Consumer. the open-loop or spare-cable system a practical
choice. Factors entering into this decision should
include the type of customer and the difficulty of
TABLE 1.4: Sample Spare Cable Cost, Single Residential Consumer. effecting repairs in a timely manner.

Additional Installed Installed Commercial Consumers

Item Quantity Unit Cost Total Cost
Commercial consumers are a very diverse group,
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 500 ft $ 2.50 $ 1,250.00 ranging from small single-phase consumers to
large three-phase consumers. For this reason,
Elbow Terminator 1 63.00 63.00
there is not a single simple example to show an
Feed-Through Standoff 1 175.00 175.00 economic comparison of a loop versus radial
system. Instead, the cooperative engineer needs
Elbow Arrester 1 237.00 237.00
to examine each case to determine the cost of
25-kV O.D. Termination 1 66.00 66.00 the desired level of reliability. As a guideline for
Cutout 1 73.00 73.00 this evaluation, the following example will com-
pare the costs of a radial system, an open-loop
Riser Pole Arrester 1 89.00 89.00 system, and a spare-cable system
TOTAL $ 1,953.00 The example in Table 1.5 considers a 500-foot
radial feed to a 300-kVA pad-mounted transformer.
Note. O.D. = outside diameter This system provides a 277/480-Volt four-wire
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 2 3

It is often helpful to consider the cost per kilo-
TABLE 1.5: Sample Radial System Cost, Commercial Consumer.
watt (kW). Doing so also provides a way to com-
Installed Installed pare residential and commercial costs. For exam-
Item Quantity Unit Cost Total Cost ple, assume this three-phase installation has a
load of 225 kW and the 37-lot subdivision has a
Three-Phase Riser Assembly, 25 kV 1 $ 1,332.00 $ 1,332.00
diversified load of 7 kW per lot for a total of 259
Trench and Backfill 500 ft 3.00 1,500.00 kW. For purposes of comparison, each single
residential consumer is assumed to have a peak
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 1,500 ft 2.50 3,750.00
(non-diversified) load of 15 kW. Table 1.6 com-
24.9/14.4-kV – 480/277-V, 1 6,505.00 6,505.00 pares the added cost per kilowatt for installing
300-kVA Transformer an open-loop system and a spare cable system.
Elbow Terminator 3 63.00 189.00 Providing an open-loop system for the single
commercial consumer costs 2.5 times that for the
Elbow Arrester 3 237.00 711.00 residential consumer in a small subdivision.
Bushing Inserts 3 57.00 171.00 However, for the installation of a spare cable, a
single residential installation costs nearly 15
Transformer Pad 1 364.00 364.00
times as much per kilowatt.
TOTAL $ 14,522.00 If the open-loop three-phase system serves
several commercial consumers, then the addi-
tional cost per kilowatt would decrease. An
TABLE 1.6: Additional Cost Per Kilowatt, Open-Loop and Spare open-loop system that serves three 225-kW de-
Cable Systems.
liveries has an additional cost of $11.86/kW in-
Consumer Type Open-Loop System Spare Cable System* stead of $35.59/kW. Therefore, an open-loop
system for several three-phase consumers is
Residential $3,685/259 kW = $14.22/kW $1,953/15 kW = $130.02/kW more practical than is an open-loop system for a
Commercial $8,007/225 kW = $35.59/kW $1,953/225 kW = $8.68/kW single three-phase consumer.
*Spare cable system usually practical only for single transformer installations.
Other Options to Consider
In addition to an open-loop design and spare
service to a three-phase consumer. Table 1.5 cable design, other options may be considered
shows the cost of a radial system to be $14,522. for service to particular consumers or for some
An open-loop system requires an additional cooperatives whose underground installation en-
riser assembly, a second trench, and a separate vironment requires other strategies. In some cas-
three-phase run of underground primary cable. es, it may be economically prudent to install the
These additional materials will cost $8,007, thus primary cable in duct to a single commercial or
increasing the radial system cost by 55 percent. residential customer to simplify cable replace-
A second option places one spare cable in ment in case of failure. This would, of course,
the same trench as the radial feed. This single depend on the length of the primary cable later-
spare cable does not provide total redundancy al, the likelihood of future paving over the cable
for the three-phase cable, but would be useful if route, and the rock or debris content of the pri-
one phase of the circuit faulted. The spare cable mary cable route excavation. A similar strategy
has terminations and arresters at each end. The would be to place an empty capped duct along-
cost of this option is $1,953, as shown in Table side the primary cable in the trench, or to install
1.4. Instead of 55 percent, this option is only a a cable-in-conduit system for selected installa-
13 percent increase over the radial cost. As tions. These options, in addition to the spare ca-
noted before, this system is less reliable than an ble installation, may be the most economical in
open-loop system because the spare cable could the long-term because retrenching a cable route
be damaged by a fault in an adjacent cable, a after the site has developed is many times more
dig-in, or damage to the riser pole. expensive that the original trenching.
2 4 – Se c t i on 1










Pha Riser Pole Riser Pole OW)
00' R ROW
435 (1
SR 1
Legend ROW

IP Single-Phase Sectionalizing Cabinet ROW

. 1/0 AWG, 25-kV, UD Cable

FIGURE 1.19: Single-Phase Sub-Feeder.

Although economics is not the only deciding

TABLE 1.7: Single-Phase Sub-Feeder Cost.
factor, it is useful to know the cost difference be-
Installed Installed tween installing single- and three-phase systems.
Item Quantity Unit Cost Total Cost As an example, consider a 1,600-foot under-
ground sub-feeder of 1/0 AWG A1 25-kV cable.
Single-Phase Riser Assembly, 25 kV 2 $ 460.00 $ 920.00
Figure 1.19 shows a single-phase sub-feeder
Trench and Backfill 1,600 ft 3.00 4,800.00 with two single-phase sectionalizing cabinets.
The sectionalizing cabinet allows the sub-feeder
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 1,600 ft 2.50 4,000.00
to feed through and also provides two fused
Single-Phase Sectionalizing Cabinet 2 2,608.00 5,216.00 taps. This cabinet costs about $2,600. The total
Cabinet Pad 2 217.00 434.00 project cost is $15,898, or $9.94 per foot, as
shown in Table 1.7.
1/0 AWG Terminations 8 66.00 528.00 The cost for a similar three-phase sub-feeder
TOTAL $ 15,898.00 increases considerably. Figure 1.20 shows a
three-phase sub-feeder with two three-phase
sectionalizing cabinets. The three-phase section-
THREE-PHASE VERSUS SINGLE-PHASE alizing cabinet has three-phase group-operated
The decision to install three-phase facilities switches on the incoming and outgoing sub-
instead of single-phase is usually based on feeder cables. It also has two sets of three-phase
the following: fused taps. This cabinet costs $10,000, and the
total project cost is $41,752 or $26.10 per foot.
• Three-phase load requirements, Table 1.8 shows these costs. For this example,
• Load balancing, and a three-phase sub-feeder is 2.6 times the cost of
• Sectionalizing and protection requirements. a single-phase sub-feeder.
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 2 5








3P 3P

Pha Riser Pole Riser Pole OW)
00' R ROW
35 (1
SR 14
Legend ROW

3P Single-Phase Sectionalizing Cabinet ROW

. 1/0 AWG, 25-kV, UD Cable

FIGURE 1.20: Three-Phase Sub-Feeder.

trenching in established (landscaped) yards.

TABLE 1.8: Three-Phase Sub-Feeder Cost.
Trenching in an established yard is very costly.
Additional Installed Installed The cooperative must remove sod and obstruc-
Item Quantity Unit Cost Total Cost tions (fences, shrubbery, and utility buildings)
before trenching. After trenching, the coopera-
Three-Phase Riser Assembly, 25 kV 2 $ 1,332.00 $ 2,664.00
tive will need to replace sod or reseed. All this
Trench and Backfill 1,600 ft 3.00 4,800.00 work increases the trenching cost from $3 per
foot to $8 per foot.
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 4,800 ft 2.50 12,000.00
Assume a three-phase feeder is installed five
Three-Phase Sectionalizing Cabinet 2 10,216.00 20,432.00 years after the single-phase feeder is installed.
Cabinet Pad 2 400.00 800.00 The trenching cost is $8 per foot, an increase of
$5 per foot over the cost shown in Table 1.8.
1/0 AWG Terminations 16 66.00 1,056.00 Therefore, the trench and backfill cost increases
TOTAL $ 41,752.00 by $8,000, and the total future cost to install this
three-phase feeder is $49,752. With a carrying
charge of 12 percent, this cost has a present
This comparison rather conclusively demon- worth of $28,229. This cost added to the cost of
strates that the decision to install a three-phase a single-phase sub-feeder adds up to a present
sub-feeder should not be made lightly. How- worth of $44,127. These results show that ini-
ever, if future development plans may require tially installing a three-phase sub-feeder costs
the addition of a three-phase feeder along the less than does delaying the three-phase installa-
same route within a few years, the comparison tion. In addition, the conversion of the feeder
changes dramatically. The delayed installation of will require consumer outages that would have
the underground three-phase line will require been avoided if the three-phase installation had
2 6 – Se c t i on 1

been made initially. Therefore, level of system components.
if future loads may require a Where a future For an underground distribu-
three-phase sub-feeder, the co- tion system, these components
operative should strongly con- voltage conversion is are the following:
sider installing it as part of the possible, it is wise to
initial installation. • Underground primary cable,
install 25-kV instead • Cable terminators,
FUTURE VOLTAGE CONVERSION of 15-kV cable. • Pad-mounted transformers,
Conversion to a higher distrib- • Sectionalizing equipment,
ution system voltage requires • Transformer bushing well
an increase in the insulation inserts, and
• Surge arresters.

TABLE 1.9: 25-kV Versus 15-kV Cable and Components. The changeout of these
components at the time of
25-kV 15-kV Unit Cost Total Cost
Item Unit Cost Unit Cost Increase Quantity Increase
voltage conversion is very ex-
pensive and requires either a
1/0 AWG A1 Underground Cable $ 2.28/ft $ 1.69/ft $ 0.59/ft 4,045 ft $ 2,387.00 long outage or a series of
Elbow Terminator $ 36.00 $ 24.00 $ 12.00 18 216.00 shorter outages. This is partic-
ularly true of cable replace-
Bushing Insert 48.00 25.00 23.00 18 414.00 ment in established subdivi-
Riser Terminator 30.00 30.00 0.00 2 0.00 sions. Recent surveys show
that the labor for cable re-
TOTAL $ 3,017.00 placement often costs $8 per
foot or more. In an attempt to
TABLE 1.10: Added Cost of Dual-Voltage Transformers. avoid the excessive cost of ca-
ble replacement, 25-kV cable
25-kV 15-kV Unit Cost Total Cost and terminations could be in-
Item Unit Cost Unit Cost Increase Quantity Increase stalled initially. Doing so does
increase the initial material
50-kVA Transformer $ 1,393.00 $ 1,160.00 $ 233.00 8 $ 1,864.00
cost over that for 15-kV cable
37.5-kVA Transformer 1,349.00 1,066.00 $ 282.00 1 283.00 and components. However,
TOTAL $ 2,147.00
the labor cost remains the
same. In light of the relatively
low incremental cost for higher
TABLE 1.11: Voltage Conversion Cost at Year 10. voltage cables and accessories,
it is generally advisable to in-
Unit Quantity Total Cost stall a cable suitable for any
Item Labor Cost Unit Cost Salvage Installed Removed Increase distribution voltage expected
50-kVA, 7.2-kV $ 94.00 $ 0.00 $ (580.00) — 8 $ (3,888.00) for the area.
Transformer For an economic analysis,
consider the 37-lot subdivision
37.5-kVA, 7.2-kV 94.00 0.00 (533.00) — 1 (439.00)
of Figure 1.17. Table 1.9
shows the increase in material
50-kVA, 14.4-kV 94.00 1,574.00 — 8 — 13,344.00 cost to be $3,017, or $0.75 per
Transformer foot. Determining the future
37.5-kVA, 14.4-kV 94.00 1,525.00 — 1 — 1,619.00 value of this additional invest-
Transformer ment requires use of a com-
pound amount factor.
TOTAL $ 10,636.00
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 2 7

former changeout cost of
TABLE 1.12: Voltage Conversion Cost at Year 20.
$10,636 has a present worth
Unit Quantity Total Cost of $3,425. The present worth
Item Labor Cost Unit Cost Salvage Installed Removed Increase of installing dual-voltage
transformers is $2,147, which
50-kVA, 7.2-kV $ 115.00 $ 0.00 $ (348.00) — 8 $ (1,864.00)
makes it the economical
37.5-kVA, 7.2-kV 115.00 0.00 (320.00) — 1 (205.00) Table 1.12 shows a similar
Transformer analysis for a voltage conver-
50-kVA, 14.4-kV 115.00 1,938.00 — 8 — 16,424.00 sion at 20 years instead of
Transformer 10 years. The assumed infla-
tion rate is three percent per
37.5-kVA, 14.4-kV 115.00 1,877.00 — 1 — 1,992.00
year and the salvage value on
the removed transformers is
TOTAL $ 16,347.00 30 percent.
For a carrying charge of 12
percent, the present worth fac-
If one assumes a voltage conversion in 10 tor at 20 years is 0.1037. The transformer change-
years and a carrying charge of 12 percent, the out cost of $16,347 has a present worth of $1,695.
compound amount factor is 3.1058. The initial On the basis of this analysis, it is more economi-
investment of $3,017 has a future value of cal to change out the transformers in the future
$3,017 × 3.1058 = $9,370, or $2.32 per foot. This rather than install dual-voltage transformers.
amount is approximately equal to the present These economic analyses show that it is im-
cost of 1/0 AWG Al, 25-kV underground cable. It portant to plan for future voltage conversions. If
is very unlikely that this amount will cover even a voltage conversion is planned within 10 years
the purchase cost of the cable in 10 years. For a of the initial installation, then the cooperative
voltage conversion in 20 years, the initial invest- should install 25-kV cable, 25-kV components, and
ment of $3,017 has a future value of $3,017 × dual-voltage transformers. For conversions occur-
9.6463 = $29,103, or $7.19 per foot. This amount ring after 10 years, the cooperative should install
is less than the present labor cost ($8) for cable 25-kV cable and components. To see if dual-volt-
replacement. Therefore, in areas where a future age transformers are economically feasible, the
voltage conversion is possible, installing 25-kV cooperative engineer will need to do an analysis
cable instead of 15-kV cable is a wise investment. similar to that shown in Tables 1.10 and 1.12.
Another option to consider is installing dual-
voltage transformers along with the 25-kV cable FRONT VERSUS REAR PROPERTY
and components. The dual-voltage transformers are As covered earlier in this section, consumers and
more costly than the 7.2-kV transformers. How- the utility often disagree about placement of elec-
ever, the labor cost to install either transformer tric facilities. The utility often prefers to place fa-
is the same. For the 37-lot subdivision, the total cilities along the front property line where they
material cost increase for installing dual-voltage are easier to maintain and operate, thus provid-
transformers is $2,147, as shown in Table 1.10. ing better reliability. In contrast, consumers often
Again, consider a voltage conversion 10 years prefer placing facilities along the rear property
after the initial installation. Table 1.11 shows the line. This conflict will rarely, if ever, be solved
cost at the time of conversion assuming an infla- by an economic analysis. However, cost is al-
tion rate of three percent per year and a 50 per- ways an aspect to consider. The following exam-
cent salvage on the removed transformers. ples show a method to compare the cost of
Determining the present worth of this total re- front-lot versus rear-lot placement of facilities.
quires a present worth factor. For a carrying The economics of front versus rear place-
charge of 12 percent and a conversion at 10 ment will vary significantly depending on the
years, this factor is 0.322. Therefore, the trans- subdivision lot layout. The 37-lot subdivision of
2 8 – Se c t i on 1

AY ’


W 50




37. EA






50 50


Legend 00' R
35 (1 ROW
SR 14
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer ROW
. 1/0 AWG, 25-kV, UD Cable ROW

600-V Service Cable

FIGURE 1.21: Front Property Placement.






75 75 TE



180' 37.5



Legend 00' R
35 (1 ROW
SR 14
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer ROW

. 1/0 AWG, 25-kV, UD Cable ROW

600-V Service Cable

FIGURE 1.22: Back Property Placement.

Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 2 9

Figure 1.17 shows front-lot placement. For this polyethylene (HDPE) flexible cable in conduit.
particular subdivision, placement along the rear Because the price of conduit and cable fluctu-
lot lines will actually require more cable and ates, it is important that the cooperative engi-
increase the total project cost. For this type of sub- neer perform an economic analysis based on
division, front-line placement is a practical choice. this example but using current costs. In addition,
In contrast, Figures 1.21 and 1.22 show a subdi- the cost for replacement of direct-buried cable
vision where lots share back property lines. With will vary greatly. If $8 per foot is not reasonable,
this type of lot arrangement, placement along the the engineer needs to insert an appropriate cost.
rear property lines requires less cable and fewer This example uses the 37-lot subdivision of
transformers. In this particular example, place- Figure 1.17. Tables 1.13, 1.14, and 1.15 show the
ment along the front property line requires 1,886 present, 25-year replacement, and 30-year replace-
additional feet of cable and one additional pad- ment costs for the three options. This long-term
mounted transformer. These extra materials in- analysis includes an inflation rate of three per-
crease the project cost by $11,496, or 75 percent. cent per year. Therefore, the cost to replace di-
Most subdivisions will be a combination of the rect-buried cable will be as follows:
two extremes shown in Figures 1.17 and 1.22.
Because subdivision layouts differ, an accurate
comparison of costs requires a case-by-case study. $14.00 per foot ($8.00 per foot × 1.75) at 25 years
Calculating the installed project cost is straight- $15.20 per foot ($8.00 per foot × 1.90) at 30 years
forward; however, it is difficult to calculate the
cost advantage of operating and maintaining fa-
cilities along the front-lot lines. As a result, it is These costs are shown in Table 1.13 as Trench,
impossible to set a dollar amount on the reliabil- Backfill, Restore Surface.
ity and operational convenience gained by plac- A present worth factor needs to be used to
ing facilities along the front-lot lines. compare these three options. For a carrying
charge of 12 percent, the single payment present
DIRECT-BURIED VERSUS CABLE IN CONDUIT worth factor from standard tables for 25 years is
Many utilities are now replacing underground 0.0588 and for 30 years is 0.0334. For example,
cable that was installed only 15 to 20 years ago. for HDPE flexible conduit, the 25- and 30-year
Much of this cable is direct buried. To replace it replacement costs are the following:
will require opening a new trench or tunneling
with long-distance boring equipment. Both of
these methods are expensive: $24,675 + .0588($20,185) = $25,862
$24,675 + .0334($21,924) = $25,407
• Trench and backfill labor costs are about
$8 per foot.
• Long-distance boring costs are about
Table 1.16 summarizes the present worth for
$9 to $10 per foot.
each option.
These costs will vary significantly depending For cable replacement at 25 years, a flexible
on soil conditions, other utility congestion, land- conduit system has the lowest present worth
scape, and homeowner obstacles. and is the most economical choice. For cable re-
One way to reduce these cable replacement placement at 30 years, a direct-buried system is
costs is to install cable in a conduit system. When the most economical. However, a small change
the cable is in a conduit system, the replacement in the cost for cable replacement can affect the
cost is the cost of pulling out the failed cable and economic choice. For example, if the cost to re-
pulling in the new cable plus the cost of the new place direct-buried cable is $10 per foot instead
cable. The soil does not have to be disturbed of $8 per foot, then the 25-year cost is $10(1.75)
and other utilities do not have to be located and = $17.50 per foot, and the 30-year cost is $10(1.90)
avoided. Cost savings are tremendous. = $19.00 per foot. Thus, the total values in Table
The following example compares the cost of 1.13 change to $88,505 at 25 years, and $96,069
direct-buried, PVC rigid conduit with high-density at 30 years.
3 0 – Se c t i on 1

TABLE 1.13: Option 1—Direct-Buried Cable.

Item Quantity Unit Installed Cost Total Installed Cost

Trench and Backfill 4,045 ft $ 3.00/ft $ 12,135.00
Present Cost 1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 4,045 ft 2.50/ft 10,113.00
TOTAL $ 22,248.00
Trench, Backfill, Restore Surface 4,045 ft $ 14.00/ft $ 56,630.00
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 4,045 ft 4.38/ft 17,717.00
TOTAL $ 74,347.00
Trench, Backfill, Restore Surface 4,045 ft $ 15.20/ft $ 61,484.00
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 4,045 ft 4.75/ft 19,214.00
TOTAL $ 80,698.00

TABLE 1.14: Option 2—PVC Rigid Conduit.

Item Quantity Unit Installed Cost Total Installed Cost

Trench and Backfill 4,045 ft $ 3.00/ft $ 12,135.00
2-Inch Conduit 4,045 ft 1.55/ft 6,270.00
Present Cost
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 4,045 ft 2.60/ft $ 10,517.00
TOTAL $ 28,922.00
Remove Cable From Duct 4,045 ft $ 0.44/ft $ 1,780.00
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 4,045 ft 4.55/ft 18,405.00
TOTAL $ 20,185.00
Remove Cable From Duct 4,045 ft $ 0.48/ft $ 1,942.00
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 4,045 ft 4.94/ft 19,982.00
TOTAL $ 21,924.00

For the 30-year replacement, these values result • Added cable protection provided by a
in a present worth of $22,248 + .0334($96,069) conduit system.
= $25,457.
Therefore, the flexible conduit is the economical Another consideration for this analysis is the
choice for replacement at 30 years. For this reason, type of native soil. If the soil is rocky, it is not
it is important for the engineer to select an appro- suitable for backfill of a direct-buried cable. In
priate cable replacement cost for the economic this case, select fill material must be used for a
analysis. Of course, this economic analysis could two-inch minimum of cable bedding and a four-
not assign a monetary value to the following: inch cable cover. The cost of this select fill mate-
rial can substantially increase the initial project
• Consumer inconvenience and irritation that cost for a direct-buried system. In contrast, the use
results from trenching across established of a conduit system, flexible or rigid, protects
lawns, and the cable from rocky soils; in most cases, select
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 3 1

TABLE 1.15: Option 3—Cable in HDPE Flexible Conduit.

Item Quantity Unit Installed Cost Total Installed Cost

Trench and Backfill 4,045 ft $ 3.00/ft $ 12,135.00
Present Cost Cable in Conduit 4,045 ft 3.10/ft 12,540.00
TOTAL $ 24,675.00
Remove Cable From Duct 4,045 ft $ 0.44/ft $ 1,780.00
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 4,045 ft 4.55/ft 18,405.00
TOTAL $ 20,185.00
Remove Cable From Duct 4,045 ft $ 0.48/ft $ 1,942.00
1/0 AWG A1, 25-kV Underground Cable 4,045 ft 4.94/ft 19,982.00
TOTAL $ 21,924.00

get accurate results, each cooperative will need

TABLE 1.16: Present Worth of Cable Installation Options.
to conduct a similar analysis using its cost data.
Present Worth
Installation Method 25-Year Replacement 30-Year Replacement SEPARATE SERVICES VERSUS
Direct Buried $ 26,620.00 $ 24,943.00 In a residential subdivision, a single pad-mounted
PVC Rigid Conduit 30,109.00 29,654.00 transformer often provides electrical service to
several consumers. Service may be provided di-
HDPE Flexible Conduit 25,862.00 25,407.00
rectly from the transformer or from a secondary
pedestal. Figure 1.23 shows both methods. The
backfill is not required. Therefore, the initial pro- arrangement that uses a secondary pedestal is
ject cost for the two conduit systems will not in- less reliable than direct service from the trans-
crease. Adverse soil conditions can quickly shift former. A cable fault on the secondary cable will
system economics to favor conduit installations. interrupt power to multiple consumers. In con-
Although this analysis is based on a small 37-lot trast, a cable fault on an individual service will
subdivision, the results show that a conduit sys- interrupt power to that consumer only.
tem can be an economical choice. The prices for This analysis compares the initial installation
conduit, trenching, surface restoration, and long- cost only. Table 1.17 lists the cost of providing
distance boring vary from region to region. To separate services as shown in method A of

Secondary Pedestal

200’ #6 10’ #6
150’ 250’ 4/0


Transformer Transformer

4/0 4/0 4/0 4/0

Method A—Seperate Services Method B—Secondary Pedestal

FIGURE 1.23: Methods for Providing Secondary Service.

3 2 – Se c t i on 1

Figure 1.23. The separate services do share a
TABLE 1.17: Separate Service Cables.
common trench along the front property line.
Quantity Installed Installed Method B of Figure 1.23 shows the use of a sec-
Item (ft) Unit Cost Total Cost ondary pedestal. This cost is shown in Table 1.18.
As this example shows, the use of separate
Trench and Backfill 300 $ 3.00/ft $ 900.00
service cables is often the economical choice for
4/0, 600-V Triplexed Cable 400 1.25/ft 500.00 lots located on the same side of the road as the
transformer if the lots are developed at the same
No. 6, 600-V Triplexed Cable 200 0.25/ft 50.00
time. However, the use of a secondary pedestal
TOTAL $ 1,450.00 across the road from the transformer may be the
economical choice since it requires trenching or
TABLE 1.18: Secondary Pedestal. tunneling across the road in only one location.

Quantity Installed Installed

Item (ft) Unit Cost Total Cost
Trench and Backfill 300 $ 3.00/ft $ 900.00
4/0, 600-V Triplexed Cable 300 1.25/ft 375.00
No. 6, 600-V Triplexed Cable 10 0.25/ft 2.50
Secondary Pedestal 1 172.00 172.00
Insulated Connectors 3 14.00 42.00
TOTAL $ 1,491.50

UD Loss The inevitable loss of some of the power deliv- COST OF LOSSES
Economics ered through underground cables is an expense In a sample analysis of the cost of losses on
for the cooperative. Optimal economic design of distribution primary lines, the Distribution
the system requires that this expense be known System Loss Management Manual provides cost
and evaluated. figures for a typical cooperative. The sample
Cable losses are classified as either load-de- cooperative purchases wholesale power at $10
pendent or non-load-dependent. For UD cables, per kW per month at a 100 percent ratchet, and
most of the loss is load-dependent; it is only in the wholesale energy rate is $0.03 per kilowatt-
unusual circumstances that non-load-dependent hour (kWh).
loss becomes significant. The cost of losses is Non-load-dependent losses are constant as
derived from a combination of peak-load long as the cable is energized. Load-dependent
demand costs and accumulated losses change with the square
annual energy costs. A thor- of the loading level, which
ough coverage of the types of makes it difficult to determine
losses and their costs to coop- For UD cables, their average level. A quantity
eratives is contained in the most power loss is referred to as a loss factor is
National Rural Electric used to estimate the average
Cooperative Association’s load dependent. of load-dependent losses when
Distribution System Loss their peak value is known.
Management Manual A value of 0.3 (30 percent)
(NRECA Research Project 90-7). is suggested as typical for
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 3 3

primary distribution lines when calculating losses are calculated by the formula shown in
loss factors. Equation 1.1.
The cost per peak kilowatt for line losses for
the sample cooperative is then determined as Primary Cable Sheath Losses
follows: The normal UD practice is to ground cable
sheaths at both ends. When this is done on
three-phase cable runs, a small amount of circu-
Annual Demand Cost lating current will be induced in the cable
per kW of Peak Losses sheaths. The flow of this current produces a
$10/kW/month × 12 months = $120/kW
small loss in the sheaths, calculated as shown in
Equation 1.2.
Annual Energy Cost per kW XM is determined using Equation 1.3.
of Non-Load-Dependent Peak Losses
8,760 hours × $0.03/kWh = $263/kW
Equation 1.1
Annual Energy Cost per kW
of Load-Dependent Peak Losses
0.3 × 860 hours × $0.03/kWh = $79/kW WR=3 I2 R L

Total Annual Cost per kW where: WR = Total loss, in watts

of Non-Load-Dependent Peak Losses I = Load current, in amperes
$120/kW + $263/kW = $383/kW
R = Phase conductor resistance, in
ohms per kilofoot (kft)
Total Annual Cost per kW
of Load-Dependent Peak Losses L = Circuit length, in kft
$120/kW + $79/kW = $199/kW

Equation 1.2
The resulting expense per kilowatt of loss can
be used to quickly estimate the savings that will 3 I2 RS L X2M
WS =
result from using UD designs that operate at R2S + X2M
lower losses. The loss savings can be compared
with the annual carrying charges on the extra in- where: WS = Total sheath loss, in watts
vestment costs required to achieve lower losses. I = Load current, in amperes
This type of economic comparison is discussed RS = Sheath resistance, in ohms per kft
in detail in the Distribution System Loss Manage-
L = Circuit length, in kft
ment Manual.
XM = Sheath reactance, in ohms per kft
An essential step in the economic evaluation of
Equation 1.3
losses is calculating the expected electrical losses
for alternative designs. For a primary UD cable,
losses occur in the conductor, sheath, and di- XM = 0.05292 log10
electric, and as a result of cable charging current.

Primary Cable Conductor Losses where: XM = Sheath reactance, in ohms per kft
The losses resulting from load current interact- S = Center-to-center spacing, in mils,
ing with the conductor resistance (I2R losses) for equilaterally spaced cables
are by far the most significant losses in primary rM = Mean radius, in mils, to the sheath
UD cables. For a run of three-phase cable, these for each cable
3 4 – Se c t i on 1

Equation 1.4 Equation 1.5

8.28 E2 L εt cosφ 7.354 εt

WD = C=
log10 2T+D log10 2T+D

where: WD = Total three-phase dielectric loss, where: C = Cable capacitance, in nanoFarads

in watts (nF) per kft
E = Line-to-ground operating voltage, εt = Dielectric constant of the insulation
in kV T = Insulation thickness, in mils
L = Circuit length, in kft D = Conductor diameter, in mils
εt = Dielectric constant of the insulation
cosφ = Insulation power factor, per unit Next, charging current per kilofoot of cable
length is calculated with Equation 1.6.
T = Insulation thickness, in mils
D = Conductor diameter, in mils
Equation 1.6

IC = 0.000377 C E
Primary Cable Dielectric Losses
Voltage stress on cable insulation produces a
slight heating effect that leads to power losses. where: IC = Charging current, in amperes per kft
These dielectric losses can be calculated using C = Cable capacitance, in nF per kft
Equation 1.4.
E = Line-to-ground operating voltage,
The formula in Equation 1.4 shows that di-
in kV
electric losses are directly proportional to the
product of εt and cosφ. Cable engineers refer to
the product εt cosφ as the cable loss factor. This Finally, the charging-current loss is calculated
use of the term loss factor is completely different as shown in Equation 1.7.
from the use of loss factor earlier in this section.
Dielectric losses are a consequence of the cable Equation 1.7
being energized and are, therefore, continuous;
whereas the more common use of the term loss WC = R I2C L3
factor deals with losses due to the resistance of
the conductor and, therefore, vary with the mag-
where: WC = Total three-phase charging current
nitude of the load being carried by the cable.
loss, in watts
R = Phase conductor resistance, in ohms
Primary Cable Charging-Current Losses
per kft
The capacitance of an underground cable draws
charging current that interacts with the conduc- IC = Charging current, in amperes per kft
tor resistance to produce a small loss. If the L = Circuit length, in kft
cable is delivering current to low power factor
load, the charging current will be beneficial be- Data for Cable Loss Calculations
cause its leading nature will cancel out some of Many items of technical data are needed on the
the lagging load current. Therefore, charging- cables involved to calculate losses from the
current losses are of concern for only unloaded above formulas. Physical measurements such as
cables or those carrying unity power factor loads. diameter and insulation thickness are usually
The procedure for calculating charging-cur- shown on manufacturers’ catalog sheets. Basic
rent losses begins with determining the cable electrical data such as voltage, amperes, and
capacitance per phase with Equation 1.5. resistance are known from the system or can
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 3 5

easily be found from catalog sheets or standard be sure that the correct values are known, it is
references. usually necessary to contact engineering special-
The insulation dielectric constant, εt, and ists on the staff of the manufacturer of each spe-
power factor, cosφ, are sometimes difficult to cific cable type. There are often large differences
determine. Manufacturers’ data sheets often do in values for dielectric constant and power fac-
not give these parameters. For pure materials tor among various cable types. The spread in
such as TR-XLPE, the information may be ob- values is especially pronounced for the power
tained from standard references. However, most factor. In addition, the cable power factor often
modern insulation types contain additives that varies substantially with cable temperature. It is
affect dielectric constant and power factor. To recommended that, if comparisons are being

EXAMPLE 1.1: Cable Loss Calculations.

This example contains typical data; however, don’t use the sample data in actual-case calculations. For
actual situations, consult the cable manufacturer to get accurate data on the cable being used.
Table 1.19 shows data and loss calculation results for a typical three-phase cable run. Three insulation
types are represented at two different temperatures.

TABLE 1.19. Sample Cable Loss Analysis.

@ 25° C @ 50° C
Low-Loss High-Loss Low-Loss High-Loss
Insulation Type Sample Data TR-XLPE EPR EPR TR-XLPE EPR EPR
(E) Line-to-Ground Operating Voltage in kV 7.2 7.2 7.2 7.2 7.2 7.2
Conductor Size 1/0 A1 1/0 A1 1/0 A1 1/0 A1 1/0 A1 1/0 A1
(D) Diameter in mils 373 373 373 373 373 373
(T) Thickness in mils 220 220 220 220 220 220
(rM) Mean Radius in mils 430 430 430 430 430 430
(S) Center-to-Center Spacing in mils 1,180 1,180 1,180 1,180 1,180 1,180
(R) Resistance in Ω/kft 0.20 0.20 0.20 0.20 0.20 0.20
(RS) Sheath Resistance in Ω/kft 0.60 0.60 0.60 0.60 0.60 0.60
(εt) Dielectric Constant of the Insulation 2.35 2.9 3.27 2.35 2.9 3.27
(cosφ pu) Insulation Power Factor per Unit 0.06 0.25 2.0 0.06 0.30 3.25
(L) Circuit Length in kft 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0
(I) Load Current in Amperes 60 60 60 60 60 60
Conductor Loss, Watts 8,640 8,640 8,640 8,640 8,640 8,640
Concentric Neutral Loss, Watts 38.7 38.7 38.7 38.7 38.7 38.7
Dielectric Loss, Watts 715 3,679 33,184 715 4,414 53,924
Charging Loss, Watts 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.3 0.4 0.5
TOTAL LOSS, Watts 9,394 12,358 41,863 9,394 13,093 62,603
*Insulation Data Courtesy of the Okonite Company
3 6 – Se c t i on 1

EXAMPLE 1.2: Calculating Losses on Secondary Cables.

This example illustrates how the losses on secondary loaded. In this case, a resistance of 0.167 ohms per kft
cables are calculated. Sample data are shown in Table is given by reference tables.
Load on the neutral is assumed to be negligible. There-
fore, the conductor distance is 300 feet, and the total
TABLE 1.20: Sample Secondary Cable Data. resistance is 0.05 ohms.
Voltage of Circuit 120/240-V, single-phase Losses at peak load are calculated as follows:
Circuit Length 150 feet
WR = I2 R = 852 × 0.05 = 361 watts
Conductor No. 1/0 AWG, aluminum
Peak Load 85 amperes
Annual energy losses are determined by using the loss
Loss Factor 20% factor:

The conductor resistance is obtained from standard ref- Energy Losses = 0.2 × 8,760 hours × 361 watts
erences. A conductor temperature of 25°C is assumed = 632,472 watt-hours = 632 kWh
for underground secondary cables that are not heavily

made among cable types, the engineer should vice. The dielectric loss differential between nor-
use only written data obtained from the manu- mal EPR cable and TR-XLPE cable is approxi-
facturer of that cable type. An excellent source mately 0.22 kW per circuit mile from the results
of this data is the cable manufacturer’s Insulated shown on the table. Because this loss is non-
Cable Engineers Association (ICEA) Qualification load-dependent, the annual loss expense per
Report for the particular cable construction. Once mile as calculated above is typically $84 per
the figures are obtained, compare the data from mile (0.22 kW/mile × $383/kW). For 100 circuit
different sources to confirm the reasonableness miles of installed cable, this expense comes to
of the information for a particular cable type. $8,400 per year, which no longer seems insignif-
When requesting data from cable manufactur- icant. However, in a total economic evaluation,
ers, be as specific as possible about the data the cost of additional dielectric losses ($84 per
being requested. Ask the manufacturer for the mile) must be compared with any additional life
data from ICEA qualification tests. Losses should expectancy that might be available from the
be quoted for a specific temperature, such as 40°C. higher loss insulation system. Appendix D of
The loss figures in Table 1.19 show that sheath, NRECA CRN Project 90-8 provides a method for
dielectric, and charging-current losses are negligi- evaluating cable losses and life expectancy in
ble compared with conductor load-current losses, the purchasing process.
except in the case of high-loss EPR. However,
under light-load or other unusual conditions, the Secondary Cable Losses
relative values of the three types of losses may For secondary UD cables, losses other than
become more significant. Charging-current loss- load-current-related conductor I2R losses are
es, for example, may become significant for ex- truly insignificant. Loss control methods for ap-
tremely long cable runs because these losses in- plication to secondary designs are the same as
crease with the cube of the circuit length. described in the NRECA Distribution System Loss
Another important consideration is that small Management Manual for either overhead or un-
loss differences among alternative cable types derground situations. Appendix B to that manual
can accumulate to a significant expense if an gives annual kilowatt-hour losses for a selection
extremely large amount of cable is placed in ser- of conductor sizes and loading levels.
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 3 7

PAD-MOUNTED TRANSFORMER LOSSES approximately 20 percent less than this example
The losses on pad-mounted transformers used are available from manufacturers. Use of the
on UD systems are a significant expense. Close higher efficiency transformer will save about $40
attention to the management annually, which is enough to
of losses on any type of trans- amortize about $300 in initial
former is essential to a loss investment cost at a 12 percent
Pad-mounted carrying charge rate over a 20-
control program.
As with all types of trans- transformer losses are year period. Thus, if the higher
formers, losses on pad- a significant expense. efficiency transformer can be
mounted transformers are of purchased for less than a $300
two distinct types. The first price premium over the sam-
category, core losses, is not ple transformer, then it is a
load dependent and represents a continuous ex- better economic choice in the long run.
pense whenever the transformer is energized. The Distribution System Loss Management
The second category, winding losses, comprises Manual provides thorough coverage of the issue
load-dependent losses that become especially of transformer losses and the means to control
expensive during peak loads. the associated expenses to the extent feasible.
Higher efficiency transformers with losses
New housing developments often require the
construction of the electric UD system well be-
EXAMPLE 1.3: Typical Costs Associated with Transformer Losses.
fore most living units are built and occupied.
When energized transformers are installed be-
Consider a 50-kVA pad-mounted transformer having 140 watts of core losses and fore there are consumers to serve, the non-load-
490 watts of winding losses at nameplate load. If this unit is loaded to 60 kVA at peak dependent or no-load losses on the transformers
load, the winding losses will be as follows: represent an expense that is uncompensated by
revenue. This expense can be avoided by keep-
Winding Losses = (60 ÷ 50)2 × 490 watts = 706 watts ing the transformers de-energized until they are
needed. Service to street lights can be concen-
With the annual cost figures given for losses at the beginning of this subsection, the trated in a small number of transformers to allow
annual costs associated with each type of loss can be calculated as follows: the de-energization of most of the units in areas
not yet occupied.
Core Loss Cost = $383/kW × 0.140 kW = $54 Installing a de-energized transformer requires
Winding Loss Cost = $199/kW × 0.706 kW = $140 the use of a feed-through stand-off bushing
which, in most cases, costs about $150. Because
The total annual cost of the losses associated with operating this transformer this bushing can be reused elsewhere after the
is $194. transformer is placed in service, the special
bushing cost is equivalent to $20 annually at a
12 percent carrying charge rate over a 20-year
period. Despite this expense, the avoidance of
TABLE 1.21: Savings from Deferred Transformer Energization. core losses represents a net savings, as shown
Annual Loss Feed-Through Annual
by Table 1.21.
Size Core Losses Cost at Device Net If hundreds of units are involved, the savings
(kVA) (watts) $383/kW Annual Cost Savings associated with deferred energization could ex-
ceed $8,000 annually.
25 82 $ 31.00 $ 20.00 $ 11.00 For 50- and 100-kVA installations, larger sav-
50 140 54.00 20.00 34.00 ings can be achieved by deferring the installation
of each transformer not needed for immediate
100 260 100.00 20.00 80.00
service by placing a pedestal containing a feed-
3 8 – Se c t i on 1

These results show that deferred installation
TABLE 1.22: Savings From Deferred Transformer Installation.
of transformers is not significantly beneficial for
25 kVA 50 kVA 100 kVA 25-kVA units. However, the net savings can be
Transformer Price $ 750.00 $ 1,000.00 $ 1,750.00 substantial in the case of larger units. If hun-
dreds of units are involved, the savings may
Deferred Transformer Carrying Charges $ 90.00 $ 120.00 $ 210.00
exceed $25,000 annually.
at 12% (Transformer Price x 0.12)
Simply routing the cable aboveground at
Deferred Annual Core Loss Cost 31.00 54.00 100.00 future transformer locations and looping it back
(from Table 1.21) into the trench without cutting it can achieve still
Total Deferred Cost 121.00 174.00 310.00 larger savings. An enclosure is then installed to
protect the above-ground loop. When the time
Temporary Equipment Annual Cost 120.00 120.00 120.00 comes for a transformer to be installed, the cable
Net Annual Savings 1.00 54.00 190.00 is de-energized and cut to prepare for the instal-
lation of the elbows and transformer. However,
special care must be used to avoid excessive
through device at the future transformer loca- cable bending with this type of installation, and
tion. The cost of the pedestal and device is the extra switching that may be required during
about $330, which represents a $40 annual cost the final transformer installation does represent
at a 12 percent carrying charge rate (0.12 × 330 an additional expense.
= $40). A nonrecoverable labor cost of about
$160 is incurred for installing the temporary CONCLUSION
feed-through pedestal and removing it later. If Electrical losses on UD systems represent an ex-
the average deferment time is two years, this pense that should be managed to reduce costs.
cost is $80 annually. Therefore, the cost for ex- When alternative UD system designs are consid-
ercising this deferment option is $120 annually ered, it is necessary to estimate the amount of
($40 + $80). these losses and their costs. The techniques
On the plus side, the annual carrying charges given here and in the NRECA Distribution
on a transformer are avoided along with the cost System Loss Management Manual provide the
of core losses. The overall results are summarized necessary calculation methods.
in Table 1.22 for three common transformer sizes.

Steps for Layout To help the engineer with layout of a UD sys- STEP 1. GET THE REQUIRED INFORMATION
of a UD System tem, this subsection describes eight design steps: Before any design work can be started, the
engineer must get certain information from
STEP 1: Get the required information. the consumer or developer, including the
STEP 2: Arrange the service and transformer following:
STEP 3: Calculate the consumer load and select • Site plan with defined lots and utility
proper equipment ratings. easements,
STEP 4: Select the primary cable route. • Load and voltage requirements,
STEP 5: Locate sectionalizing equipment. • Project schedules,
STEP 6: Visit the project site. • Location of other underground utilities,
STEP 7: Obtain all easements. • Reliability needs, and
STEP 8: Prepare staking sheets. • Final grading plans.
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 3 9

For subdivisions, it is very barrier wall or an oil absorption
important to get a copy of the For subdivisions, bed around the transformer.
subdivision plat. This map In contrast, the typical resi-
shows the lot arrangements get a copy of the dential load does not require
and is necessary for designing site plan and the transformer to be next to
the layout of underground fa- the house. Rather, the trans-
recorded plat.
cilities. Appendix D contains a former can be in a central lo-
form to use when collecting cation and provide service to
this information. several consumers.
This information is rarely gathered in one The engineer can begin to arrange this service
brief conversation. Rather, it is usually compiled and transformer layout after receiving the subdi-
through several conversations and meetings with vision plat. Several studies have shown that the
consumers, the developer, contractors, and other most economical arrangement uses the least
utility representatives. It is the engineer’s duty to number of transformers. This design, in turn,
persevere until all required data are collected in means longer service conductor lengths and
final form. Although the engineer can plan many more consumers per transformer. However,
aspects of the project on the basis of preliminary voltage flicker at the consumer’s delivery point
information, a final design should not be released often limits the service conductor length. De-
until all information is collected and verified. pending on lot size, limiting the service conduc-
Otherwise, the project may encounter unneces- tor length may reduce the number of consumers
sary construction difficulties, fail to meet con- per transformer. Another limiting factor is the
sumer expectations, or use materials inefficiently. space in the secondary compartment of the
In any of these cases, the cost to the cooperative transformer. Most single-phase pad-mounted
and its consumers will be greater than for a transformers have space for connecting a maxi-
well-designed system. mum of eight secondary/service conductors.
This includes secondary conductors used to feed
STEP 2. ARRANGE THE SERVICE street and area lights.
AND TRANSFORMER LAYOUT In some layouts, a trans-
Commercial and industrial former may serve some lots lo-
consumers usually have heavy Service conductor cated across the street. A
loads that can include large- convenient way to serve sev-
horsepower motors. To limit length is often eral lots with only one road
the voltage drop and flicker limited by crossing is from a secondary
associated with these loads, pedestal. The secondary
voltage flicker.
the transformer should be near pedestal is supplied by a sin-
those consumers’ delivery gle secondary cable from the
points. Often the transformer transformer (see Figure 1.24).
is placed near the building. The engineer should Unfortunately, this decreases service reliability.
use good judgment and experience in determin- A cable fault on the one secondary cable inter-
ing the minimum allowable distance between rupts power to all the attached consumers.
the transformer and the building. Factors affect- However, the time required to replace the failed
ing the distance will include building use, fire cable will be shorter if the cable is in a conduit.
rating of the exposed wall, presence of wall It is also advisable to have cable in conduit for
openings, vehicle traffic, and other public safety any roadway crossing to eliminate future street
considerations. If the utility or the building cutting and provide additional protection against
owner concludes that additional protection is dig-ins.
warranted, such enhancements might be achieved Secondary pedestals are not the ideal method
by increased separation, use of “less flammable” for serving consumers on the same side of the
fluid in the transformer, or installation of a road as the transformer. Each of these consumers
4 0 – Se c t i on 1

should have a separate service cable from the
transformer. This improves reliability, is often
Secondary more economical than installing a secondary
Pedestal pedestal (see Economic Comparison of System
Configurations earlier in this section) and also
4/0 eliminates maintenance of the secondary
Figure 1.25 shows a service and transformer
layout for a 75-lot subdivision. This layout fea-

tures 13 transformers that serve an average of

six consumers each. Transformers located along


the front property lines serve the perimeter lots.


The interior lots share back property lines;

A DC therefore, it is more economical to serve these
ELMS lots from transformers located along the rear
property lines. This combination of front and
rear property line placement is often the most
economical layout. Because of criteria other
than economics, the cooperative may allow
transformer placement along the front property
line only or the rear property line only. Table
1.2 lists these other criteria and compares the
advantages and disadvantages of front versus
FIGURE 1.24: Road Crossing to Feed Secondary Pedestal.
rear line placement.




Note: The three shaded


CT. lots indicate the worst



ELM locations for voltage drop

and flicker.



Legend OW)
00' R ROW
35 (1
SR 14
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer ROW

Secondary-Voltage Cable ROW


FIGURE 1.25: Service and Transformer Layout for 75-Lot Subdivision.

Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 4 1

STEP 3. CALCULATE THE CONSUMER LOAD service cable impedance. Reducing the load cur-
AND SELECT PROPER EQUIPMENT RATINGS rent or the circuit impedance reduces the volt-
From the information collected in Step 1 and the age drop. As load current is usually a fixed
service and transformer layout of Step 2, the en- value, the engineer must find ways to reduce
gineer can calculate the expected consumer the circuit impedance.
loads. On the basis of the calculated load, the The engineer can reduce the transformer im-
engineer will select the following: pedance by selecting the following:

• A secondary cable with adequate capacity, • A unit with a lower impedance, or

• A transformer with sufficient kVA for the • A unit with a greater kVA rating.
diversified consumer load, and
• A primary cable with ampacity based on the However, these methods are usually not
expected operating conditions. cost-effective. A low-impedance transformer
typically costs more than a standard unit and
Information for making these selections is requires the utility to stock standard and non-
contained in Section 4, Equipment Loading. In standard transformers. A transformer with a
reviewing the total primary current for the load greater kVA rating costs more and also has
to be served, the engineer must select primary higher core (no-load) losses.
cables with the proper ampacity ratings. How- For residential services, it is more practical to
ever, when decisions are made concerning these lower the secondary/service cable impedance
total primary load currents, care must be taken rather than the transformer impedance by doing
to also maintain load balance among phases on the following:
the feeders serving these loads.
After making these selections, the engineer • Shortening the cable length,
must check for voltage drop and voltage flicker • Increasing the cable size, or
at the consumer’s delivery point. Appendix B • Paralleling cables.
contains equations for calculating voltage drop
and flicker. The voltage drop must not exceed By placing the transformer closer to the con-
the maximum values in Table B.1. Likewise, the sumer’s delivery point, the engineer can shorten
magnitude and frequency of the voltage flicker the secondary/service cable length. Although the
must be within the permissible levels shown in primary cable length is increased, this approach
Figure B.2. For a subdivision layout, it is not is often economical for single deliveries, particu-
necessary to calculate these values for each con- larly those with large secondary/service cables.
sumer. Instead, the engineer should determine a The larger secondary/service cables can cost
few worst cases and perform the calculations for more than primary cable. If it is not practical to
these only. For voltage drop, the worst cases are place the transformer closer, the engineer can
the longer secondary/service cables served from increase the secondary/service cable size or can
transformers having a greater number of con- parallel two smaller cables.
nected consumers. For voltage flicker, the worst But instead of serving a single delivery, a
cases are a combination of longer secondary/ transformer in a subdivision will serve multiple
service lengths, larger motors, and smaller trans- deliveries. Therefore, shortening the sec-
former sizes. Figure 1.25 highlights the worst ondary/service cable lengths in a subdivision re-
cases for voltage drop and voltage flicker. quires installing additional transformers. The
If the calculated voltage drop exceeds the cost of installing and operating these additional
limits in Table B.1, the engineer must modify the transformers may be greater than the cost of in-
design. Voltage drop is a product of load current creasing the secondary/service cable size. In
and circuit impedance. For voltage drop at the subdivisions, therefore, it may be more econom-
consumer’s delivery point, the circuit impedance ical to increase the cable size rather than shorten
consists of the transformer and the secondary/ the cable length.
4 2 – Se c t i on 1

Reducing the cable imped- cable route should be the
ance also reduces the voltage Offset the primary most efficient way to serve
flicker during motor starting. all the transformers. For pro-
For large motors, this method cable route at least jects with multiple transform-
may not limit the voltage 1 to 2 feet from any ers, an open-loop feeder is
flicker to the permissible levels preferred. The primary cable
property line.
shown in Figure B.2. For situa- route should be offset at least
tions involving polyphase mo- one to two feet from any
tors, a consumer may use a property line. Property owners
starting method that reduces the motor inrush often place fences along their property lines and
current. The engineer needs to review large mo- could damage buried cable placed on the prop-
tors and the proposed starting methods to see if erty line.
the arrangements will cause problems on the The route should also minimize conflict with
electric system or for other consumers. One other buried utilities. One way to accomplish
method of particular concern is the use of an this is to establish a utility corridor. Within the
electronic “soft” starter. Unlike conventional corridor, each utility occupies its allocated
methods, this type of reduced voltage starting space, which allows each utility to know the ap-
produces harmonics on the electric system. The proximate location of other utilities. A utility cor-
harmonics result from chopping the voltage sine ridor requires a wider easement than the usual
wave to reduce the voltage at the terminals of 10-foot easement for electric facilities only. Utili-
the motor. ties may find this concept works well in subdivi-
sions where the developer has defined a wide
STEP 4. SELECT THE PRIMARY CABLE ROUTE utility easement on the subdivision plat.
After locating the transformers and services, the Some developers may ask the cooperative to
engineer must select a primary cable route. The locate its facilities within the street right-of-way.










Legend 00' R ROW
35 (1
SR 14
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer
. Single-Phase, Primary Voltage, UD Cable ROW

FIGURE 1.26: Primary Cable Layout for 75-Lot Subdivision.

Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 4 3

Although this is convenient for the developer, it
usually creates future problems for the coopera-
tive. These private roads are often released to
the local city or state road system. These gov- Equipment Pad

ernments have rules about utilities located

within the road right-of-way. Most require the
utility to file a right-of-way encroachment, to
bury cables at a specified depth, and to meet
very high compaction levels during trench back-
fill. When the governing body decides to widen
the road, the cooperative may have to relocate
its facilities at its expense. The cooperative can
avoid these conflicts by locating its facilities on a

10' 0"
Clear Working Space
private right-of-way off the edge of the city,
county, or state right-of-way.
Finally, the selected cable route should mini-
mize the number of road crossings. A faulted
cable section under a road is difficult to repair
or replace unless the cable is in a conduit. A
conduit with cable or a spare conduit placed be- FIGURE 1.27: Minimum Required
neath the road allows the cooperative to replace Working Space.
the cable without disturbing the road surface.
This method is acceptable for use with direct-
buried, jacketed primary cable. It should be of the equipment and 10 feet out from the
noted that placing the cable in the conduit will equipment door as shown in Figure 1.27. Pad-
reduce the cable ampacity. mounted switchgear often has two sets of doors
Figure 1.26 shows a primary cable route for and, therefore, requires working space on both
the 75-lot subdivision. This particular cable route sides of the equipment.
has two road crossings. Another concern is damage from vehicles.
Cars are likely to bump and
STEP 5. LOCATE damage equipment located in
SECTIONALIZING EQUIPMENT parking lots. If the equipment
After selecting the primary The minimum working cannot be relocated, the coop-
cable route, the engineer can space extends out erative may have to install
locate the sectionalizing some type of barricade around
equipment, which includes 10 feet from the the equipment. However, this
riser poles, junction cabinets, equipment door. barricade must not block the
fuse cabinets, and switchgear. equipment doors or obstruct
These devices are used to pro- the required working space.
vide sectionalizing at desired Equipment located along
points within the UD system. Section 3, Under- streets and at intersections can be damaged by
ground System Sectionalizing, describes the snow removal equipment, particularly if the
desirable locations for sectionalizing devices. equipment is covered by snow. Another high-
Utility personnel have to operate and main- risk area is a crop field. Tall crops can obscure
tain these devices; therefore, the equipment the equipment, making it invisible to someone
needs to be in accessible locations. Operating operating farm equipment. These high-risk areas
pad-mounted equipment requires enough work- must be avoided or adequate protective methods
ing space to move elbow terminators with hot must be used to minimize the chance for equip-
sticks. The minimum working space is the width ment damage.
4 4 – Se c t i on 1

STEP 6. VISIT THE PROJECT SITE problems on moderate slopes. On more severe
After completing the preliminary layout, the en- slopes, different trenching equipment and tech-
gineer must visit the project site to view the ter- niques will need to be used, along with an an-
rain. Certain types of terrain can make cable chored or encased conduit and more aggressive
installation and equipment placement difficult or erosion control techniques.
impractical. Examples of problems with terrain Installing pad-mounted equipment on sloped
are the following: terrain requires careful excava-
tion to provide a level terraced
• Sloped terrain, surface for a monolithic pad
• Corrosive soils,
Visit the project or the use of a compartmental
• Rocky soils, site to identify style pad, even if the slope is
• Sandy soils, moderate. For more severe
problem terrain.
• Unstable soils, or slopes, the use of retaining
• Flood plains. walls of stone or timber will
be needed along with molded
During the site visit, the engineer should look or pre-cast ground sleeves of
for these and other adverse terrain types along sufficient height to span the difference in eleva-
the proposed cable route and at proposed tion from the high side to the low side. Remem-
equipment locations. Ideally, the engineer will ber to establish grades in such a manner that
relocate the cable or equipment to avoid the erosion of the soil down to the transformer is
problem terrain. Unfortunately, relocation is not minimized. Also provide for adequate level op-
always practical, and the engineer must adapt erating area in front of the equipment.
the design to reduce installation and mainte- Although it is not always possible, the under-
nance problems. Methods for adapting a design ground designer should try to avoid sloped
are described under the subheadings below. areas for the installation of conductors and de-
This step is very important because it identi- vices, or at least use the more moderate slopes
fies problems before construction. If these prob- whenever practical.
lems require relocating cable or equipment, the
engineer can easily modify the preliminary lay- Corrosive Soils
out. Changing the location of equipment and Terrain features that indicate potentially severely
cable during construction is very time-consum- corrosive soils are the following:
ing and, therefore, more expensive.
• Swamps,
Sloped Terrain • Streams,
Installation of cable and equipment on sloped • Poorly drained areas, or
terrain presents a number of problems whose • Visible alkali (mineral salts).
severity usually increases with the degree of
slope. Trenching across sloped terrain is difficult These soils can corrode unprotected, buried
because of problems controlling the mechanized neutrals and ground conductors. One way to
trenching equipment safely while achieving a protect neutral conductors is to prevent them
stable excavation whose sides are vertical. from contacting the soil by using jacketed cable.
Trenching up or down sloped terrain also has However, the counterpoise and/or ground elec-
control and safety issues with the trenching trodes must remain in contact with the soil and
equipment and, additionally, introduces prob- be protected by another means. For information
lems with both surface erosion of the backfill on corrosion protection, refer to Section 7,
and tunneling erosion around the cable or con- Cathodic Protection Requirements. That sec-
duit. Careful attention to tamping and com- tion explains how to determine if soils are cor-
paction, along with installing a stable ground rosive and what types of cathodic protection
cover, such as sod, will generally address these are needed.
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 4 5

Rocky Soils access and operate. This condition is improved
Rocky soils are often characterized by protrud- by using silt fencing or shrubbery as a wind
ing boulders or rocks lying on the surface. Visi- block. However, installing a wind block does in-
ble rock usually indicates underlying rock. To crease the initial project cost and future mainte-
confirm the presence of underlying rock, the co- nance expenses.
operative can make test borings with an anchor Windy conditions in a sandy environment
auger. Grading by the developer can also show provide nature’s own sandblasting machine,
signs of underlying rock. making it difficult to keep paint on pad-
Rock along the cable route slows installation mounted equipment. After the wind-blown sand
and increases project cost; therefore, the cooper- removes the paint, the exposed metal quickly
ative should reroute to avoid rocky areas. If corrodes, especially in coastal environments.
rerouting is not practical, the cooperative will One solution to this damage is to use stainless
have to use special equipment that can pene- steel (or other noncorrosive) equipment cabi-
trate rock. Because the rock is difficult to pene- nets. This adds substantially to initial cost, but
trate, it may be hard to maintain the required maintenance will be much more practical and
burial depth. If cable cannot be placed at the economical. Another option is to use overhead
minimum depth, the cooperative must provide primary with underground services as the only
supplemental protection such as cable place- underground facilities. Placing transformers on
ment in Schedule 40 PVC conduit, rigid steel poles provides extra distance from the ground
conduit, or conduit encased in concrete. The and may eliminate the problems caused by
supplemental protection must meet the require- blowing sand.
ments of the 2007 NESC, Section 352 D.2.b. A Sandy soils have little cohesion and usually
final consideration in rocky soils is damage to will not hold a trench open for cable placement.
the underground cable, particularly the cable In addition, these soils are often in areas with a
jacket. Rocks directly contacting the cable can high water table. As a result, trenches fill with
damage the jacket. One way to protect the cable water and are difficult to excavate. When
is to use conduit or a cable-in-conduit assembly. trenchers are used in these conditions, they are
Either of these can be installed by trenching, often equipped with a cable chute. Another ac-
plowing, or tunneling. Another option for pro- ceptable installation method is to use a cable
tection in a trench is to use a select backfill for a plow. Increased burial depths (an additional six
cable bed and covering. to 12 inches) should be considered because cov-
ering can be blown away.
Sandy Soils
Sandy soils can cause problems in at least three Unstable Soils
different ways: Some examples of unstable soils are the
• Difficulty opening a trench,
• Wind erosion of sand from under equipment, • River banks,
and • Natural springs,
• Sandblasting of painted metal surfaces. • Unsecured embankments, and
• Steep grades.
Sandy soils shift easily from the wind and can
undermine the support of pad-mounted equip- These soils shift easily and are also prone to
ment. In these areas, pads with ground sleeves washing. Washing can erode trenches and under-
or basements provide better support and more mine the support of pad-mounted equipment.
security than a flat pad does. They also help pre- Trench erosion can reduce the soil cover and
vent exposure of cables that enter the equipment. possibly expose a buried cable. Cables may also
Alternatively, the wind can blow sand and cover be exposed where soil has washed away from
pad-mounted equipment, making it difficult to an equipment pad. If the washing is severe, the
4 6 – Se c t i on 1

equipment could shift enough to damage trans- building codes forbid the placement of struc-
former bushings or cable terminations. tures in flood plains, these areas can usually be
Washing can also have the opposite effect. In- traversed with cable. Flooding has little effect on
stead of undermining pads, it can deposit large buried cable and should present problems only
amounts of soil around a piece of equipment. if the cable fails while the cable route is flooded.
Prolonged contact with soil deposits causes the If the cable section is part of an open-loop sys-
metal housing of the equipment to corrode. tem, the flooded section can be isolated. How-
Such corrosion can lead to premature equip- ever, if the cable section is part of a radial
ment failure and possible access to the interior system, the engineer should consider providing
compartments. The soil deposits can also block an alternative feed.
the equipment doors, making it difficult to main- The cooperative may have to place equip-
tain the equipment. ment in areas subject to flood-
Unstable soils can also ing. Dead-front, pad-mounted
make installation difficult. If transformers and dead-front,
Unstable soils
grades or embankments are oil-insulated switching cabi-
too steep or if soils are too can make nets can operate during occa-
wet, construction personnel installation difficult. sional immersion. However,
will have problems maneuver- these devices must be sup-
ing a trencher or a cable plow. ported by pads that will not
Wet soils also tend to collapse float. Otherwise, the device
back into the open trench, making it difficult to may be displaced, possibly causing a system
maintain proper depth for cable burial. outage or exposing the interior compartments.
To eliminate these types of problems, the en- Air-insulated switching cabinets will fail if sub-
gineer should avoid routing cable or placing merged in water and, therefore, must not be
equipment on steep slopes. If this is not practi- used in areas subject to flooding.
cal, doing the following minimizes erosion:
• Proper compaction and crowning of the The cooperative must get an easement from
trench, all affected property owners before installing
• Replanting of the slope, or any underground facilities. By definition, an
• Use of equipment pads with ground sleeves easement is a right afforded a person to make
or basements. limited use of another’s real property. This ease-
ment gives the utility the legal right to enter the
If the potential for trench erosion is severe, the property and access a right-of-way strip. For
engineer should consider placing the cable in underground facilities, this right-of-way must
conduit or installing a cable-in-conduit assembly be a minimum of 10 feet wide—five feet on
and possibly encasing the conduit with concrete. each side of the centerline of the electrical facili-
The engineer should also avoid placing ties. The 10-foot width provides enough space
equipment at the bottom of steep slopes. If to operate a trencher or other piece of installa-
equipment must be placed in these areas, the tion equipment. The easement must define the
cooperative will need to construct a water and width and boundaries of this right-of-way strip.
soil block to prevent soil accumulation around These rights-of-way should also be shown and
the equipment. recorded on the plat.
To reduce misunderstand-
Flood Plains ings between the cooperative
The best way to evaluate for Get an easement and its property owner mem-
possible flooding is to check before installing any bers, the easement must be
topographical maps that locate specific in defining the coop-
flood plains. Though most
underground facilities. erative’s rights. As a minimum,
Design of an Underground Distribution Sy s t e m – 4 7

Sample Easement Project No. ________________________
Drawn by ___________________________

STATE OF ______________________________
COUNTY OF ____________________________

KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS, that __________________________________________________,

hereinafter called “Grantor” (whether one or more), in consideration of the sum of One Dollar ($1.00) and
other good and valuable considerations, does hereby grant unto__________________________________,
its successors, and assigns, hereinafter called “Grantee,” the right, privilege, and easement to go in and
upon that certain land of Grantor (hereinafter “premises”) situated in said County and State, bounded by
lands of:

and over and across said premises within a right-of-way strip having a width of _____ feet on each side
of a centerline determined by the centerline of the electrical facilities as installed, to construct, maintain,
and operate underground lines and conduits with other necessary apparatus and appliances, either above
ground or below ground, to include transformers and service connections, for the purpose of transport-
ing electricity and for the communications purposes of Grantee and its licensees. The following rights are
also granted to Grantee: to enter said premises to inspect said lines, to perform necessary maintenance and
repairs, and to make alterations and additions thereto; and to clear the land within the right-of-way strip
and to keep it clear of trees, structures, or other obstructions; and to clear that land outside the right-of-
way strip and to keep the area within 10 feet of said door clear of trees, structures, or other obstructions.
All underground facilities are to be installed in accordance with the provisions of Grantee’s Underground
Distribution Installment Plan, __________________________________, receipt of a copy of which is ac-
knowledged by Grantor.

This right-of-way is given to permit the construction of electrical facilities presently proposed. Facilities at
other locations and future extensions of presently constructed facilities are not permitted by this agreement.
The foregoing notwithstanding, Grantee may relocate its electrical facilities and right-of-way strip over the
premises to conform to any future highway or street relocation, widening, or improvement.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Grantor has hereunto set his hand and seal, or, if corporate, has caused this
instrument to be signed in its corporate name by its fully authorized officers and its seal to be hereunto
affixed by authority of its Board of Directors, this _______ day of __________________, 20___.


(Corporate Name)
ATTEST:____________________________________ By_________________________________________
_________ Secretary _________ (President)

FIGURE 1.28: Sample Easement.

4 8 – Se c t i on 1

the cooperative must have the right to install, • The subdivision restrictions define the
operate, maintain, and replace the electrical fa- cooperative easement as transferable to
cilities located within the right-of-way strip. new owners.
These activities require the right-of-way to be
clear of trees, structures, and other obstructions. STEP 8. Prepare Staking Sheets
Rights-of-way that were clear during the installa- The final step is preparing a staking sheet. For
tion of underground facilities will likely become smaller projects, the staking sheet provides
obstructed as property owners erect fences, stor- enough space for a sketch of the required work.
age buildings, and landscaping. Because these Figure 1.29 shows a staking sheet for under-
obstructions must be cleared to repair or replace ground service to a commercial consumer.
the underground facilities, the easement must For larger projects, the engineer will have to
specifically define the cooperative’s right to clear attach a separate construction drawing. For sub-
the right-of-way. division installations, the engineer can show the
Another area of conflict is clear space in front required work on a subdivision plat. This con-
of the doors of transformers and sectionalizing struction drawing should show the trench,
cabinets. As noted, maintenance of these devices equipment, and street lighting locations and
requires a clear working space 10 feet out from note any conduit or temporary pedestal installa-
the door (see Figure 1.27). The consumer may tions. The construction drawing could also have
consider these devices unattractive and try to details showing how far to offset equipment
hide them with landscaping or a surrounding from the property line and the location of other
structure. As a result, the cooperative cannot underground utilities.
maintain the device. These conflicts are more eas- Underground staking sheets provide impor-
ily resolved if the easement states that the area tant project information to several departments
within 10 feet of the door of any transformer or within the cooperative. These departments must
cabinet will be kept clear of any obstructions. be able to easily interpret the staking sheet. The
Because the easement is a legal document, it staking sheet is used to generate a materials list.
must be filled out completely and correctly, in- Purchasing and materials personnel use this list
cluding getting the signatures of all property to order and stock the necessary materials.
owner members of a particular tract or the sig- Scheduling personnel will use the staking sheet
natures of appropriate corporate officers, if to estimate the manpower and equipment
owned by a corporation. The easement must be needed to construct the project. Staking person-
notarized and filed with the appropriate munici- nel use the sheets to physically mark the field
pal, parish, or county authority in which the prop- locations of equipment and trenches. While in
erty lies. Figure 1.28 shows a sample easement. the field, staking personnel may have to adjust
Obtaining and recording an easement can be the layout for conflicts with other utilities or for
time-consuming, particularly if one underground terrain problems. Any changes made in the field
project involves multiple property owners, thus must be shown on the staking sheet.
requiring multiple easements. To avoid this After personnel have staked the project, con-
problem in a subdivision, the cooperative is struction crews will use the staking sheets for in-
wise to get one easement from the developer formation on installing the underground facilities.
before any lots are sold. This way, the coopera- If the construction crews modify the layout, they
tive needs only one easement for all the must also modify the staking sheet. The staking
planned underground facilities in the subdivi- sheet must agree with the as-built project be-
sion. The cooperative will also benefit if the fol- cause these sheets are the basis for the coopera-
lowing occur: tive’s mapping system. Accurate staking sheets
produce accurate system operating maps and ac-
• The right-of-way strip is shown and recorded curate permanent plant and accounting records.
on the plat.
Desi g n o f a n Un d e rg ro u n d Di s t r i b u t i o n Sy s t e m – 4 9

FIGURE 1.29: Staking Sheet for Service to a Commercial Consumer. Source: Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation, Hillsborough, N.C.
5 0 – Se c t i on 1

Summary and 1. Equipment mountings provide support for location of a joint-use trench must be
Recommendations pad-mounted equipment. Flat pads are shown on all operating maps.
sometimes suitable for single-phase pad- 8. Joint-use trench with other utilities re-
mounted transformers and small single- quires a contractual arrangement among
phase fuse cabinets. involved parties.
2. Cable wells used with a flat pad provide 9. System upgrades should be planned by
more space for cable training and are suit- considering future voltage conversions,
able for three-phase pad-mounted transform- three-phase cable installation, and con-
ers and junction cabinets. duit installations.
3. A box pad is useful to support pad-mounted 10. The UD design can be improved by com-
switchgear and for installations on slopes or paring the economics of different system
hillsides. configurations.
4. The main types of underground systems are 11. The UD system should be designed to
the following: minimize cable and pad-mounted trans-
former losses.
• circuit exits,
12. The steps for layout of a UD system are
• main feeders,
as follows:
• sub feeders,
• transformer and secondary systems, and
STEP 1: Get the required information.
• street and area lighting.
STEP 2: Arrange the service and trans-
5. In designing a UD system, safety, reliability, former layout.
cable ampacity, equipment ratings, voltage STEP 3: Calculate the consumer load and
drop, and voltage flicker must be considered. select proper equipment ratings.
6. Placing facilities along the front property line STEP 4: Select the primary cable route.
makes them more accessible for operation STEP 5: Locate sectionalizing equipment.
and maintenance. STEP 6: Visit the project site.
7. A joint-use trench often creates operating STEP 7: Obtain all easements.
problems. To minimize these problems, the STEP 8: Prepare staking sheets.
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 5 1

2 Cable Selection

In This Section: Typical Cable Configuration Conductor Shields and

Conductor Size Designations Insulation Shields
Conductor Materials and Configuration Cable Specification and Purchasing

Cable Insulation Materials Cable Acceptance

Insulation Fabrication Summary and Recommendations

The heart of any underground system is the It addresses the designs and materials most ef-
cable that carries power from the source to the fective in delivering reliable and economical
load. The cable must incorporate the most im- service. The variety of cable features available
portant characteristics of the ideal utility system: for the various applications is also addressed.
low initial cost and high reliability. Experience Recommendations are included for conditions
with early UD cables has forcefully shown that generally encountered on rural electric systems.
the lowest-cost cable that can be successfully The main components of cables reviewed in-
placed into operation is not necessarily the best clude the conductor and the insulation system
choice. It is necessary to pay close attention to (including shielding). The concentric neutral
the design and manufacture of all cables. and jacket options for primary voltage cables
This section provides an introduction to the are also covered.
technical aspects of electric distribution cables.

Typical Cable The main types of cables used on rural electric To gain an overview of cable design, the en-
Configuration systems are primary voltage (15- to 35-kV class) gineer should consider the components of the
shielded cables and secondary voltage (600-volt system. The focus should be on single-conduc-
class) unshielded cables. The higher voltage ca- tor cable because it is the predominant type of
bles are used on systems rated 7.2/12.5 kV, 14.4/ cable used in rural and suburban distribution sys-
24.9 kV, and 19.9/34.5 kV. Such cables are classed tems in North America. Typical system voltages
by the phase-to-phase voltage of the system on are 7.2/12.5-kV, 14.4/24.9-kV, and 19.9/34.5-kV
which they are intended to operate. For instance, grounded wye.
cable designed for application on a 7.2/12.5-kV Most of the cables on these systems are of
system will be rated 15 kV, regardless of whether concentric neutral design. Generally, the major
it is in a single-phase or a three-phase circuit. cable components are the following:
5 2 – Se c t i on 2

• Conductor, problems. In addition, loss of neutral conductors
• Conductor shield, caused deterioration of the semiconducting insu-
• Insulation, lation shield and consequent cable failure. Use
• Insulation shield, of bare concentric neutral cable is not approved
• Concentric neutral, and by RUS for use on the systems of its borrowers
• Jacket. and has essentially been discontinued except in
cases where there are no corrosive conditions
These are illustrated in Figure 2.1. and special permission has been obtained.
Figure 2.1 represents a typical primary cable Another special case of the medium-voltage,
used in underground distribution and is the con- single-conductor cable is illustrated in Figure 2.3.
figuration currently recommended. Variations of The main difference from the cable in Figure 2.1
this design may be better suited to particular is that the concentric neutral is replaced by a
types of installations. longitudinal corrugated (L.C.) shield or a copper
Figure 2.2 shows the arrangement of an under- tape shield. A separate neutral conductor thus
ground cable design widely used from the mid- must be installed with a circuit to handle return
1960s to the late 1980s. It is identical in most re- currents. The purpose of the L.C. shield or tape
spects to the cable in Figure 2.1, except that it shield is to provide a path for capacitive currents
does not have a jacket over the concentric neu- and, thus, ensure an even voltage gradient within
tral. It was most often installed as a direct-buried the cable. The major advantage of this configura-
cable, and exposure of the concentric neutral to tion is in circuits where loads are relatively high
the surrounding earth provided an excellent sys- (≥ 300 amperes). See Section 4 for more infor-
tem ground. However, this cable design fell into mation on sheath currents and cable ampacity.
disfavor because of substantial corrosion problems The following subsections, which describe in-
affecting the concentric neutral. Loss of the neu- dividual components of underground cables in
tral wires led to an open neutral circuit, posing more detail, provide an understanding of desir-
serious operational, reliability, and public safety able features for various applications.

Conductor Conductor Conductor

Extruded Conductor Shield
Extruded Conductor Shield Extruded Conductor Shield

Insulation Insulation

Extruded Insulation Shield Extruded Insulation Shield

Extruded Insulation Shield

Bare Neutral Conductors Metallic Tape Shield

Neutral Conductors

Jacket Jacket

FIGURE 2.1: Jacketed Concentric FIGURE 2.2: Bare Concentric Neutral FIGURE 2.3: Medium-Voltage Power
Neutral Cable. Source: Okonite Cable. (Not RUS accepted.) Cable with Tape Shield and L.C.
Company, 2006. Source: Okonite Company, 2006. Shield. Source: Okonite Company.
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 5 3

Conductor Size U.S. standards use two systems for designating of 0.460 inch (4/0 AWG). The second system is
Designations conductor size. The oldest of these is the AWG, the circular mil designation, which is always
which was formerly known as the Brown and used on conductors larger than 4/0 AWG. How-
Sharpe wire gauge. This system is typically used ever, circular mil designations may also be ap-
on conductors up through those with a diameter plied to conductors of 4/0 AWG and smaller.
The AWG originated in the mid-19th century.
Equation 2.1 Each step in this gauge approximates the succes-
sive steps in the wire drawing process. Empirical
A = πr2
history sets the two endpoints: 4/0 AWG, with a
diameter of 0.460 inch, and No. 36 AWG, with a
diameter of 0.0050 inch. There are 39 equally di-
where: A = Area in square inches vided steps between these two sizes. A few ap-
π = 3.1416 proximate relationships may be useful:
r = Radius (in inches)
• Each increase of three-gauge numbers
For Area in kcmil, use Radius in 1/1,000 inch. doubles the area and the unit weight, and
also halves the dc resistance.
• Each increase of six gauge numbers doubles
TABLE 2.1: Dimensional Characteristics of Common Conductors the diameter.
(Standard Concentric-Lay). • Each increase of 10 gauge numbers multiplies
the area and unit weight by 10, and also
AWG kcmil Diameter (in.) divides the dc resistance by 10.
mm2 in.2
6* 26.24 13.3 0.0206 0.162 The circular mil system is based on the defini-
tion of a circular mil (cmil) as being the area of
2* 66.36 33.6 0.0521 0.258
a wire with a diameter of one mil (0.001 inch).
1/0* 105.60 53.5 0.0829 0.325 Area is calculated as shown in Equation 2.1.
One cmil is (0.0005)2 π or 7.854 × 10-7 inch2.
2/0* 133.10 67.4 0.1045 0.365
It follows that 1,000 circular mils or 1.0 kcmil
4/0* 211.60 107.0 0.1662 0.460 (formerly MCM) is equal to 7.854 × 10-4 inch2 in
— 250.00** 127.0 0.1967 0.575 solid wire. Therefore, a 4/0 AWG wire, which
has a diameter of 0.460 inch, has a circular mil
— 350.00** 177.0 0.2749 0.681 equivalency of 211,600 cm and an area of
— 500.00** 253.0 0.3927 0.813 0.1662 inch2.
The AWG and circular mil systems are now lim-
— 750.00** 380.0 0.5891 0.998 ited to U.S. and Canadian use. European designa-
— 1,000.00** 507.0 0.7854 1.152 tions are based on metric units of square millime-
ters (mm2). Table 2.1 shows AWG, circular mil,
* Solid
and metric designations for common conductor
** Stranded
sizes used in North American distribution cables.

Conductor MATERIALS material; however, it was not cost-effective be-

Materials and Since the first cable system, only two conductor cause of the special precautions required during
Configuration materials have played a significant role: copper installation and maintenance.
and aluminum. These materials have appeared Copper was the first material to play a major
in a variety of alloys, tempers, and configura- role in cable construction. With a volume resistiv-
tions. In the late 1960s, some utilities briefly ex- ity of 1.673 × 10-7 ohm-meters (ohm-m) in its pure
perimented with sodium as a conductor (99.999 percent) state, it compared favorably with
5 4 – Se c t i on 2

TABLE 2.2: Conductor Physical and Electrical Characteristics.

Copper Aluminum
Medium 1/2 Hard 3/4 Hard Hard Drawn
Soft Drawn Drawn Hard Drawn (H14/H24) (H16/H26) (H19)
Rated Tensile Strength — 42–60 ksi 49–67 ksi 15.0–20.0 ksi 17.0–22.0 ksi 24.5–29.0 ksi
Conductivity (% IACS) 100 96.7–97.7 97.2 61.0 61.0 61.0
Note. ksi = thousands of pounds per square inch

other metals. Supplies were abundant and it tensile strength because of work hardening dur-
could be economically fabricated. Connections ing the drawing process and its conductivity has
were simple to make and corrosion resistance fallen to 97.2 percent IACS. By comparison,
was good. However, with the rapid development 1350H19 aluminum has a conductivity of about
of the aluminum industry in the first half of the 61 percent IACS. The lower conductivity is mainly
20th century, aluminum became cost-effective for caused by the inherently higher volume resistivity
applications in which physical size was not critical. of pure annealed aluminum. See Table 2.2 for a
To take advantage of this economic benefit, the comparison of common conductor materials.
electric industry developed methods to overcome Because thermal capacity of conductors and
some of the other physical disadvantages of alu- cables is a function of the heat generated by in-
minum. These disadvantages included higher sus- ternal conductor losses, the ampacity of the
ceptibility to flexural fatigue, the high resistivity higher conductivity copper conductors of equal
of natural surface oxides, and cold flow (creep). size is approximately 1.6 times that of matching
For economic reasons, cables now used on aluminum conductors. Of course, other signifi-
underground systems are predominantly alu- cant elements determine the exact cable ampac-
minum. The use of this metal leads to a larger ity. These are discussed more extensively in
cross-sectional area and, consequently, greater Section 4 of this manual.
overall cable dimensions, but, in most cases, the
additional cost of other project components— CONDUCTOR TEMPER
such as larger size conduit—does not outweigh Both copper and aluminum conductors are
the present economic advantage of aluminum available in various tempers that designate the
conductors. Aluminum conductors have a volume relative hardness of the metal. Whereas over-
resistivity of 2.655 × 10-7 ohm-m. Comparing this head conductors have generally used harder
resistivity with the previously mentioned copper metal to increase tensile strength and reduce
volume resistivity shows that, for equal cross- sags, underground conductors have tended to
sectional areas, aluminum will have 1.59 times use the lower tempers, because high tensile
the resistance of the same-size copper conductor. strength was not usually required. Most copper
To simplify the comparison of various con- power cables have used soft-drawn copper for
ductors, the industry uses a measure of relative its greater flexibility. This flexibility not only
conductivity that compares a particular metal to makes fabrication easier but also improves in-
annealed electrolytic copper. This measure is re- stallation handling, especially for larger cables.
ferred to as the International Annealed Copper Where high tensile strength is needed for cable
Standard (IACS). The volume resistivity of an- pulling, special installations might use harder
nealed copper is defined as 1.724 × 10-7 ohm-m tempers. However, this would only be where
at a temperature of 20°C (68°F). high unit stresses would be imposed on the
As the tensile strength of materials increases, cable conductor during installation or perhaps
the conductivity decreases. As an example, hard- during cable life. Examples include mineshaft
drawn copper has experienced an increase in riser cables or cables for extremely long pulling
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 5 5

distances in duct. Such cables would require cus- the H16 alloy is only strain-hardened. The H26
tomized design for their particular circumstances alloy has the same general characteristics, but it
and are beyond the scope of this manual. has been partially annealed after strain hardening.
Aluminum conductors in power cables are Copper conductors are almost universally sup-
generally furnished in the 3/4-hard temper. This plied as pure copper. Pure copper provides the
provides a reasonable level of tensile strength, highest conductivity and, therefore, the highest
while not introducing excessive ductility that efficiency. Because pure copper in its various
would lead to creep problems in making durable tempers provides adequate mechanical strength
connections. As the conductor cross section in- for cable applications, there is generally no need
creases to 750 kcmil or greater, there is some ac- for alloyed copper conductors.
ceptance of aluminum conductors in the 1/2-hard
temper. This gives adequate tensile strength CONDUCTOR CONFIGURATION
while maintaining a higher degree of flexibility. The wire and cable industry offers the electric
All characteristics of aluminum conductors, es- utility industry a wide variety of standard con-
pecially tensile strength, must be considered ductor configurations, including solid conductor,
when specifying a cable. The specifying engi- various stranding arrangements, and filled-strand
neer must consider the mechanical stresses on conductors. Each configuration has its own ad-
the cable during installation and service. vantages. The engineer selecting a cable design
More information on conductor characteristics must consider these alternatives and select the
can be found in reference books. Nationally ac- option that produces the best cable for the par-
cepted specifications for electrical conductors ticular application. Elements significantly af-
are found in American Society for Testing and fected by the conductor configuration include
Materials (ASTM) standards. Copper wire is cov- the following:
ered by ASTM Specifications B-1, B-2, and B-3.
Aluminum wire is covered by ASTM Specification • Flexibility during installation (cable bending
B-230. Methods for measuring the most impor- and racking),
tant characteristics of these and other materials • Flexibility during operations (elbow switch-
can be found in other related ASTM standards. ing), and
Aluminum conductors used in underground • Longitudinal water migration.
cable are addressed in other ASTM standards, in-
cluding B-231 (concentric lay conductors) and Though the decision on conductor configura-
B-400 (compact round conductors). tion alone will not provide the solution to any of
these problem areas, it is a vital part of the
CONDUCTOR ALLOY larger process of selecting a cable that will pro-
Aluminum conductor material also is designated vide high reliability and economy.
by an alloy number. The alloy designation derives The simplest configuration is the solid, single-
from the description of aluminum alloys in other strand conductor. Solid conductor is preferred in
applications in which such characteristics as high smaller cable sizes because of its absolute water-
tensile strength are required. However, because blocking capability. Because there are no voids
high electrical conductivity (low resistivity) is the to fill, there will be no continuing migration of
single most important aspect of underground ca- water through the insulation system. Perhaps
ble conductors, pure aluminum is generally more important, if moisture does penetrate the
used. The alloy designation for electrical alumin- insulation, it cannot migrate along the cable con-
um is EC. It was formerly designated as Alloy ductor to other areas of the cable. The inhibition
1350. The same aluminum nomenclature system of moisture migration is extremely important in
includes designations for temper. These are also reducing insulation deterioration problems so
shown in Table 2.2. For example, 3/4-hard tem- prevalent in underground cables.
per has a classification of H16 or H26. The dif- As is well known, the stiffness of cable in-
ference between H16 and H26 tempers is that creases as conductor diameter increases. Cable
5 6 – Se c t i on 2

stiffness will increase in pro- operate load-break connec-
portion to the square of the di- Use solid or strand- tors. The solution is the use of
ameter of the solid conductor. stranded conductors. The
Therefore, a point will be filled conductors smaller diameter of the indi-
reached at which the cable for reliability. vidual strands lowers the total
will become unmanageable, force required to achieve the
especially where bending in necessary bending. The rea-
confined spaces is required to sonable upper limit for solid
conductors with 3/4-hard aluminum conductors
has generally been found to be 2/0 AWG. Above
that size, stranded conductors are advised.
Several options in stranded conductors are
available, including conventional concentric lay,
compressed strand, and compact configurations.
Some of these are illustrated in Figure 2.4.
The simplest stranded configuration is the
Concentric Stranded Conductor, 37-Wire
conventional concentric round stranding that
uses multiple layers of circular wires. Each layer
of wires is laid in the opposite direction. The
predominant combinations for conventional
stranded cable are 1 + 6 = 7, 1 + 6 + 12 = 19,
and 1 + 6 + 12 + 18 = 37. These are illustrated in
Figure 2.5.
Compressed-Strand Concentric Conductor, 37-Wire The first option, concentric round stranding,
obviously produces interstices (voids) between
the surfaces of the individual wires. These inter-
stices have two important effects. First, for a
given equivalent metallic cross section of con-
ductor, the outside diameter of a stranded cable
will be greater than for an equivalent solid con-
ductor. Second, the voids are continuous along
Compact Concentric-Strand Conductor, 37-Wire
the cable and provide an excellent path for
moisture migration. In conventional stranding,
FIGURE 2.4: Concentric Lay Strand Options. the conductor metal will occupy only 76 to 78
percent of the area enclosed by a circle drawn
around the outside of the conductor.
The number of wires in a concentric stranded
conductor is defined in ASTM standards as the
class of the conductor. Details are contained in
ASTM Standards B8 (copper) and B231 (alu-
minum). An examination shows that the im-
1 6 12 18 24 30 36 42
proved flexibility of higher stranding comes at
Number of Wires Per Layer
the expense of larger diameter. In addition, the
stranded conductors weigh more because the
outer layers must be longer than the conductor
axis. Table 2.3 compares the various stranding
characteristics of a common single size of alu-
FIGURE 2.5: Standard Strand Arrangements for Multilayer Conductors. minum conductor.
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 5 7

TABLE 2.3: Configurations of 4/0 AWG Aluminum Conductor.

Stranding Individual Wire Overall Diameter Weight DC Resistance

Class Number of Wires Diameter (in.) (in.) lb./1,000 ft Ω/mile @ 20°C
Solid 1 0.4600 0.460 194.7 0.4228
A, AA 7 0.1739 0.522 198.7 0.4311
B 19 0.1055 0.528 198.5 0.4311
C 37 0.0756 0.529 198.5 0.4311
D 61 0.0589 0.530 198.7 0.4311

The second stranding option, compressed FILLED-STRAND (SEALANT) CONDUCTOR

strand, is an improvement on the conventional As noted in the previous subsections on conduc-
strand arrangement. This configuration is accom- tor configurations, the useful service life of un-
plished by drawing the completed conventional derground cables has been reduced by moisture
concentric round strand to compress the outer in the insulation system. This has been particu-
layer of strands after fabrication (see Figure 2.4). larly true where moisture has been present in
The result is some reduction in diameter and the conductor interstices and, thus, had access
some reduction in the interstices of the outer to the conductor/conductor shield interface.
strand layer. This configuration also gives a Therefore, it is important to stop the migration
smoother, more nearly cylindrical surface. In of any moisture that may find its way into the
compressed strand, the conductor metal will oc- conductor.
cupy 81 percent to 83 percent of the area of a Impeding moisture migration is most econom-
circle that encompasses the overall diameter. ically accomplished by the addition of a strand-
Compressed strand reduces the diameter be- filling material during manufacture to fill all
tween one-half and three percent. One disad- voids within the conductor. The material must
vantage is some loss of flexibility because the be compatible with the conductor and the semi-
outside layer is slightly more rigid. conducting strand (conductor) shield. Often, this
The third conductor type (see Figure 2.4) is the requirement means the strand filler will be es-
compact round design. With this design, the con- sentially the same as the strand shield except for
ductor is drawn after each layer is applied, which plasticizers added to improve viscosity. The
greatly reduces the interstices on each layer and strand filler is often applied to each of the inner
brings the metallic cross section up to 92 to 94 layers during the stranding process. If this ap-
percent. The cable diameter is reduced by about proach is used with proper controls, the inter-
nine percent when compared with the same cross- stices should be filled while the outside of the
sectional area in a concentric round configuration. conductor is left clean.

Cable Insulation OVERVIEW OF CABLE INSULATION MATERIALS of high-molecular-weight polyethylene-insulated

Materials Early cable insulation materials were mainly nat- cables. Cables constructed of HMWPE were in-
ural rubber compounds. Paper insulation was troduced in 1948. These had several advantages
introduced for power cables about 1890. Butyl over the butyl rubber primary voltage cables
rubber was introduced in 1944 for distribution predominant in industrial applications. In the
cable systems. early 1960s, EPR (ethylene propylene rubber) in-
The trend toward placing electric distribution sulated cables became available for distribution
lines underground was significantly aided in the systems. However, the industry considered EPR
1960s by the wide acceptance in the United States cables to be premium-priced cables and they
5 8 – Se c t i on 2

did not gain wide acceptance, especially in the improvement in cable life expectancy as pre-
underground distribution market where initial dicted by accelerated testing methods. TR-XLPE
cost was the governing factor before the impor- proved to generally be the superior compound
tance of long cable life was recognized. and gained much wider acceptance than did
About 1963, cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) TR-HMWPE. In fact, TR-HMWPE is no longer
cables became available for distribution installa- manufactured. The tree-retardant characteristic
tions in both concentric neutral and conven- of the initial TR-XLPE compound was acquired
tional power configurations. The initial by adding organic compounds to the basic poly-
advantage of XLPE cable was that, like EPR, it is ethylene material.
a thermosetting material with a higher allowable As a result of escalating polyethylene cable
operating temperature. It was 1975 before XLPE failure rates, EPR cables have seen wider accep-
cable equaled HMWPE cable in market share for tance in UD installations. Since the 1960s, these
domestic utilities. HMWPE cable continued to be cables have also enjoyed technical improve-
popular because of its better technical character- ments in insulation compounds and fabrication
istics and lower cost. HMWPE possessed a low techniques. History and accelerated life tests
dielectric constant, along with high dielectric have shown EPR to be equal or superior to con-
strength and very good insulation resistance. It temporary TR-XLPE compounds. Without ques-
also cost less than XLPE. In 1966, some utilities tion, insulating compounds will continue to
reported failures of HMWPE-insulated cables. improve. Continuing tests will evaluate the
The failure rate was about one per 1,000 mile- longevity of different cable compounds and
years. By 1970, the reported HMWPE failure rate cable fabrication methods. Cooperative engi-
had reached about two per 1,000 mile-years and neers must use all available information when
was considered to be a significant problem. selecting a cable for purchase.
Soon thereafter, the failure rate for HMWPE ca- One hundred percent insulation wall thick-
bles rapidly escalated and reached almost eight nesses are 175 mils (4.4 mm) for 15 kV, 260 mils
per 1,000 mile-years by 1982. Recognition of (6.6 mm) for 25 kV, and 345 mils (8.8 mm) for
premature insulation breakdown in HMWPE ca- 35 kV. These insulation wall thicknesses are
bles contributed to the rapidly increasing accep- specified by the ANSI/ICEA and are referred to
tance of XLPE as an insulating material. About as the 100 percent level. Many cable users spec-
1975, the reported failure rate of XLPE cables ify an increased wall thickness, as discussed
reached one per 1,000 mile-years. In about 1980, below, and use this minimum 100 percent insu-
the failure rate of XLPE cables rapidly escalated, lation wall thickness only for upgrading or retro-
just as HMWPE insulation did earlier. fitting projects in which duct sizes are restricted
Because of concerns with the failure of and conduit fill may be exceeded.
HMWPE and XLPE insulations to deliver the ex- Polymer insulation thicknesses are often in-
pected design life, cable insulation manufactur- creased to 133 percent or 173 percent of the val-
ers began searching for methods to improve the ues listed above. The choice of insulation
life of the product. The initial major develop- thickness depends on the system connection (ei-
ment was tree-retardant polyethylene (TR-PE) ther delta or wye connected), the system protec-
compounds, so named because it resisted the tion available, and the desire for longer cable
growth of electrochemical life. Standards state that the
“trees” which led to insulation 100 percent insulation level is
failure. These have been intro- satisfactory for any system
Review the results of
duced in both high-molecular- where faults can be cleared
weight polyethylene accelerated cable life within one minute, which ap-
(TR-HMWPE or TR-PE) and tests when selecting plies to most installations on
cross-linked polyethylene grounded systems. For delta-
(TR-XLPE). These compounds cable insulation. connected or ungrounded sys-
have exhibited a substantial tems, 133 percent insulation
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 5 9

thickness is commonly chosen. In addition, the INSULATION MATERIAL CHARACTERISTICS
133 percent insulation level is recommended by An individual selecting a particular cable insula-
standards where fault-clearing times on wye- tion should be familiar with the basic physical
connected systems are in excess of one minute and electrical characteristics of various materials.
but less than one hour. The additional insulation Each of these characteristics affects the suitability
thickness will also reduce the electrical stress of an insulation material for a particular applica-
within the insulation and, hence, prolong cable tion. Selecting a cable construction involves
life, which many utilities find advantageous. compromise as most materials have different
One disadvantage of an increase in insulation strong and weak points.
thickness is that the additional insulation volume Physical characteristics of the insulating layer
increases the opportunity for contamination. affect the resistance of a cable to mechanical
However, this is not a realistic concern for mod- damage under normal operating conditions. Situ-
ern cable manufacturing facilities. Also, the addi- ations imposing mechanical stresses on cable in-
tional insulation, shield, and jacket materials clude the following:
needed because of the increased diameter will
increase the final installed cable cost. This is due • Soil pressure in direct-burial installations,
to the increased cost of the cable, the increased • Sidewall pressure on cables pulled into con-
pulling and training effort, and the increase in duit,
duct size required. Finally, 173 percent insula- • Flexure during switching operations for
tion is used for cables on a system, usually delta elbow-connected apparatus,
or resistance-grounded, which may have a clear- • Expansion/contraction in ducts, and
ing time of more than one hour. • External clamping action on risers.
It should be noted that the performance of
175-mil direct buried distribution cables on 12.5/ Some of the pertinent physical properties are
7.2 kV systems proved unsatisfactory in early listed below.
underground systems. This was due to treeing of
the insulation which could in part, be attributed to Hot Creep
the higher voltage stresses present in the 175-mil This is a measure of the plasticity of a material at
insulation. This was particularly true in smaller elevated temperatures. It shows the ability of an
(e.g., #2 AWG) conductor sizes. For this reason, insulating material to resist deformation at elevat-
RUS mandates the use of 133 percent insulation ed operating temperatures. For thermosetting in-
thickness (220 mil) for 15 kV class cables. sulations, the hot creep is generally measured at
RUS is currently refining its Specifications for 130°C (266°F), which is the maximum emergency
Underground Primary Cables in Bulletin No. operating temperature. The hot creep is deter-
1728F-U1, which updates and supersedes former mined by measuring the tensile stress (pounds
Bulletin 50-70 (U1), dated December 22, 1987. per square inch, or psi) needed to stretch the in-
In this new bulletin, RUS adopted the insulation sulation sample to 200 percent of its original
thickness shown in Table 2.4 and these will be length. See Figure 2.6 for a relative comparison
specified in the pending bulletin. of the hot creep of HMWPE (thermoplastic),
XLPE (thermosetting), and EPR (thermosetting).

TABLE 2.4: RUS Insulation Thickness. High-Temperature Aging Characteristics

Voltage Insulation Thickness Electrical insulation in power cables must retain
Class (kV) Thickness (mils) Level (%) good physical properties after being subjected to
high temperatures. High-temperature aging evalu-
15 220 133 ations usually compare tensile strength and elon-
25 260 100 gation remaining after seven days (168 hours) of
exposure to temperatures ranging from 120°C to
35 345 100
180°C (248°F to 356°F).
6 0 – Se c t i on 2

The electrical characteristics of cable insulation
are just as important as the physical characteris-
tics. After all, if a cable is mechanically durable
EP but will not withstand the applied voltage, the
cable no longer serves its intended purpose.
Electrical characteristics include insulation resis-
tance, insulation power factor, and dielectric
XLPE constant. Basic electrical characteristics of cable
insulation are discussed extensively in Section 4,

Equipment Loading.

20 75 90 130 250
Temperature (°C)

FIGURE 2.6: Comparative Hot Creep vs.

Temperatures for Cable Insulation Materials.
Adapted from ANSI/ICEA T-28-562.

Insulation All contemporary cables use extruded dielectric • Inclusion of agglomerates, gels, and ambers.
Fabrication insulation. The manufacturing processes gener-
Failure to adhere to any of these requirements
ally are similar for different insulation materials
at any point in the manufacturing process will
and different voltage classes. The most complex
lead to defective cable that is unsuitable for util-
manufacturer’s process involves primary voltage
ity applications.
cables that have not only extruded insulation
but also extruded conductor shields and extruded
insulation shields. Secondary cables have similar
One of the most important requirements of
construction methods, but employ only an insu-
cable manufacturing is cleanliness of the raw
lating layer or, in the case of “ruggedized” styles,
materials. The cable manufacturer receives insu-
possibly two layers.
lating and shielding materials, particularly poly-
Many aspects of the manufacturing process are
ethylene compounds, as pellets. These pellets
very important. Some of these are the following:
must be handled very carefully at both the cable
• Purity of the insulation material, plant and at the insulation manufacturing plant
• Lack of voids in the insulation and shields, to ensure there is no contamination. Quality
• Smoothness of the conductor shield and control tests that meet, or exceed, industry stan-
conductor, dards must be made on each batch of pellets to
• Adhesion between the conductor shield and ensure cleanliness. In addition to normal quality
the insulation, control sampling, some plants use optical scan-
• Cleanliness of the conductor shield-insulation ning to continuously sample pellets before they
interface, enter extruding equipment. This sampling is
• Smoothness of the insulation outer surface, beneficial because contaminated pellets are re-
• Adhesion between the insulation and the jected before being extruded into the cable.
insulation shield, Resin suppliers now employ online pellet in-
• Cleanliness of the insulation–insulation shield spection devices. Some manufacturers inspect
interface, 100 percent of their product. From this, a new
• Maintenance of uniform dimensions and con- generation of XLPE and TR-XLPE materials that
centricity along the cable, and bear designations of extra clean, ultra clean, or
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 6 1

super clean has emerged. However, a precise 100 percent pellet inspection. Ideally, the pellet
definition of each designation based on per-unit inspection should take place as close to the
volume contamination is not available, nor is a manufacturer’s extruder head as possible and
comparison between compound manufacturers. not contribute to further contamination.
The opaque nature of EPR does not permit a Currently, pellet inspection devices are avail-
similar determination of cleanliness. able for use at the cable manufacturer’s plant.
Cable manufacturers, in turn, have implemented The inspection devices remove loose contami-
materials-handling systems to prevent contamina- nants and surface contaminants as well as pel-
tion during the course of manufacture. For ex- lets containing embedded contaminants. All
ample, Class 1000 clean rooms have been in- models come with a self-enclosed air filtration
stalled in most cable manufacturing plants and system that provides a Class 1000 environment
separate handling facilities for insulation and under a plastic curtain surrounding the unit. Re-
semiconductor materials have been implemented. moval of contaminants starts at three mils and
Supersmooth semiconducting shields were optimizes at 12 mils.
first introduced in 1988, resulting from better Inspection of EPR is more difficult, as the ma-
dispersion of the acetylene carbon black in the terial is opaque. Tape inspection devices can
polymer base. Better dispersed semiconducting also be used for surface inspection of extruded
shields provide for a much smoother interface EPR sample tapes.
between the insulation and the shields, leading Also available are inspection devices for gels
to much longer service life. Utility acceptance of in polymers and for small defects in interfaces.
the cleaner and smoother compounds has been Although interfacial inspection does not occur
rapid, as most utilities specified these materials until after the cable is manufactured, this latter
in 2004. device does provide an opportunity to identify,
Polyethylene manufacturers have focused on locate, and remove interfacial problems before
material purity, improvement in the compound- shipment.
ing and process design, and quality assurance Although inspection for contaminants is im-
and quality control improvements. In addition, portant, it is also important to eliminate all possi-
delivery systems have dramatically improved ble sources of contamination during the manu-
over the past 15 years. Using dedicated reactors, facturing of not only the insulation system but
upgrading reactor clean out and defouling proce- also the conductor and insulation shields. This
dures, and monitoring each run for ambers and means controlling the contact of possible conta-
gels have improved manufacturing technology. minants, especially airborne dust particles, to
Increasing the raw material cleanliness, filtrating raw insulation materials or to the cable during
all process air and water, and operating under a extrusion. Materials should be exposed as little
sealed loop strategy have helped to ensure a as possible to the ambient air in the plant. In ad-
better product. In addition, handling systems dition, cable interface surfaces should, similarly,
now use gravity feed and dense phase, as well have minimum possible exposure to an uncon-
as dedicated, sealed rail cars in good condition. trolled environment during the extrusion process.
Polyethylene is manufactured by compound
suppliers and shipped in pellet form to the cable EXTRUSION AND CURING PROCESSES
manufacturers for extrusion onto the full-sized During cable manufacture, the various shields
cable. Contamination is possible at any step and insulating layers are extruded over the con-
along the way. Most manufacturers carry out op- ductor. The raw material is melted and the liq-
tical pellet inspection, but usually only about uid polymer is pumped into a die that applies a
two percent of the total amount of compound is continuous and uniform layer around the con-
inspected. Needless to say, many contaminants ductor. The material is then cured at the proper
are missed, as recent statistics suggest that even temperature for the proper time. This process is
the cleanest compound can contain contaminants repeated for various layers until the desired
above 12 mils, and these may be removed with cable configuration is achieved.
6 2 – Se c t i on 2

Expediency and quality in cable manufacture trees within polyethylene. Some newer equip-
can be achieved if the extrusion of different lay- ment uses dry nitrogen as a heat transfer agent
ers is performed simultaneously. The industry in the curing tube, which eliminates insulation
uses multiple simultaneous extrusion processes. contact with water until it has solidified. The re-
Figure 2.7 shows the general layout of a cable sult is lower water content (200 ppm) in the in-
extrusion line. The conductor enters the process sulation. The few cable production lines that use
from the pay-off reel. The conductor first passes dry gas for both curing and cooling achieve
through the extrusion heads, where the shields even lower water content (50 ppm). The signifi-
and insulation are applied. The cable then en- cance of the lower water content is still the sub-
ters the curing tube, where the extruded poly- ject of continuing investigation. It is believed
mers are cured at a temperature between 218°C that the very lowest water contents are main-
(425°F) and 293°C (560°F). Pressure in the cur- tained in service only if the cables are com-
ing tubes is also maintained between 150 and pletely sealed from moisture. However, the
300 psi. This temperature and pressure is main- industry has widely accepted the desirability
tained long enough for cross-linking to take of dry nitrogen gas curing, especially for poly-
place in the insulation and/or shields. After ethylene-based cables.
curing, the cable enters a cooling zone, com- Steam curing is the oldest cross-linking or vul-
monly referred to as a water bath or quenching. canizing method employed in any continuous
However, some new production lines use dry vulcanizing (CV) plant. In steam curing, the
gas cooling. freshly extruded cable passes down the center
The methods used to cure and cool the cable of a long vulcanizing tube filled with saturated
during manufacture are the subject of much re- steam at about 20 atmospheres (300 pounds
search. Older systems used high-pressure steam per square inch gauge (psig)) pressure and
for curing, which led to higher water content temperature of about 215°C (419°F). The cured
(5,000 parts per million) within the insulation. It insulation is then cooled under pressure by cold
is suspected that this insulation water content water. Most EPRs are still made with steam
may contribute to the development of water curing in a CV catenary process.

Extrusion Area
– Conductor Shield
– Insulation
– Insulation Shield

Curing Tube

Water Cooling

Insulated Cable
r o

Take-Up Reel

Pay-Off Reel

FIGURE 2.7: General Layout of a Cable Extrusion Line.

Cable Se l e c t i o n – 6 3

Conductor Shield Insulation Insulation Shield

Insulated Conductor with

Bare Conductor Conductor Shield Added Insulated Conductor Insulated Conductor Insulation Shield
First Pass Second Pass

(a) 2 Pass or Dual-Tandem Method

Conductor Shield Insulation Shield

Bare Conductor Conductor Shield Added Insulated Conductor with Insulation Shield

(b) 1 + 2 Triple-Tandem Method

Conductor Shield Insulation Shield

Bare Conductor Insulated Conductor with Insulation Shield

(c) 3-in-1 Triple Method

FIGURE 2.8: Typical Extrusion Methods.

Dry curing, on the other are EPR users who gain little
hand, consists of an electri- True triple-tandem advantage in the dry cure tech-
cally heated tube filled with nology. Most utilities that spec-
high-purity nitrogen gas at extrusion ify EPR insulation request
about 10 atmospheres (150 is preferred. steam curing or do not specify
psig) pressure. The infrared a curing method at all.
energy emitted by the hot For UD cable production,
tubes is transferred to the the triple extrusion and the dry
cable components. The cable surface tempera- cure technology with the catenary arrangement
ture can be as high as 300°C (572°F). The cured is most common.
cable is cooled by passing through a cooling Extrusion heads are continuing to evolve. The
section containing water under the same pres- simplest head configuration is the two-pass (or
sure as the curing section to prevent void forma- dual-tandem) process shown in Figure 2.8(a). A
tion in the insulation. A dry cured insulation disadvantage of this arrangement is the open
contains voids in the order of 100/mm3, 1 to 10 space between the application point for the con-
µm (micrometers) in size, whereas steam curing ductor shield and that for the insulation. The
generates voids of 105/mm3, 1 to 50 µm in size. conductor shield surface can be contaminated
Sixty percent of the investor-owned utilities now by airborne particles. In addition, the cable
specify dry curing. Of the remainder, 33 percent must be returned to a separate extrusion line
6 4 – Se c t i on 2

for installation of the insulation shield. This is completely enclosed head [see Figure 2.8(c)]. Si-
also an opportunity for contamination of a criti- multaneous extrusion eliminates the opportunity
cal interface surface. for contamination of any interface surface.
A major improvement in cable extrusion is Today, the preferred extrusion method is the
the development of the 1 + 2 triple-tandem triple crosshead line or the true triple-head ex-
arrangement. Here, the insulation and the insu- truder. This line features one common crosshead
lation shield are extruded simultaneously as connecting three extruders, so that the insulation
shown in Figure 2.8(b). Though there is still a and the semiconductive shields are extruded si-
chance for airborne contamination between the multaneously over the conductor. With its suc-
conductor shield head and the insula- cessful development and commercialization, the
tion/insulation shield head, there is no chance triple crosshead is now generally accepted in
of contamination on the insulation surface. the industry because it minimizes the chance of
The latest extrusion configuration is the true damage and contamination at the shields and in-
triple-head unit. All three compounds are ex- sulation interfaces. Most utilities now specify this
truded simultaneously in one location in a extrusion method.

Conductor Shields Conductor shields and insulation shields share the cable insulation. For instance, if the cable is
and Insulation the function of providing a uniform cylindrical insulated with cross-linked polyethylene, a semi-
Shields surface on either side of the cable insulation, conducting XLPE would be applied for both the
which allows the most uniform possible distrib- conductor shield and the insulation shield. Simi-
ution of electrical stress. The conductor shield larly, cables insulated with ethylene propylene
is particularly important in reducing stress con- rubber could have a semiconducting EPR com-
centrations caused by stranded conductors or pound or a similar compound, such as ethyl
imperfections on the conductor surface. The in- vinyl acetate (EVA), as shielding material. This
sulation shield eliminates nonuniform voltage combination produces the greatest insulation
gradients in the insulation caused by irregular system component compatibility. It is particu-
contacts with grounded objects. By producing larly important to have very similar coefficients
a more uniform electrical stress distribution, of thermal expansion to minimize the generation
shields allow thinner insulation sections to be of thermal stresses within the cable at extreme
used with more predictable results. operating temperatures. Other combinations
Before the general acceptance of extruded di- may be used if elasticity and tensile strength
electric cables, the conductor shield and the insu- characteristics are compatible. Most manufactur-
lation shield both usually consisted of carbon- ers use EVA for these shields.
loaded cotton tape. These tapes improved the
surface contour of conventional stranded con- CONDUCTOR SHIELD
ductors and were generally suitable for use with For maximum effectiveness, the conductor shield
paper and rubber insulation compounds. With should be firmly bonded to the cable insulation
the advent of extruded polyethylene dielectrics, to minimize voids at the interface between these
extruded shields gained favor. These could be two components. Because this zone has the
applied at a lower cost and produce a more uni- highest electrical stresses in the cable and voids
form surface than could semiconducting cloth will produce insulation deterioration under elec-
tapes. This more uniform surface was particular- trical stress, it is particularly important to have
ly important for gaining cable reliability with the minimum number of possible voids in this
polyethylene cable insulation. location. The extruded conductor shield material
Present practice in extruded insulation cables should strip freely from the conductor without
uses extruded conductor and insulation shields leaving residue to facilitate cable splicing. Other-
almost exclusively. The preferred material is a wise, particles of semiconducting polymer might
semiconducting version of the material used for be left inside electrical connections that would
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 6 5

unacceptably impair conduc- avoid stress concentrations or
tivity within the connections. Most electrochemical corona-producing voids.
ANSI/ICEA Specification Therefore, an extruded semi-
S-94-649-2000 allows the con- trees begin at voids conducting insulation shield is
ductor shield/insulation inter- or protrusions near installed to evenly distribute
face to have protrusions of electrical stresses. An extruded
the conductor shield/
seven mils (0.18 mm) into the shield of a compatible material
conductor shield and five mils insulation interface. will tightly adhere to the insu-
(0.127 mm) into the insulation, lation, even when the cable is
if standard conductor shield bent or compressed. The
thicknesses are used. Voids of shield will also remain in close
up to three mils (0.076 mm) are allowed at this contact when the cable is operated at extremely
interface. Research on cable failures has shown design temperatures.
that most electrochemical trees begin at voids or The cable insulation shield must have unvary-
protrusions near the conductor shield/insulation ing conductivity characteristics to serve as an ef-
interface. Tree inception at these points is be- fective shield and produce a uniform, equipoten-
cause of the extremely high electrical stresses in tial surface. In addition, the insulation shield
these regions and because these irregularities must carry the cable capacitive currents between
serve as stress amplifiers when they produce a the insulation shield interface and the grounded
nonuniform electrical field. The cable industry metallic shield tape or conductors. This capabili-
has, therefore, developed the concept of a su- ty is particularly important where a concentric
persmooth conductor shield that produces an neutral configuration is used with conductors
extruded conductor shield with a much more spaced around the cable circumference. Under
uniform cylindrical surface. Protrusions into the these conditions, the insulation shield must carry
cable insulation are reduced in size and quanti- currents transversely as well as radially. The con-
ty. Typical interface irregularities for these im- centric neutral configuration makes the distance
proved conductor shield materials are approxi- traveled by the capacitive currents greater and
mately one percent of the size found in conven- makes shield uniformity even more important
tional shields. This significantly reduces the (see Figure 2.9). Current concentrations under
number of tree initiation sites in the section of the concentric neutral strand also make it impor-
insulation with the highest electrical stresses. Be- tant to keep shield resistivity low.
cause reducing irregularities and voids in this The cable insulation shield must maintain
area will yield longer cable life, the cable pur- good contact with the insulation, yet be easy to
chaser should strongly consider using the ad- remove during splicing. If the insulation shield is
vanced conductor shield systems with improved firmly bonded to the insulation, this bond will
smoothness. Such materials may be slightly produce ideal electrical properties, but it will
more expensive, but the total life-cycle cost of make splicing much more difficult. Firm bonding
the cable may be lower because the cable fail- will require cutting the shield from the insula-
ure rate may be reduced. tion, which must be done very carefully to keep
a uniform cylindrical outer surface on the insula-
INSULATION SHIELD tion. Therefore, where splicing or terminations
The cable insulation shield forms a cylindrical are required frequently, the insulation shield
semiconducting surface on the outside of the in- should be free-stripping. Removal should leave
sulation, which is essential to avoid nonuniform no residue on the insulation surface. The cable
electrical stresses in the insulation. Although it is specifier should note any special conditions of
theoretically possible to place a uniform con- cable use, such as low splicing temperatures,
ducting metallic shield directly outside the cable that may require special stripping characteristics.
insulation, it is impractical to achieve and main- However, to maintain acceptable electrical per-
tain the continuous intimate contact required to formance, certain minimum stripping force will
6 6 – Se c t i on 2

be required. If the minimum bonding is not
maintained, insulation-damaging corona might
be produced at the insulation interface, espe-
cially in cable bends. Because good adherence is
Concentric Neutral Strand necessary for satisfactory electrical performance,
the installation crews may have to warm the in-
sulation shield to an acceptable temperature for
Insulation Shield splicing and termination. If such conditions are
frequently encountered, the cable specifier may
wish to cite special conditions in the cable speci-
fication and call for special low-temperature
stripping tests. However, the specifier should al-
Capacitive Current Flow ways remember that long-term performance of
the cable is the most important criterion and
special installation techniques may be needed
under low-temperature conditions.
Pending RUS 1728F-U1 specifications for pri-
Neutral Strand
mary cables call for minimum and maximum
tension ratings for “strippability” of insulation
shields, as shown in Table 2.5. Slightly different
limits for stripping tension are used in the sam-
ple cable specification contained in Appendix E.
Strand Shield
If a cable system is going to be used in an in-
stallation requiring especially high reliability and
few splices or terminations, the specifier may
use a firmly bonded extruded insulation shield.
Doing so will produce optimum electrical perfor-
mance. If long cable pulls are used, less extra
Semiconducting labor will be needed to make splices. However,
Insulation Shield
before starting installations of this type, crews
must be specially trained and proper tools must
be obtained to make satisfactory splices. Firmly
bonded insulation shields should never be used
FIGURE 2.9: Capacitive and Dielectric Loss Current Flow in Insulation
Shield. on underground residential systems where
cables are frequently terminated.


TABLE 2.5: Insulation Shield Strippability Shielded cable systems require not only a semi-
Ratings. conducting insulation shield but also a conduc-
tive metal shield to function properly. The metal
Minimum Maximum shield is in intimate contact with the semicon-
Cable Removal Removal
ducting insulation shield. The major functions of
Insulation Type Tension (lb.) Tension (lb.)
the conductive metal shield are the following:
EPR 3 18
• To serve as a grounding means for the semi-
TR-XLPE 6 16
conducting insulation shield to keep all
Discharge Resistant 0 16 sections at constant potential,
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 6 7

• To serve as a path for to one-half (reduced neutral)
currents generated by Defects in the shield of the phase conductivity. This
capacitive coupling enables the cable to function
between the central system will cause without a separate neutral con-
conductor and the cable failures. ductor. Mechanical as well as
system neutral or the electrical considerations gener-
surrounding earth, ally mandate that concentric
• To serve as an interceptor neutral conductors be copper,
of system fault currents in case of a even if the central cable conductor is aluminum.
dielectric failure, Table 2.6 shows concentric neutral sizes often
• To provide a grounded metallic object used on distribution cables.
between the energized conductor and the Full-capacity concentric neutrals are most
cable exterior, and often used on smaller cables that are applied in
• To serve as a system neutral (in some cases). single-phase circuits. Having full conductivity in
the neutral reduces circuit voltage drop. The sys-
All these functions are extremely important. tem neutral-to-earth voltage under both normal
The conductive shield’s failure to properly per- loads and fault conditions is reduced as well.
form any of these functions will lead to either a Reduced neutral capacities are most often
cable failure or a malfunction of the electric dis- used on three-phase circuits, particularly in the
tribution system in which the cable is installed. larger conductor sizes. Doing so is feasible and
A wide variety of conductive shield configura- desirable because of the following:
tions have been developed for use on cable sys-
tems. Examples of typical shield configurations • In a three-phase circuit, three neutrals are
are given below. connected in parallel, which reduces the cross
section required to produce a full-capacity
CONCENTRIC NEUTRALS system neutral to one-third on each cable.
Concentric neutral conductors serve a dual role • In a three-phase system, system neutral return
as a conductive cable shield and a circuit neu- current should be near zero, thereby reducing
tral. To fulfill this second function, the shield the cross-sectional area required to maintain
(neutral) has a much larger cross section than is low system losses and neutral-to-earth volt-
typical with flat tape, drain wire, or L.C. shield ages under reasonably balanced conditions.
configurations. Typical concentric neutral cables • In a three-phase cable system with intercon-
will have a neutral conductivity equal to that of nected neutrals, losses in the cable neutral are
the central conductor (full neutral), or one-third caused by circulating currents. All other factors

TABLE 2.6: Concentric Neutral Configurations for Common Aluminum Cables.

Typical Neutral Configuration

Conductor Size Full Capacity One-Third Capacity One-Sixth Capacity One-Twelfth Capacity
#2 AWG Aluminum 10 × 14 AWG 6 × 14 AWG N/A N/A
1/0 AWG Aluminum 16 × 14 AWG 6 × 14 AWG N/A N/A
4/0 AWG Aluminum 13 × 10 AWG 11 × 14 AWG N/A N/A
350 kcmil Aluminum 20 × 10 AWG 18 × 14 AWG 14 × 16 AWG N/A
500 kcmil Aluminum N/A 16 × 12 AWG 20 × 16 AWG 10 × 16 AWG
750 kcmil Aluminum N/A 20 × 9 AWG 30 × 16 AWG 10 × 14 AWG
6 8 – Se c t i on 2

being equal, these losses are lower where there L.C. shields are commonly available in five-mil
is less neutral conductivity. A cable with a thickness but, for applications requiring additional
one-third neutral has 53 percent of the losses fault current capability, shield thicknesses of eight
of a cable with a full-capacity neutral if the or 10 mils can be furnished. However, L.C. shields
cables are spaced 7.5 inches center to center. should be sized to carry expected system neutral
The circuit ampacity of full-neutral cables in currents. Use of L.C. shields as the system neutral
three-phase circuits is also reduced because will require evaluation of available system fault
of these shield losses. This problem is signifi- currents and protective system clearing times. Ac-
cant in larger cable sizes, particularly if the cessories such as shield (neutral) bonding clamps
cables are not closely grouped. For instance, must also be carefully evaluated for long-term
on a 350-kcmil circuit carrying 390 amperes, continuous current and fault current capacity.
the losses on a circuit with 7.5-inch cable The L.C. shield does provide a limited degree
spacing will drop from 12 kW/1,000 feet to of resistance to water vapor transmission. It is
6.4 kW/1,000 feet if a one-third neutral is used clearly superior to concentric neutral configura-
instead of a full-capacity neutral. Elevated tions for water vapor transmission. It is some-
losses and reduced ampacities are not gener- what better than helically applied copper tape
ally a problem on three-phase circuits of 1/0 shields because the length of the straight joint is
AWG aluminum or smaller if the cables are less than the helical joint. Moreover, the elas-
grouped in a single trench. Additional infor- tomer at the lap point does provide a better seal,
mation on circuit ampacity rating for various although, under static pressure, the elastomeric
neutral configurations is given in Section 4. seal cannot be depended on to prevent moisture
from migrating into the cable insulation.
Longitudinally Corrugated Shield
The L.C. shield has been developed as a way to Flat Copper Tape
provide greater conductivity in larger cables. The This is perhaps the oldest conductive shield con-
shield generally consists of a copper sheet that figuration. The tape generally consists of a five-mil
is installed with its major axis parallel to that of (0.005-inch) thick copper tape helically applied
the cable. The sheet is then folded around the over the semiconducting insulation shield. The tape
cable and sealed to itself on the opposite side. is usually installed with a 12.5 percent overlap.
Circumferential corrugations are fabricated in the Tape shields may be fabricated from bare copper
resulting tube to add flexibility and ensure that or may be tinned copper. Because of the small
the shield will uniformly bend with the cable. The cross section, the conductivity of flat copper tape
seal applied between the two sides of the copper shields is relatively low compared with the central
is usually an adhesive elastomer. The tube gen- cable conductor. Equation 2.2 gives the effective
erally does not have a metal-to-metal connection cross-sectional area of an overlapped tape.
with the cable insulation shield at this point be-
cause allowance must be made for the cable in-
sulation to thermally expand during operation at Equation 2.2
elevated temperatures. Not only is the tempera-
ture change higher in the insulation than it is in W
A = 4bdm ×
the cable shield, but all dielectrics have a sub- 2(W – L)
stantially higher coefficient of thermal expansion
than that of copper. Because the metallic shield
must have good contact with the semiconduct- where: A = Cross-sectional area, in cmils
ing insulation shield to function effectively, a b = Tape thickness, in mils
tight fit must be maintained at all times. There-
dm = Mean diameter, in mils
fore, the insulation expansion is accommodated
by flexibility in the elastomeric seal. The return W = Width of tape, in mils
of the shield to intimate contact as the cable L = Overlap of tape, in mils
cools is assisted by the external insulating jacket.
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 6 9

CONCENTRIC NEUTRAL CONFIGURATIONS ground rods. This condition was totally unsatisfac-
As experience has been gained with under- tory from the standpoints of system safety and re-
ground installations under a variety of condi- liability. Therefore, the use of BCN cable has been
tions, the utility industry has developed several discontinued except in very special conditions.
specialized variations of the basic concentric
neutral configurations. Each of these arrange- Jacketed Concentric Neutral
ments has an advantage for a particular set of Because of the very serious problems experi-
installation conditions. enced with BCN cables, the electric utility indus-
try began using the jacketed concentric neutral
Bare Concentric Neutral (JCN) configuration. This configuration has most
The first widely accepted concentric neutral cables of the major advantages of the BCN design ex-
were of a bare concentric neutral (BCN) config- cept for continuous contact of the neutral with
uration. In this design, the concentric neutral earth. The jacketed configuration reduces access
strands were laid over the semiconducting insu- of moisture and corrosive agents to the neutral.
lation shield and no jacket was applied. When the Insulating jackets also interrupt the flow of gal-
cable was directly buried, this arrangement had vanic corrosion currents between the neutral
the advantage of exposing the concentric neutral and other metallic objects.
conductors to the surrounding soil. The result was JCN design has achieved wide acceptance as
a very effective ground, especially where soil re- a solution to the concentric neutral corrosion
sistivity was low. The low resistance between problem. However, the cooperative engineer
neutral and earth meant more of the system neu- must give special attention to system grounding
tral current could return to the source by way of if jacketed cables are used. Cable identification
the earth, thereby reducing current in the con- also acquires additional importance, as jacketed
centric neutral and circuit voltage drop. Further- cables are approximately the same dimension
more, the low resistance between the neutral and general appearance as many communica-
and earth reduced neutral-to-earth voltages dur- tion cables and water lines. See Section 5 in the
ing both normal operations and fault conditions. Design Manual for detailed information on sys-
The bare concentric neutral is also considered tem grounding.
the best possible arrangement for personnel
safety in case of a dig-in. The neutral size en- Flat-Strap Concentric Neutrals
sures the ability to adequately conduct fault cur- Flat-strap concentric neutrals, not to be confused
rents until protective devices operate. The high- with flat-tape metallic shields, consist of helically
er conductivity of the concentric neutral will applied flat copper straps. These straps are about
produce lower voltages on the neutral at the 0.020 to 0.025 inches (20 to 25 mils) thick and
fault location. The low resistance between the about 0.150 to 0.175 inches wide. The straps are
neutral and earth will significantly reduce the applied so they abut each other and provide 90
touch potential at the dig-in site. Most important, percent metallic coverage over the outside of
the concentric neutral physical arrangement en- the cable. Conductivity of flat-strap neutrals is
sures the object penetrating the cable will have generally equal to that of the energized conduc-
established a good neutral connection before tor. Flat-strap concentric neutrals have found
contacting the energized center conductor. greatest acceptance in areas where rodents dam-
In light of all the advantages of BCN cables, it age direct-buried cables. The complete metallic
is unfortunate that there are major durability prob- coverage on a cable was originally believed to
lems with this design under many installation lessen damage from gophers. However, using
conditions. These problems are all related to this type of cable to lessen rodent damage has
corrosion of the exposed cable neutral. In many had mixed results. Recent research shows that
cases, the neutral had a significantly reduced rodent damage is more effectively limited by in-
cross section after only a few years of service. In creasing the diameter of the object. Therefore,
other cases, the neutral was completely corroded flat-strap neutrals should not be depended on to
and the only neutral current path was through prevent rodent damage.
7 0 – Se c t i on 2

Flat-strap neutral cables Experience with low-voltage
should be jacketed. The thick- Always specify insulated cables has shown
ness of the flat strap is less that aluminum conductors can
than the diameter of the neu- copper for concentric be extremely susceptible to
tral wires. Therefore, the com- neutral conductors. corrosion, even if they are in-
plete cable diameter will be sulated from the surrounding
less. This is an advantage environment. Because cable
where space is limited. jackets are not absolutely
moisture proof, even an encapsulated aluminum
Concentric Neutral Materials neutral conductor may be subject to long-term
Other Than Copper deterioration from moisture migration. It is un-
The predominant material in concentric neutrals wise to consider aluminum neutral conductors
has always been copper. For many years, the for primary cables, even in a jacketed configura-
generally accepted wire for bare concentric neu- tion, when the only advantage to be gained is
trals was copper with a tin or tin-lead alloy coat- slight savings in initial material cost.
ing. As experience has been gained with a wide Another approach that was used for a limited
variety of materials, engineers have determined time to try to solve the bare concentric neutral
that the coating of the copper concentric neutral corrosion problem was the use of a composite
conductors was not necessary and, in some cas- copper/steel conductor. The particular configura-
es, actually led to higher corrosion rates. It is tion used a copper center core for conductivity,
generally believed that, in the early days of con- with a heavy steel coating completely surround-
centric neutral cable manufacture, tinned copper ing the copper. For durability during periods of
concentric neutrals gained wide acceptance be- atmospheric exposure, the steel was galvanized.
cause most flat-tape metallic shields were tinned This cross-sectional arrangement offered the def-
on jacketed cables. In some cases, that was a inite advantage of having steel exposed to the
holdover from cables on which butyl rubber in- earth in the direct-buried cables instead of cop-
sulation was used and tinning was needed to per. The exposed steel greatly simplified the ap-
avoid corrosion. Also, tinned copper was used plication of cathodic protection systems to the
on earlier cables because of the prevalence of neutral. However, the conductor used in this
soldered connections, and the coated copper fa- neutral construction did carry a premium price.
cilitated soldering of these thin shields. Because Utilities also experienced difficulty in applying
concentric neutral cables never employ soldered this cable to existing systems that already had
connections and butyl rubber is no longer used extensive exposure of bare copper concentric
for insulation, the need for coating neutral wires neutrals. Systems containing this cable configu-
has disappeared. Bare copper wires are now ration required sacrificial anodes or impressed
uniformly accepted as the preferred material for voltage rectifiers applied to provide protection
concentric neutrals, whether bare or jacketed. to the neutral. For additional information on the
During the mid-1970s, a few utilities briefly principles of cathodic protection, see Section 7.
experimented with aluminum concentric neutral
cables. These were applied in a bare configura- CABLE JACKET
tion. Although some laboratory studies showed In most cables, the cable jacket is the outermost
that the aluminum neutrals would resist many layer of material that serves as a barrier to mois-
types of soil-induced corrosion, field experience ture and mechanical damage. Therefore, it is im-
proved quite the opposite. The very complex in- portant to optimize the design and materials of
teractions present on an interconnected neutral the jacket to obtain maximum performance in
passing through a variety of soils led to early these important areas.
failure of these cables. It became obvious that For many years, all power cable designs includ-
aluminum should never be used as an exposed ed a jacket. However, with the advent of the ex-
concentric neutral in direct-buried or conduit tensive underground residential programs, electric
cable installations. utilities began installing bare concentric neutral
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 7 1

cables. This design eliminated the cable jacket so into a conduit system, a low coefficient of fric-
that the BCN could establish conductive contact tion with the conduit material is desirable.
with the earth in a direct-buried installation. En- Today, most utilities specify an outer jacket.
gineers eventually learned that the accelerated A wide variety of chemical components have
failure rate of UD cable was largely caused by been used successfully for cable jacketing. The
cable moisture and/or concentric neutral corro- material most desirable for jacketing is linear
sion. Both of these factors were able to strongly low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). This material
influence UD cable life because of the lack of a has the best balance of properties for use on un-
high-quality cable jacket. It is worth noting that, derground utility cables.
although U.S. utilities installed BCN UD cables, Table 2.7 shows a comparison of important
European and Japanese utilities continued to install properties of various compounds. The table
only jacketed cables. These utilities have experi- shows that polyethylene is preferable in almost
enced much higher distribution system cable relia- all categories except fire resistance. In direct-
bility than has been typical in the United States. buried applications and outdoor conduit installa-
Recognizing this, the U.S. electric utility industry tions, this compromise is acceptable. Low
now mainly uses jacketed cables. These may be chlorine content is an advantage because hydro-
conventional power cables with flat-tape or drain- gen chloride may result from these compounds
wire shields, or they may be JCN cables. Jackets at the emergency operating temperature of
can be either insulating or semiconducting. 130°C (266°F). This gas, particularly in conjunc-
Under any circumstances, the jacket material tion with surrounding moisture, will be detri-
is very important. Desirable characteristics in- mental to XLPE and EPR insulating compounds
clude abrasion resistance, flexibility, and low as well as copper neutrals or other metallic
moisture permeability. If cable is being pulled shield materials.

TABLE 2.7: Comparison of Jacketing Material Test Data.

Polyethylene (PE) Polyethylene* Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Physical Properties
• Tensile Strength (psi) 2,730 1,700 1,920
• Elongation 620 450 350
Moisture Transmission
7 Days in 70°C (158°F) Water
• Grams/m2/24 hours 0.8 1.5 >10
Flame Resistance
20 Min. at 70,000 Btu/Hr
• Cable Tray Fire Test Fail Fail Fail**
Low Temperature Properties
Cold Bend Test
• Temperature Passed (°C) -40 -50 -10
Chlorine Content (%) 0 0 22.0
Thermal Stability
• Initial Temperature of
Decomposition (°C) 350 350 160
* Based on Union Carbide 7708.
** PVC can be specially compounded to pass the Cable Tray Fire Test.
7 2 – Se c t i on 2

TABLE 2.8: Static Coefficient of Friction for Jacketing Materials in PVC drain wires, or concentric neutral by a nonad-
Conduit. hering tape. This tape keeps the two layers en-
tirely separate. Where drain wires or concentric
Polyvinyl Cross-Linked High-Molecular-Weight Linear Low-Density neutrals are used under the jacket, this method
Chloride Polyethylene Polyethylene Polyethylene leaves an annular (ring-shaped) space between
(XLPE) (HMWPE) (LLDPE) the semiconducting insulation shield and the
0.69 0.75 0.42 0.42 outside jacket. Although this space does contain
the metallic wire shield, the spaces between
strands become a reservoir for moisture that may
Another important characteristic of jacketing enter the jacket through gradual absorption,
materials is the coefficient of friction in common manufacturing defects, or installation-induced
pulling situations. Table 2.8 shows the static co- damage. This space also provides an excellent
efficient of friction of various jacket materials in path for migration of moisture along the length
PVC conduit. of the cable. This moisture is extremely detri-
Jacket materials used on utility systems mental to the cable by its promotion of electro-
should always be sunlight-resistant. Very few chemical treeing in the insulation. This moisture
installed utility cables have no part of the cable also facilitates corrosion attacks on metallic shield
ever exposed to sunlight. Therefore, most cable strands. Although this jacket configuration is sat-
jacketing compounds will be colored black to isfactory for use with metal tape shields, it
eliminate sunlight penetration and, thereby, en- should not be used with concentric neutral ca-
hance the natural durability of the basic jacket bles that will frequently be exposed to moisture.
Semiconducting Jackets
Jacket Configurations The use of insulating jackets on direct-buried
There are two main physical arrangements for cable improves most performance characteristics,
cable jackets. The first significant jacket configu- with one major exception. Use of an insulating
ration is the encapsulating jacket. This arrange- jacket deprives the concentric neutral of its con-
ment surrounds the concentric neutral conductors ductive contact with the surrounding earth,
with the jacketing compound. The jacket is ex- thereby relegating all system neutral grounding
truded directly over the concentric neutral strands. to driven rods or other electrodes installed along
The jacket material fills all areas between con- the circuit route. To improve cable grounding
centric neutral strands and establishes close con- with its attendant benefits, a semiconducting
tact with the semiconducting insulation shield. cable jacket was introduced. The jacket consists
Adequate jacket thickness is placed over the of a semiconducting compound that is extruded
outside of the strands to minimize the chance of in an encapsulating jacket (embedded neutral)
strand exposure during installation. The advan- configuration. The constructed cable has a radial
tage of this encapsulated neutral design is that resistivity of less than 100 meter-ohms and is,
no spaces exist between neutral strands to allow therefore, comparable to the conductivity of
movement of moisture along the cable. There- most soils. This ensures neutral-to-earth current
fore, any penetration will allow moisture in only transfer comparable to that of a BCN design.
one small spot, and probably will expose only The improvement of conductivity provided by
one neutral strand at this location. Limiting semiconducting jackets between the concentric
moisture exposure to only one strand of the neutral and the surrounding earth is a significant
concentric neutral will reduce the potential for improvement in overall UD system design. How-
loss of neutral continuity. ever, there are some disadvantages to the semi-
The second jacket configuration is an ex- conducting jackets. These disadvantages are
truded jacket that overlays the metallic shield or principally associated with the greater moisture
concentric neutral. In this arrangement, the transmission rate of the semiconducting polyeth-
jacket is often separated from the tape shield, ylene compound. The first semiconducting jackets
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 7 3

had moisture transmission rates approximately deterioration of interconnected steel is not a sig-
12 times that of LLDPE. At that level, moisture nificant problem.
could penetrate the jacket and collect adjacent In summary, utilities should carefully consider
to the concentric neutral strands. There the all aspects of the system performance before in-
moisture had the potential to serve as an elec- stalling semiconducting jackets on direct-buried
trolyte, forming a galvanic cell between the cop- cable. Though the advantage of lower system re-
per neutral and the carbon in the semiconduct- sistance to remote earth is desirable and immedi-
ing jacket. This could result in deterioration of ate, the potential subtle negative effects are long-
the neutral. Another aspect of the semiconduct- term and may have an effect on the useful life of
ing jacketed cable design concerns the possibili- the cable. The utility should consider the partic-
ty of mechanical damage to the jacket during in- ular circumstances of the proposed installation
stallation, exposing the neutral conductors di- conditions and weigh the merits of each cable
rectly to the soil. In this case, there is the poten- jacket option.
tial for the galvanic attack to be more severe be-
cause the ratio of exposed surface areas of the Cable Jacket Marking
carbon to copper is much greater. External marking of jacketed cable is necessary
There also previously existed concern that the and serves three major purposes. The first is to
galvanic cell existing between the semiconduct- provide information on the cable’s characteris-
ing jacket and interconnected subterranean steel tics. The conductor size, type and thickness of
objects might be detrimental to the steel. Examples insulation, and voltage rating must be included.
of such objects are anchors, telephone pedestals, The manufacturer’s name and the year of manu-
and water piping. Tests have been conducted facture must also be included. All these mark-
by NEETRAC to demonstrate that accelerated ings must be durable and indented into (or
embossed onto) the jacket.
The second purpose is to make individual
cable identification and accounting easier by ap-
Printed Data
plying sequential footage markers to the outside
Clear Space of the jacket. These markings should be applied
with the general cable information listed above.
These markings, along with reel label data, tell
3H 3H 3H
the installer how much cable remains on a reel.
The sequential footage markings also help iden-
tify a particular cable that may be exposed in the
midpoint of a multiconductor run.
The third important purpose of external mark-
Symbol for Communication Cable
ings is to identify JCN cables as high-voltage ca-
Printed Data bles. If unmarked, JCN cables are indistinguish-
able from jacketed communications cables. This
Clear Space
difference must be made clear to personnel of
all utilities. Previous efforts have involved the
3H 3H 3H application of three red stripes in the cable sur-
face. Other schemes have used various patterns
of raised ribs on the cable surface. To assist in
solving this problem, the NESC (ANSI Standard
C2) requires that all electric supply cables have a
Symbol for Supply Cable standard lightning bolt symbol included in the
H = Height of printed characters; determined by cable manufacturer external marking. This symbol is illustrated in
Figure 2.10. As with all other exterior markings,
FIGURE 2.10: Cable Identification Markings. Source: ANSI/IEEE C2 it must be durable and indented into (or em-
bossed onto) the cable surface.
7 4 – Se c t i on 2

Cable Acquisition of satisfactory cable starts with being considered. These requirements can range
Specification preparing an adequate specification document from routine cable purchases for use in small-ca-
and Purchasing that fully describes the cable needed. As the pacity, single-phase extensions to specialized ca-
preceding topics in this section have shown, bles for substation feeder exits, underwater
there are many options from which to choose. installations, or other unusual applications.
The specification must describe the following: Appendix E contains sample specifications for
primary cable. Appendix E addresses cables with
• The cable that will best fulfill system both EPR and TR-XLPE insulation. These specifi-
requirements, cations incorporate many of the features that have
• The quality control tests that are expected been discussed and recommended in this man-
during and after manufacture, and ual. Appendix E shows features to include in
• The packaging and shipping methods specifications for the purchase of single-conduc-
to be used. tor, medium-voltage cable suitable for rural sys-
tems. These specifications are compatible with,
In short, all items of importance to the pur- and in some cases exceed, the requirements of
chaser must be described either directly or pending RUS Bulletin 1728F-U1. Because these
through reference to other industry-standard are general specifications, they are particularly
specifications. oriented toward the routine cable purchase.
Reference to industry-standard specifications These specifications may not include special fea-
can greatly simplify the specification-writing tures needed in a particular project. Therefore,
process for both the purchaser and the supplier. the engineer must closely review these specifica-
Perhaps the most notable examples of widely tions and change them as needed to meet any
accepted U.S. cable specifications are those pre- unusual requirements of a particular project.
pared under the auspices of the ANSI/ICEA. Appendix C is a sample specification for sec-
ANSI/ICEA Specification S-94-649 covers cables ondary single-conductor and triplex cables. Three
insulated with thermoplastic, cross-linked, and types of insulation are included: standard cross-
ethylene propylene rubber. This specification is linked polyethylene, ruggedized cross-linked poly-
for shielded cables rated five through 46 kV. ethylene, and self-sealing insulated cables. Be-
Within these specifications, there are references cause many secondary cable failures are caused
to various detailed specifications, such as National by insulation cuts during installation, these
Equipment Manufacturers Association and ASTM tougher insulations are required for reliability. The
specifications. use of ruggedized secondary cable is recommend-
Another major specification that affects rural ed. Self-sealing secondary cables contain a viscous
electric cooperatives is RUS Bulletin 1728F-U1. material between the outer layer of conductor
The RUS U1 specification makes extensive refer- strands and the inner surface of the insulation.
ence to ANSI/ICEA Specification S-94-649-2000. When the insulation is disrupted, the viscous in-
U1 is oriented specifically to UD cables up to sulating material flows into the cut and restores
35 kV and optional semiconducting outer jack- the integrity of the insulation. This stops the en-
ets. As of the writing of this manual, this RUS trance of moisture into the cable and arrests the
Bulletin 1728F-U1 is still pending final approval. progress of the typical secondary cable failure.
Compliance with these commonly accepted
electric industry specifications assures the pur- TYPICAL SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
chaser that the manufacturers will be familiar There are certain areas in which purchasers
with the general requirements and should have commonly change the specifications to meet
designs and quality control procedures in place their particular needs.
to meet the purchaser’s needs.
Neutral Size
SAMPLE CABLE SPECIFICATIONS One item that affects both the initial and the op-
The first step when buying any cable is to deter- erating costs of an underground cable is the con-
mine the specific requirements of the project centric neutral conductivity. If the neutral selected
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 7 5

for three-phase installations is too large, both problems with cables caused by the low temper-
the initial cost and the circulating current losses atures. To lessen these problems, the specifier
will be higher. However, on single-phase instal- can insert a section requiring a cold bend quali-
lations, a larger concentric neutral is needed to fication test. This test will indicate the probability
carry the neutral return current that may be near the cable will fail during bending or movement
the magnitudes of the current in the energized at low temperatures. It is not a measure of cable
conductor. On single-phase installations, a re- flexibility. In most cases where the cable operat-
duced neutral capacity could produce higher ing temperature is always above -17°C (0°F),
neutral-to-earth voltages and higher losses be- cable bending problems are not significant.
cause of the lower conductivity of the neutral
conductor. Conceivably, the reduced-capacity Feeder Cable Shielding
neutral could even be thermally overloaded as Section 4 of this manual shows that high-capac-
the cable approaches normal rated capacity. ity three-phase cable installations incur much
For these reasons, RUS requires a full-capacity higher losses when high-conductivity concentric
neutral in single-phase installations and allows a neutrals are used. Induced currents that circulate
one-third (or greater) capacity concentric neutral between the neutrals of the three phases cause
on three-phase cable installations. This approach these losses. Lower conductivity neutral/shield
ensures that there will be concentric neutral con- arrangements reduce these losses. Such arrange-
ductivity at least equal to the phase conductor ments not only can reduce the economic loss as-
conductivity in both single-phase and three- sociated with circulating currents, but also can
phase installations. The cooperative engineer increase cable ampacity by cutting the amount
should consider the typical use of the cable that of heat generated in the neutral/shield. Substa-
is being bought when deciding whether to use tion exits or other large feeders generally have
full-capacity or reduced-capacity neutrals. better load balance with lower neutral currents.
Therefore, reduced concentric neutrals will have
Length adequate thermal capacity, especially if they are
Each purchaser will have different requirements supplemented by a separate neutral conductor.
for the length of cable on reels to use on routine Where a high-capacity feeder is being installed,
installations. Requirements will vary with terrain, the engineer should give particular attention to
the type of equipment used to install cables, and the size of the neutral and/or shield specified on
the typical distance between termination points. the cable.
The cables should be bought in the longest The engineer must also check the magnitude
lengths practical for the field crews to use so as and duration of fault currents on the system when
to leave less scrap at the reel ends. Constraining selecting a particular neutral/shield arrangement.
factors will be the width and diameter of reels Fault current duration is usually not a problem
that the cable transport and installation equip- on 200-amp-class single-phase circuits because
ment can accommodate. full-capacity neutrals are used and circuit reclos-
The cooperative engineer must also consider ing is not a factor. However, the other extreme is
the weight of the full reel when deciding on the substation feeder exit cables where there is a de-
standard reel size. As with all other aspects, it is sire to reduce neutral capacity to minimize circu-
helpful to select the same maximum reel sizes lating current losses and increase ampacity. In
that other cooperatives choose, especially if these locations, the fault currents are higher,
there is a group purchase arrangement. Doing overcurrent protective devices operate more
so makes stocking easier for manufacturers and slowly, and reclosing is often used. All these ele-
distributors and consequently reduces the cost ments contribute to higher neutral/shield tem-
for the cooperative. peratures under cable fault conditions. The neu-
tral/shield component of underground substation
Cold Weather Bending feeder exit cables and express feeders must also
Utilities operating underground systems in cold carry fault currents for all down-line faults. An
climates have experienced a variety of flexibility additional neutral conductor located in the same
7 6 – Se c t i on 2

trench or conduit with the insulated cables can cable purchases to review factory production and
supplement this capability. The engineer should testing procedures. To be effective, an individual
pay particular attention to this set of conditions familiar with cable production and testing meth-
when selecting a reduced neutral size. ods must be present. Because the expense of this
observation is essentially the same for large or
CABLE PURCHASING PRACTICES small orders, large orders greatly reduce the incre-
Vendor Prequalification mental unit cost for observation. Moreover, with
Because cable is one of the keys to a reliable group purchasing, there is a greater chance that
and cost-effective underground distribution sys- a staff engineer from one member of the group
tem and some types of cable defects are not ob- will have (or be able to develop) the expertise
vious at the time of manufacture and will be necessary to effectively perform this function.
recognized only years later, all cable needs to be Group purchasing and larger orders will al-
manufactured by reliable producers. It is in the ways lead to a lower unit price. Because all the
cooperative’s best interest to review the qualifi- cable bought under a group plan will be accord-
cations of vendors and select those that have a ing to a single specification and of the same
proven capability to produce a high-quality in- construction, the manufacturer can achieve
sulated conductor. economies through the following:
Prequalification of vendors ensures that all
parties quoting on a cable order have a proven • Volume purchases of required material;
ability to produce a high-quality cable meeting a • Longer, more efficient runs in wire drawing
particular specification. Prequalification avoids operation;
situations in which a vendor with questionable • Longer, more efficient runs in cable extrusion
qualifications submits an unrealistically low price. operation; and
Under these circumstances, the utility is typically • Wider distribution of fixed costs associated
required to honor the bid, which may lead to with a single order.
additional long-term cost through premature
cable failure. It is only logical that if most of the Group purchasing of large cable quantities has
utility industry is carefully prequalifying vendors, a minimum effect on delivery practices. Manufac-
those found unqualified by others will have turers will usually ship parts of the larger order to
lower prices and better lead times because of destinations specified by group members at no
lower demand for their products. This possibility extra cost. In some cases, groups have negotiated
makes it even more important to participate in warehousing arrangements with manufacturers
an effective vendor prequalification program. for release of cable on a designated schedule
throughout a year. This arrangement reduces the
Group Purchase cash flow burden on the cooperative. It also
One way to simultaneously improve cable prices gives the manufacturer additional flexibility by
and quality is to engage in group purchasing of allowing the major production runs to be sched-
cable. This practice has several advantages to uled at more convenient times.
both the vendor and the cooperative. Another advantage to group purchasing on a
Larger quantities (more than 50,000 feet) often standardized specification is the feasibility of
lead to better overall quality control. During the having a single distribution point where the
initial part of a cable manufacturing run, larger group maintains a cable stock. The ability to re-
orders mean that the front and tail ends of a par- ceive large orders coupled with reduced ware-
ticular run can be scrapped. This additional cost house space requirements at the individual
for nonqualifying material is then spread over a group members’ sites may make this approach
larger order, thereby reducing the unit price. reasonable in some cases. This option is particu-
Active quality control is an important part of larly attractive when group purchase and stock-
any utility purchasing program. This quality con- ing of other utility materials is also practiced.
trol should include factory visits during major
Cable Se l e c t i o n – 7 7

Cable Acceptance After a cooperative has analyzed its cable needs, STEP 3. CHECK DIMENSIONAL TOLERANCE
written a comprehensive specification, and fol- Make a simple measurement of basic cable di-
lowed good purchasing procedures, one critical mensions on one reel of each cable size in a
step remains before installation can begin. This shipment to confirm that labeling is correct.
step is the acceptance and inspection of the Measure these dimensions:
cable delivered by the manufacturer. Cable ac-
ceptance involves several simple and inexpen- • Conductor size and stranding,
sive steps that can yield big dividends. The • Insulation thickness,
cooperative engineer must follow these steps to • Concentric neutral wire size and number of
make sure that a quality product is delivered to strands, and
installation crews. • Jacket thickness.

STEP 1. VISUALLY INSPECT FOR Section 11, Cable Testing, gives further infor-
SHIPMENT DAMAGE mation on allowable dimensional tolerances.
Visually inspect cable reels for any damage that
may have occurred in transit. Signs of possible STEP 4. CONDUCT CABLE
damage include impressions or nicks on the out- ACCEPTANCE TESTING
side layer of cable or the reel lagging. If possi- Once on each order or once for each 50,000 feet
ble, this inspection should take place while reels of cable, the cooperative should conduct a com-
are still on the delivery vehicle. plete set of dimensional and electrical perfor-
mance tests on the cable to make sure it
STEP 2. CHECK TAGS complies with the purchase specifications and
Visually check each reel to determine that it has referenced industry standards. These tests in-
proper tags and labels as described in the speci- clude the following:
fications. Make sure that information on the reel
tags agrees with purchase-order information. For • Conductor shield resistivity test;
example, be sure that wire size, insulation thick- • Insulation shield resistivity test;
ness, neutral configuration, and jacket descrip- • Dimensional analysis of all components;
tion all conform to the specifications and • Microscopic examination for voids, contami-
purchase order. Cable length should fall within nants, and shield interface protrusions; and
the bounds described by the purchase order. If • Insulation shield stripping test.
cable was ordered cut to specific lengths, the
engineer should check the tag and sequential An outside laboratory will need to help with
jacket markings (if available) to be sure that these tests. Section 11 gives additional informa-
enough length is available for the required run. tion on these tests.

Summary and Cable systems are one of the most important 4. All stranded conductors should have strand
Recommendations parts of any underground system. Special care filling in interstices to eliminate longitudinal
must be used in selecting both primary and sec- moisture migration.
ondary cables. Some important points follow: 5. Modern TR-XLPE or EPR cables offer relia-
bility superior to that of earlier cables of
1. JCN cable must be used for most underground HMWPE or XLPE.
installations. Insulating jackets are preferred. 6. Vendor quality control and manufacturing
2. Aluminum central conductors are the econom- cleanliness are essential to the production
ical choice for most underground situations. of reliable cable.
3. Solid conductors up to No. 2/0 AWG may 7. In heavily loaded three-phase circuits, re-
be used to eliminate longitudinal moisture duced neutrals will cut losses caused by cir-
migration. culating neutral currents. Reduced neutrals
7 8 – Se c t i on 2

will also increase circuit ampacity, particularly 9. Initial cost, cost of dielectric losses, and
where phases are separated. cable life expectancy must be evaluated
8. A comprehensive cable specification must when making purchasing decisions.
be used and received materials inspected
for compliance.
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 7 9

3 Underground System

In This Section: General Sectionalizing Philosophy Selection of Underground

Overcurrent Protection of Cable System Sectionalizing Equipment

Effect of Inrush Current on Faulted Circuit Indicators

Sectionalizing Devices Summary and Recommendations

General The final design and continuous reliable perfor- fault current and is at its maximum level during
Sectionalizing mance of an electrical distribution system depend the first few cycles when the asymmetrical fault
Philosophy on many engineering elements. Protective device is at a maximum. The ability of system compo-
coordination, overcurrent protection, overvoltage nents to withstand mechanical stress is mainly a
protection, voltage regulation, and service conti- function of design. Where the maximum avail-
nuity are just a few of the elements that are incor- able fault exceeds the withstand capability of
porated. This section addresses the coordination the system component, the only solutions are
of overcurrent protective devices in underground the following:
distribution systems and the coordination of these
protective devices with protective devices on in- • Replace the component with a heavier
terconnected overhead portions of the system. duty unit,
This section is not intended to provide a com- • Modify the circuit configuration to reduce
prehensive procedure for planning and operating the maximum available fault, or
a protection program. Furthermore, the procedure • Use current-limiting protective devices to
for calculating system fault current is beyond the reduce the let-through current.
scope of this section. An excellent reference for
designing protection systems and calculating Thermal stress is a function of the energy
faults is Electrical Distribution System Protection released in a system component during a fault
by Cooper Power Systems (1990). Many excel- that results in rapid heat buildup. The magni-
lent computer programs are also available for tude of energy involved is proportional to current
fault current calculation. squared multiplied by time (I2t). The traditional
approach to reducing thermal damage is to re-
PURPOSE OF SECTIONALIZING duce the amount of time a fault is allowed to
Limit Magnitude of Damage and Injury exist through the careful selection of protective
Short-circuit currents subject a system to both devices and device settings. Where maximum
mechanical and thermal stress. Mechanical stress fault levels are so high that the operating time
begins at the same time as the initiation of the of the protective device must be reduced to an
8 0 – Se c t i on 3

impracticably short interval, coordinated properly, the fault
then current-limiting devices Optimize reliability by location should be between
can be used to reduce the fault the device that has operated
current and the duration. sizing equipment for and the next load-side device.
maximum faults and If the maximum number of
Contain Fault Damage protective devices that can
One objective of protective
using enough feasibly be installed are used,
equipment is to limit damage protective devices. the length of line between de-
at the actual fault site. It is vices will be relatively short.
often impossible or impractical This design approach will re-
to completely eliminate its oc- strict the amount of line that
currence. Through the use of protective devices, must be searched for a fault. Thoughtful place-
fault current magnitude and fault duration are ment of devices will also help locate faults. For
reduced. This reduces, but may not eliminate, example, consider a point at which three taps
damage to the rest of the system from through- branch off a circuit. If a fuse were placed in the
fault currents. Thus, most damage is contained main circuit just before the taps branch off, op-
within the actual location of the fault. eration of the fuse would show that a fault had
occurred in one of the three taps but it would
Maximize System Reliability not show which specific tap. However, if a fuse
and Power Quality were placed at the beginning of each of the
Adherence to the following guidelines will maxi- three branches, operation of one of the fuses
mize system reliability. would show which of the three taps contained
the fault. Installing the additional fuses in this
• Purchase system components that will with- situation would also improve consumer reliabil-
stand maximum calculated through-fault ity by reducing the number of consumers inter-
currents. rupted by a fault.
• Locate and size protective devices so the Of course, there are practical limitations on
smallest possible portion of the system is de- the number and location of devices that can be
energized for a permanent fault. placed on a circuit. The judicious use of fault in-
• Size protective devices so they do not perma- dicators between protective devices will help
nently open for temporary faults. This pinpoint a fault location. The application of fault
guideline applies mainly to overhead portions indicators is presented later in this section. Fault
of a system, as faults on underground systems indicators are especially useful where a circuit
are usually permanent. may sometimes be backfed. In this situation,
protective devices may not co-
Additional reliability may be ordinate properly and more
achieved for critical loads by than one device may operate
use of an automatic transfer Wise placement of during a fault. Wisely placed
switching arrangement. These protective devices fault indicators would be espe-
arrangements are expensive cially useful to narrow down
and require two or more inde- and indicators will aid the fault location.
pendent sources of power. in locating faults and
minimizing outage
Aid in Determining The IEEE Standard Dictionary
Fault Location size and duration. of Electrical and Electronics
Proper coordination and place- Terms (2000) lists several
ment of protective devices will different definitions of the
help system operators deter- word fault. The first two
mine a fault location. If protective devices are definitions listed are relevant here:
Underground System Section al iz i n g – 8 1

• “A wire or cable fault is a partial or total other system components, causing damage
local failure in the insulation or continuity within a fraction of a second.
of a conductor.” • The abnormal low-impedance path can
• “A component fault is the physical condition include nonutility property or human beings,
that causes a device, a component, or an ele- causing damage, injury, and even fatalities.
ment to fail to perform in a required manner;
for example, a short circuit, a broken wire, or Causes of Faults
an intermittent connection.” Causes of common mechanical failures of under-
ground cables are dig-ins, rodent damage, and
All faults within these two definitions fall improper handling and installation. This last
within one of two major categories: an open cir- cause includes sharp bending of cable, excessive
cuit or a short circuit. An open circuit is any cir- pulling force during installation, driving vehicles
cuit in which the normal continuity of the circuit over laid cable, walking on cable in a trench,
is interrupted. The IEEE dictionary defines a placing or leaving rocks in a position to cause
short circuit as “an abnormal connection (includ- future cable damage, and allowing nails in reels
ing an arc) of relatively low impedance, whether to damage cable. Principal causes of electrical
made accidentally or intentionally, between two faults to underground systems include lightning,
points of a different potential.” Within the same insulation treeing, and thermal insulation failure
definition, there is a note that the term fault or caused by overloading.
short-circuit fault is used to describe a short cir- In addition, during single-phase faults on
cuit. three-phase circuits, the phase-to-neutral voltage
Open circuits typically do not lead to damage on the two unfaulted phases can sometimes in-
to the electrical system. In addition, normally crease to a level that can approach the normal
available protective sectionalizing devices used phase-to-phase voltage. This increased voltage
on electrical distribution systems do not typically on the unfaulted phases stresses the insulation
detect open circuits. Frequently, the word fault and can lead to failure. Failure of splices and el-
is associated with its short-circuit definition only, bows is also either electrical or mechanical fail-
and is used interchangeably for short circuit. ure, depending on the cause.
Throughout the rest of this section, the word For a comparison of the sectionalizing of
fault will be used to mean short circuit. Al- overhead and underground systems, it is useful
though protective relays that detect open circuits to examine the many causes of faults on over-
to some degree are available (and others are head distribution lines. Some of the more com-
currently being developed), they are outside the mon causes are:
scope of this section.
• Lightning,
Description of Faults • Squirrels or large birds,
Some of the phenomena associated with a fault • Extreme weather conditions,
are listed below. • Tree limbs or trees falling on the lines, and
• Vehicular damage.
• Very little current flows past a fault point,
leading to loss of service to loads beyond Although the intent of this section is to focus on
the fault. the protection of underground systems, overhead
• Voltage at the fault and beyond decreases lines in many instances are connected either on
significantly. The voltage between the the source side or, less frequently, on the load side
generation source and the fault decreases of underground lines. In these cases, the protective
proportionally to the inverse of the line devices often protect mixed line sections. Also, un-
impedance. derground devices on systems served by over-
• Faults typically lead to current levels that head feeders must coordinate with those devices
exceed the thermal rating of conductor and protecting the overhead portions of the system.
8 2 – Se c t i on 3

Symmetrical Versus Asymmetrical Faults time within a cycle that the short circuit occurs.
The terms symmetrical currents and asymmetri- If the fault is initiated during a voltage peak,
cal currents refer to the symmetry of the peaks then the resulting fault current will be totally
of the current waves about the zero current line. symmetrical. If the fault is initiated near a volt-
A symmetrical current is symmetrical about the age zero, then the initial fault current will be
zero current line, as shown in Figure 3.1. Such highly asymmetrical. As the point on the voltage
current symmetry would typically be found in a curve moves from the voltage zero point to the
system under normal operating conditions. Dur- maximum voltage point, the degree of current
ing an asymmetrical current, the current wave is asymmetry decreases accordingly.
not symmetrical about the zero current line and The other consideration that affects the de-
can be completely above or below the zero line. gree of asymmetry of a fault current is the reac-
Figure 3.2 shows a typical current curve immedi- tance/resistance (X/R) ratio of the equivalent
ately before and after a fault initiation. As the impedance circuit at the fault location. A high
curve shows, the current is symmetrical before X/R ratio means the inductance of the circuit is
the fault initiation. Immediately after the fault greater than the resistance. The higher the X/R
initiation, the current is asymmetrical for approx- ratio is, the greater the asymmetry of the initial
imately the first three cycles before returning to fault current is, all other conditions being con-
a symmetrical waveform. stant. Using a standard symmetrical component
The degree of asymmetry in the current curve notation, Equation 3.1 shows the X/R ratio for a
immediately after the initiation of a fault de- three-phase fault. Equation 3.2 shows the X/R
pends on two considerations. The first is the ratio for a single-phase fault. The positive se-
quence impedance data (X1 and R1) and zero se-
quence impedance data (X0 and R0) should be
available from a system fault study.

Equation 3.1
Three-Phase Fault
Ratio = X1 ÷ R1
FIGURE 3.1: Symmetrical Current.
where: X1 = Positive sequence reactance
R1 = Positive sequence resistance
Total Asymmetrical Current
DC Component

AD Component
Equation 3.2
Single-Phase Fault
Ratio = [(2 × X1) + X0] ÷ [(2 × R1) + R0]

where: X1 = Positive sequence reactance

R1 = Positive sequence resistance
FIGURE 3.2: Asymmetrical Short-Circuit X0 = Zero sequence reactance
Current. R0 = Zero sequence resistance
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 8 3

TABLE 3.1: Multiplying Factors to Determine symmetrical current interrupting rating and a
Asymmetrical Fault Currents Where corresponding maximum X/R ratio for the circuit
Symmetrical Fault Currents Are Known. in question. Likewise, switches and sectionaliz-
ers will have a close-and-latch rating expressed
X/R Ratio “Maximum RMS” Factor as amperes symmetrical with a maximum X/R ra-
for 1/2 Cycle, Mrms* tio. The asymmetrical rating is based on the rms
1.0 1.002 (root mean square) value of the maximum asym-
metrical fault during the first half cycle of fault
1.5 1.015
current. The X/R rating shows that the device is
2.0 1.042 able to successfully interrupt or close into the
maximum asymmetrical fault current expected
2.5 1.078
for a system with the following:
3.0 1.116
4.0 1.189
• A maximum available fault current less than
or equal to the symmetrical current rating of
5.0 1.253 the device, and
6.0 1.305 • An X/R ratio less than or equal to the rating of
the device.
8.0 1.383
10.0 1.438 Where an X/R ratio is used to show the maxi-
mum asymmetrical interrupting rating of a de-
15.0 1.522 vice, this value is usually fairly conservative. In
20.0 1.569 other words, most distribution system X/R ratios
would be expected to be less than the rating of
40.0 1.646
this device and fall within its capabilities. Table
100.0 1.697 3.1 should be useful where devices are rated in
asymmetrical currents or where devices are rated
* Multiply per-phase symmetrical rms short-circuit
current by Mrms to obtain momentary per-phase in maximum X/R ratios and the actual X/R ratio
asymmetrical rms fault current. exceeds the rated value.

EXAMPLE 3.1: Device Rated in Maximum

The rate at which a fault current decays from Asymmetrical Current Capacity.
its asymmetrical waveform to an essentially sym-
metrical waveform also depends on the X/R The calculated maximum symmetrical fault on a sys-
ratio. A circuit that has a low X/R ratio (one that tem is 8,000 amperes. The X/R ratio at this location is
is mostly resistive) will decay very quickly. A cir- 10 and the fuse being considered for this location has
cuit with a high X/R ratio (one that is highly in- a symmetrical interrupting rating of 8,600 amperes
ductive) will take much longer to decay. and an asymmetrical interrupting rating of 12,000 am-
Typical protective devices such as fuses, break- peres. The multiplying factor Mrms is 1.438 for an X/R
ers, and reclosers are rated in maximum sym- ratio of 10.0. The maximum asymmetrical fault for this
metrical fault-interrupting capability, although location is 1.438 × 8,000 amperes, or 11,504 am-
some fuses may be rated for maximum asym- peres. The maximum symmetrical fault of 8,000 in this
metrical fault-interrupting capability. In addition, location is less than the interrupting rating of 8,600
they will have either a maximum asymmetrical amperes, and the maximum asymmetrical fault of
current interrupting capability or a maximum 11,504 amperes is less than the asymmetrical inter-
rupting rating of 12,000 amperes; therefore, the de-
vice is acceptable.
8 4 – Se c t i on 3

transformers operating in parallel if such an
EXAMPLE 3.2. Device Rated for Maximum Circuit X/R Ratio.
arrangement is possible and usual.
In this application, the location being considered has a maximum available sym- • A bolted fault (both three-phase and phase-to-
metrical fault current of 2,500 amperes with an X/R ratio of 20. The device being ground) is applied at each location to be
considered is a recloser with a maximum interrupting rating of 3,000 amperes evaluated. A bolted fault has zero fault resis-
symmetrical and a maximum circuit X/R ratio of 12. The Mrms factor for the cir- tance (or reactance).
cuit X/R ratio of 20 is 1.569. The Mrms factor of 1.569 times the maximum sym-
metrical fault current of 2,500 amperes yields a maximum asymmetrical fault The system engineer should take some pre-
current for the circuit of 3,922. Although Table 3.1 does not list an X/R ratio of 12, cautions when calculating maximum faults:
interpolation can be used to calculate an Mrms factor, which, although not exact,
will be within acceptable limits.
• Do not calculate maximum faults for system
configurations that cannot actually exist
Equation 3.3
because of operating restrictions.
Mrms for X/R of 12 = • When determining the interrupting capability
of devices, use the maximum expected fault,
(12 – 10)
× (1.522 – 1.438) + 1.438 = 1.4716 even if it would occur only under unusual or
(15 – 10) emergency conditions.
• When considering the coordination of
devices, calculate the maximum fault under
The Mrms value of 1.4716 × 3,000 amperes symmetrical equals an asymmetri-
cal interrupting rating of 4,415 amperes. The maximum fault conditions of 2,500 normal conditions. In other words, devices
amperes symmetrical and 3,922 amperes asymmetrical are less than the device should be coordinated under normal system
ratings. Therefore, the recloser is acceptable. If the circuit’s X/R ratio had been configuration. It may not be possible to coor-
12 or less, there would have been no need to calculate the respective asym- dinate devices under emergency conditions
metrical fault current. (such as when a circuit is backfed from a
nearby substation).
• Calculate both maximum three-phase and
Maximum Available Fault phase-to-ground faults. This must be done be-
The maximum available fault current is used to cause phase-to-ground faults typically exceed
determine if the interrupting capacity of a device three-phase faults in and near delta-to-wye-
is adequate. The maximum connected substation trans-
fault current is also the current formers, whereas three-phase
magnitude at which the coor- Maximum available faults typically exceed phase-
dination of devices is checked to-ground faults further out on
fault current should
for adequate time clearance. the circuit. Furthermore, some
Maximum faults should be cal- be used to check devices have different operat-
culated for both three-phase interrupting ratings. ing characteristics for phase-
faults and single-phase-to- to-ground faults than for three-
ground faults. Maximum faults phase faults. Another reason
are calculated using those con- for calculating both types of
ditions that will lead to the maximum available faults is that most systems have single-phase
faults. Typical conditions are as follows: taps for which only phase-to-ground faults
should be used when devices are coordinated.
• The maximum fault is available from the power When coordinating devices on vee-phase lines,
supplier. In this case, the power supplier is calculate phase-to-phase-to-ground faults.
operating its system with maximum generation
and with its transmission system intercon- Minimum Available Fault
nected to result in a maximum available fault. The term minimum available fault current does
• Substation transformers and buses are inter- not accurately describe the desired value. The
connected to produce the maximum available actual minimum fault current on any circuit ap-
fault. A common example is two substation proaches zero. For example, if a broken conductor
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 8 5

falls on dry sand or a dead, bone-dry tree, the imum faults, with 10 ohms giving more conserva-
effective fault resistance approaches infinity, tive results. Where circuits are composed of inter-
causing a fault that approaches zero amperes. connected sections of underground and overhead,
However, the concept of a minimum fault cur- it may be necessary to make two sets of fault cal-
rent actually involves calculating the minimum culations using the underground fault resistance in
fault current that can be expected during most one run and the overhead fault resistance in the
of the faults on a system. The variables that typi- other run. It is also important to note that site
cally affect the calculated minimum fault are the conditions vary widely between utilities and
following: within each distribution system. This variability
should always be considered when determining
• Available fault current from the source the system standard protection parameters.
utility or transmission system, which is
mainly controlled by the amount of genera- DESIRABLE LOCATIONS FOR
tion online and the transmission system SECTIONALIZING DEVICES
and bus configuration; Beginning of UD Cable
• The configuration of the distribution system It is normally desirable to place sectionalizing
and substation buses; and devices at the beginning of underground cables,
• The fault resistance, which is the resistance that is, any location where a transition from over-
between the faulted conductor and the return head to underground cable takes place or in a
path that must be added to the known imped- substation or step-down transformer where the
ances of the source, transformers, circuit, and underground circuit originates (see Figure 3.3).
other system components. Doing so will minimize restoration time and
help distinguish between overhead and under-
Although the effects of the first two variables ground faults.
should not be discounted, they frequently either Faults on overhead lines are usually temporary
do not vary significantly from the maximum and are best protected by reclosing devices such
fault configuration or are not available in the as breakers or reclosers. Since faults on under-
minimum fault configuration. The third variable ground lines are usually permanent; they are best
(fault resistance) usually has the greatest influ- protected by nonreclosing devices such as fuses.
ence on the difference between the maximum Of course, there are exceptions to this recom-
and minimum faults. mendation, such as where a circuit is mostly
Many field measurements made on utility sys- overhead with a short section of underground
tems in the 1930s were used to develop a plot of (for instance, under a river, highway, transmission
apparent fault resistances versus a percentage of line, or airport glide path). Coordinating a fuse
faults at that resistance level. The results showed with in-line reclosers on the source side and the
that the median level of fault load side of the fuse might be
resistance was 25 ohms and impossible. In this case, re-
the average level was 35 duced protection of the under-
ohms. A commonly used value
Reclosing is not an ground line section is more
of fault resistance for overhead advantage on a totally desirable than frequent opera-
circuits is 40 ohms. For substa- underground system, tion of the fuse caused by tem-
tions of greater than 5,000-kVA porary faults on the load-side
base capacity operated in the as most faults are overhead line.
15-kV distribution class, a val- permanent. To compensate for the re-
ue of 30 ohms is often used. duced protection of the under-
These values are for faults that ground line section, the engi-
occur on the overhead portion of the system. For neer could design the system with a spare cable
faults on underground systems with concentric (or cables), install the primary cable in conduit,
neutrals or metallic shields, some parties recom- or both. This reduces the time needed to restore
mend a value of zero to 10 ohms to calculate min- service in case of a failed cable.
8 6 – Se c t i on 3


115 kV–12.5/7.2 kV
GRD WYE 10 miles from
Main Substation

5 miles from
Main Substation

To Next Substation

N.C. N.C.

N.O. N.C.

Overhead Line

Underground Line
Breaker or Recloser


Distribution Transformer

N.C. – Normally Closed
N.O. – Normally Open

FIGURE 3.3: Sample Distribution Circuit with Typical Locations of Sectionalizing Devices Shown.
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 8 7

Another solution is to establish an alternate cause a blown fuse and an unnecessary out-
circuit route to the area that would allow the un- age and service call.
derground section to be de-energized for repair 4. A recloser or breaker installed at the begin-
or maintenance without extended loss of ser- ning of the underground line to coordinate
vice. Using properly installed fault indicators with the load-side recloser or breaker could
along with solid blade disconnects at each end lead to extensive cable damage during faults
of the cable will help operating personnel differ- internal to the cable system. There have also
entiate a cable fault from an overhead fault. been occurrences of self-clearing cable faults
that have allowed reclosing devices to reset
End of Underground Cable Where between arcing events, thereby substantially
Continued as Overhead prolonging the duration of faults on the
The general use of underground cable followed cable system and making cable damage
by a load-side overhead line, other than short much more extensive. This type of fault is
underground feeder exits at substations, opens typically caused by a concentric neutral that
up additional sectionalizing difficulties. Opti- is badly corroded or fault damaged. The
mum fault protection of such an arrangement is fault impedance would be quite high and
almost impossible to achieve, mainly because may require a significant time interval to es-
underground faults are usually permanent and tablish an arc after being extinguished.
can cause widespread damage to cable insula-
tion if not quickly and permanently interrupted. Taps Off Main Feeders and Sub-Feeders
On the other hand, overhead faults are usually Typically, it is desirable to install sectionalizing
temporary. Overhead lines can also be subjected devices at the beginning of taps off a main
to faults for longer periods without extensive feeder or sub-feeder. Such devices will prevent
damage. A summary of the problems associated service on the main feeder or sub-feeder from
with this type of arrangement follows. being interrupted if there is a fault on the tap.
This is also a good location because devices can
1. Underground lines are protected by fuses, be readily installed in the switching cabinet.
single-shot sectionalizers, and other single-
operation devices. Transformers
2. Overhead lines are protected by reclosers or Pad-mounted transformers must be fused to pro-
breakers that reclose two or three times. The tect the system from transformer failures and
purpose of reclosing is to test for the clear- secondary faults. It is necessary to keep fuse
ing of temporary faults. Reclosing is often sizes small enough to limit the energy and dura-
successful in avoiding a sustained outage. tion of any transformer fault that does occur.
When there is a permanent fault, the re- Proper transformer fusing reduces the chance of
closer or breaker will lock out after the third a transformer catastrophically failing.
or fourth interruption, or a downstream fuse
(or sectionalizer) will operate to isolate the Other Locations
permanent fault. Where long underground feeders exist, it may be
3. If a recloser or breaker is installed at the be- necessary to install in-line sectionalizing devices
ginning of an overhead line that is fed by an at one or more locations between the beginning
underground line, the underground line will and end of the feeder. This is particularly the
be subjected to multiple through-faults be- case where several heavily loaded taps are lo-
cause of the reclosing action of the recloser cated along the length of the feeder. A feeder
or breaker. The cumulative fault duration cable fault near the end of the feeder would in-
could lead to thermal damage of the cable terrupt service to only some, rather than all, of
and any fuse protecting the cable. Alterna- the taps. In-line sectionalizing is also recom-
tively, if the underground line is protected mended where the feeder is so long that the
by a fuse, then any temporary faults would maximum fault currents at the beginning and
8 8 – Se c t i on 3

end of the cable differ appreciably. In this in- of the cable. An in-line device should be sized
stance, the optimum device at the beginning of to operate for a lower fault than for the device
the cable might not operate for a fault at the end at the beginning of the cable.

Overcurrent PHASE CONDUCTOR AND and the cable jacket (see Figure 3.4). If maxi-
Protection of NEUTRAL PROTECTION mum through-faults fall below the levels shown
Cable System General Effects of Faults on Cable on the emergency operating temperature rating
Damage of underground cable because of fault graphs in Appendix F, then insulation damage
currents falls into two general categories. The should not occur.
first involves burning at the fault location. The
heat produced by the arc between the phase Current Paths
conductor and neutral, cable shield, or other re- During a fault, current will always flow from the
turn path can damage all cables and compo- source through the phase conductor to the fault
nents near the fault. The second category of location. The current can then return through
damage is that caused by a through-fault—that several paths with varying percentages of the
is, the fault current flowing through the cable current flowing in each path. These paths can
between the source and the fault location. This include the metallic shield, the concentric neutral,
through-fault current increases the temperature a separate ground wire, a metallic duct system,
of the phase conductor and concentric neutral and earth. Where jacketed cable is involved, the
or metallic shield. Although it may not damage fault current in the concentric neutral or metallic
the conductors, the elevated temperatures gen- shield may split and flow both toward the source
erated by the higher I2R losses can damage and in the opposite direction from the source
those cable materials that contact the metallic until it reaches external grounding connections.
conductors. Those materials include conductor
and insulation shields, the primary insulation, Short-Term Effects
Short-term effects of faults on cable typically in-
volve obvious burn damage around the fault. In
Phase Conductor severe faults, there may be enough thermal dam-
age from through-fault current to cause failure of
Jacket splices, elbows, transformer internal buses, and
cable. Poorly made splices and other connections
Concentric Neutral/
are especially susceptible to thermal damage.
Metallic Shield
Long-Term Effects
Insulation Shield Long-term effects of faults on cable include dete-
rioration of insulation, conductor and insulation
Insulation shields, splices, and fittings because of overheat-
ing or mechanical forces from large through-faults.
The exact effects on the various components vary;
Strand Shield
however, the potential results are the same. At
some point, one of these components may break
Strand Fill down as a result of normal voltage stress or nor-
mal load current, causing a fault. Another possi-
Locations Susceptible to bility is that, during a later fault, a component
Overheating Damage that was weakened during previous faults will
from Fault Currents
fail because of through-fault currents, leading to
FIGURE 3.4: Cross Section of Cable Showing Components Subject to failure at another location. If cables that have
Through-Fault Damage. been subjected to severe through-faults repeatedly
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 8 9

fail, all the cable may need to for commonly used sizes of
be replaced. Use thermal damage TR-XLPE or EPR aluminum ca-
bles. For the sample 3,000-am-
Application of Thermal curves when sizing pere short-circuit condition,
Damage Curve protective devices. the total clearing time of the
for Insulation System recloser falls well below the
The main effect on cable damage time of all the conduc-
caused by a through-fault is tor sizes shown.
damage to the conductor shield and main insu- If a more conservative approach is desired,
lation from the heating of the outer surface of the cables can be sized to protect against ex-
the conductor. In the process of sizing sectional- ceeding their emergency operating temperatures
izing devices to protect cable, thermal damage instead of the higher short-circuit temperature
curves must be developed for the cables in use ratings. There are several reasons for considering
on a system. Figures F.1, F.2, F.3, and F.4 of Ap- this more conservative approach. First, the cable
pendix F show maximum short-circuit currents may have been installed in a manner that re-
for insulated aluminum and copper conductor sulted in outside mechanical forces continuously
cables. The horizontal axis represents short-cir- acting on the cable. Examples of this would in-
cuit current and the vertical axis represents time clude rock backfill in the trench and residual
limitations. There are separate curves for differ- sidewall pressure in conduit sweeps.
ent conductor sizes. Figures F.3 and F.4 are Also, the temperature rise calculations used as
based on TR-XLPE or EPR insulation, each of the basis for the Appendix F curves consider only
which has a maximum short-circuit temperature current in the central conductor. Single-phase
of 250°C. The appropriate graph should be used faults through concentric neutral cable will have
to develop applicable thermal damage curves heat generated by both the inner central conduc-
for the size cables being used. These curves are tor and the outer concentric neutral. This will re-
very conservative; they make no allowance for sult in an insulation temperature higher than cal-
heat transfer through the conductor shield and culated by the standard equations. The emergency
insulation. When cable is protected with a fuse operating (or overload) temperature for XLPE,
or other nonreclosing device, the fuse total clear TR-XLPE, and EPR Classes I, II, and IV insula-
curve should fall to the left and below the ther- tions rated for 90°C normal operation is 130°C
mal damage curve. When a multiple-operation (266°F). The emergency overload temperature
device—such as a recloser—is used, the total for Class III XLPE, TR-XLPE, and EPR insulations
time to which a cable is subjected to a fault rated for 105°C is 140°C. Figures F.5 through F.8
should fall below the thermal damage curve. For show allowable fault current durations for the
example, if a 70-ampere Type “L” four-shot conductor to reach the 130°C limit.
(2A2C) recloser is used at a maximum fault cur- Figures F.1 through F.4 contain cable damage
rent level of 3,000 amperes, the recloser will op- time-current curves on the basis of the cable
erate twice with a clearing time of 0.03 seconds short-circuit temperature rating. This is a less
for each operation and then twice again, with a conservative approach which fully stresses the
clearing time of 0.07 seconds each. cable insulation under ideal installation conditions.
The total time to which the cable will be sub- When using an allowable short-circuit rating, the
jected to the maximum fault is as follows: allowable temperature for thermoplastic (HMW-
PE, etc.) cables is 150°C. Thermoset (TR-XLPE,
EPR, etc.) cables with a nominal operating limit
(2 × 0.03 seconds) + (2 × 0.07 seconds) of 90°C have a maximum short circuit tempera-
= 0.20 seconds ture of 250°C. The more conservative approach
of limiting fault durations such that conductor
Figure 3.5 shows the recloser time-current temperatures only reach the emergency operating
curves plotted along with cable-damage curves temperature rating is recommended.
9 0 – Se c t i on 3

Short-Circuit Temperature Rating
60 3,600
50 3,000
40 2,400

30 1,800




20 1,200

10 600
9 540
8 480
7 420
6 360
5 300
4 240

3 180

2 120

Time (Cycles, 60-Hertz Basis)

Time (Seconds)

1 60
.9 54
.8 48
.7 42
.6 36
.5 30
.4 24

.3 18

.2 2A & 2B 12

.1 6.0
.09 5.4
.08 4.8
.07 4.2
.06 3.6
.05 3.0
.04 2.4

.03 1.8
Type L A
.02 1.2

.01 .6










Current (Amperes)

FIGURE 3.5: Example of 70-Ampere, Type “L” Recloser Curves for Cable Protection.

Neutral Protection but multiple phases have neutrals operating in

When a concentric neutral is full size or equiva- parallel, it is usually not necessary to review the
lent to the phase conductor in ampacity or when protection of the neutral. Where a jacketed reduced
the concentric neutral is a reduced-size neutral concentric neutral, tape shield, or longitudinally
Underground System Section al iz i n g – 9 1

corrugated shield is used, the
Equation 3.3
Heating of the system engineer should further
I t review the effects of a through-
A= neutral may be a fault on the neutral and the
limiting factor where materials in contact with the
where: A = Metallic shield cross-sectional concentric neutral or shield.
the neutral is less
area, in circular mils The through-fault capability
I = Short-circuit current in shield,
than full size or the of connections in the neutral
in amperes cable is jacketed. path should also be examined.
In those instances in which a
t = Time of short circuit, in seconds
separate ground wire is run
M = Constant; see Tables 3.5 and 3.6 parallel to the insulated cables,
the current in the concentric neutrals or shields
is typically negligible. The only portion of the
TABLE 3.2: Effective Cross-Sectional Area of Shield. Adapted from
Okonite Company, Engineering Data for Copper and Aluminum concentric neutral or shield that is subject to
Conductor Electrical Cables, 1998. thermal damage is that portion between a fault
and the nearest ground point in a jacketed sys-
Formula for Calculating A tem. Where the reduced concentric neutral or
Type of Shield (See Notes 1 and 2) shield is jacketed and carries the majority of the
1. Wires applied either helically, as a braid or nds2 return fault current for a phase-to-ground fault,
serving, or longitudinally with corrugations the formulas and procedures in the following ta-
bles and equations should be applied.
2. Helically applied tape, not overlapped 1.27 nwb
Although several other metals are sometimes
employed as sheath/shield material (see Tables
3. Helically applied flat tape, overlapped (See Note 3) 3.5 and 3.6), copper is by far the most com-
4bdm 2(100 – L)
monly used. Equation 3.3 gives the minimum ef-
4. Corrugated tape, longitudinally applied 1.27 [π (dis + 50) + B] b fective cross-sectional area of metallic shield
required for a given fault time. Table 3.2 shows
Note 1. Meaning of Symbols the corresponding formulas for calculating the
A = Effective cross-sectional area of shield effective cross-sectional area of various types of
B = L.C. tape overlap, in mils (usually 375)
sheaths/shields. Table 3.3 shows the approxi-
b = Thickness of tape, in mils
mate normal operating temperature of the shield
dis = Diameter over semiconducting insulation shield, in mils
dm = Mean diameter of shield, in mils
for various steady-state conductor operating tem-
ds = Diameter of wires, in mils peratures for cables rated five through 69 kV.
n = Number of serving or braid wires or tapes Table 3.4 shows the maximum allowable tran-
L = Overlap of tape, percentage sient temperatures for shields in contact with
w = Width of tape, in mils various materials.
Note 2. The effective area of composite shields is the sum of the effective areas of the Tables 3.5 and 3.6 give the M values for use
components. For example: The effective area of a composite shield consisting in Equation 3.3. As shown by the tables, the M
of a helically applied tape and a wire serving is the sum of the areas calculated values are constants and depend on the shield
from formula 2 (or 3) and formula 1. material, the normal operating temperature of
Note 3. The effective area of thin, helically applied overlapped tapes depends also on the shield, and the maximum allowable transient
the degree of electrical contact resistance of the overlaps. Formula 3 may be temperature of the shield. These tables are very
used to calculate the effective cross-sectional area of the shield for new cable. conservative; no allowance is made for heat trans-
An increase in contact resistance may occur after cable installation during service fer through the jacket or through the insulation
exposed to moisture and heat. Under these conditions, the contact resistance
semiconducting shield and the main insulation.
may approach infinity where formula 2 would apply.
9 2 – Se c t i on 3

TABLE 3.3: Values of T1, Approximate Shield Operating Temperature, °C, at Various Conductor
Temperatures. Source: Aluminum Electrical Conductor Handbook, 1989.
Shield or Sheath Temperature °C at Conductor Temperature
Rated Voltage (kV) 105 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 65
5 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 65 60
15 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 65 60
25 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 65 60
35 95 90 85 80 75 70 65 60 55
46 95 90 85 80 75 70 65 60 55
69 90 85 80 75 70 65 60 55 50
Note. The maximum conductor temperature should not exceed the normal temperature rating of the insulation used.

TABLE 3.4: Values of T2, Maximum Allowable Shield

Transient Temperature, °C. Source: Aluminum Electrical
Conductor Handbook, 1989.

Cable Material in Contact With Shield T2, °C/°F

Cross-linked (thermoset) 350
Thermoplastic 200
Deformation-Resistant Thermoplastic 250
Note. The temperature of the shield is limited by the material in contact with
it. For example, a cable having a cross-linked semiconducting shield
under the metallic shield and a cross-linked jacket over the metallic
shield will have a maximum allowable shield temperature of 350°C.
With a deformation-resistant thermoplastic jacket, it will be 250°C.

TABLE 3.5: Values of M for the Limiting Condition Where T2 = 200°C. (Thermoplastic Materials
= HMWPE, LLDPE, PVC.) Source: Aluminum Electrical Conductor Handbook, 1989.
Shield Operating Temperature (T1), °C
Shield Material 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 68 60 55 50
Aluminum 0.039 0.040 0.041 0.042 0.043 0.044 0.045 0.046 0.047 0.048 0.049
Copper 0.059 0.061 0.062 0.063 0.065 0.066 0.068 0.070 0.071 0.073 0.074

TABLE 3.6: Values of M for the Limiting Condition Where T2 = 350°C. (Thermosetting Materials
= XLPE, EPR.) Source: Aluminum Electrical Conductor Handbook, 1989.
Shield Operating Temperature (T1), °C
Shield Material 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 68 60 55 50
Aluminum 0.057 0.057 0.058 0.059 0.060 0.060 0.061 0.062 0.063 0.063 0.064
Copper 0.087 0.087 0.088 0.089 0.091 0.091 0.092 0.093 0.094 0.096 0.097
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 9 3

EXAMPLE 3.3: Determine Minimum Shield Size for Known Through-Fault Current.

Determine the size copper wire shield required to carry a fault current of 10,000 amperes for 10 cycles for a
15-kV XLPE cable having an XLPE insulation shield and a deformation-resistant thermoplastic overall jacket.

STEP 1. Determine the approximate shield operating temperature for 90°C

conductor temperature (which is the maximum temperature for T1 = 85°C
normal operation of XLPE-insulated cables). From Table 3.3,

STEP 2. Determine the maximum allowable shield transient temperature for

the cable materials in contact with the shield, which in this case is T2 = 250°C
deformation-resistant thermoplastic. From Table 3.4,

STEP 3. Determine the M value for a copper shield with T1 equal to 85°C and
T2 equal to 200°C. From Table 3.5, M = 0.063 where T2 = 200°C

From Table 3.6,

M = 0.089 where T2 = 350°C

Interpolation of these values for M yields M where T2 = 250°C:

250 – 200
M= × (0.089 – 0.063) + 0.063
350 – 200
M = (0.3333) × (0.026) + 0.063
M = 0.072

STEP 4. Calculate the required shield cross section for a fault duration of 10
cycles (0.167 seconds). Applying Equation 3.3, 10,000 0.167
A= = 56,758 circular mils

STEP 5. Determine the number and size of the wires necessary to equal or
exceed 56,758 circular mils. Table 3.2 shows that the effective cross- Number of 14 AWG wires =
sectional area of a wire shield is equal to nds2, or the number of wires 56,758 ÷ 4,110 = 13.8 (Use 14)
multiplied by the circular mil area of each wire. The number required
for any specific wire size is simply the total cross section calculated in
Step 4 divided by the individual wire circular mil area and rounded up
to the nearest whole number:

Similarly, Equation 3.3 may determine the number of any other wire size.
9 4 – Se c t i on 3

Standard Practices inside a three-phase transformer or between the
Most fuses begin to melt at approximately twice primary phase lead and ground inside a single-
their continuous rating and series coil-operated phase transformer. The next highest fault is when
oil circuit reclosers also tend to trip at approxi- the primary windings short; the magnitude of this
mately twice their continuous rating. For these fault depends on the impedance of the windings
types of devices, it is typical to match the con- between the fault location and the primary leads.
tinuous rating of the recloser or fuse to the con- The lowest magnitude of fault occurs because of
tinuous rating of the cable. For electronically a short in the secondary windings. The more wind-
controlled reclosers or relayed circuit breakers, ings between the fault location and the primary
the equivalent continuous rating would be about side of the transformer, the lower the fault current.
one-half the trip rating. This general rule would The rupture can result from the energy re-
not be used in the following situations: leased within the tank and the resulting pressure.
The energy, which is typically measured in joules,
• Where the maximum load expected on the is proportional to the magnitude of the fault cur-
cable is much less than the capacity of the rent squared multiplied by the time duration of
cable, the protecting device can be reduced in the fault in seconds (I2t). Because tank rupture
size, improving protection of the cable as long is usually caused by failure of the transformer
as other coordination criteria can still be met. winding, the transformer will need to be dis-
• Where emergency overloads of the cable can carded or opened for repairs. Therefore, a com-
be routinely expected, the fuse characteristics mon solution to preventing tank rupture is to
should be reviewed to make sure the over- place a partial-range, current-limiting fuse under
load capability of the fuse is in line with the the oil. Although operating such a current-limit-
expected overload on the cable. ing fuse will require opening up the transformer
• In the areas where the cold-load pickup is tank to replace the fuse, this is not a problem
substantially more than the maximum load because the tank will have to be opened anyway.
current or where the duration of the cold-load In addition, a dry-well canister or clip-mounted,
pickup is long, it may be necessary to increase partial-range, current-limiting fuse will provide
fuse sizes on the basis of operating experience. the same result. Either of these can also be full
range. The disadvantage of using a full-range,
Whatever the situation, the fuse or device curve current-limiting fuse is that it will operate for
should be kept below the thermal damage curve all levels of fault current and is much more ex-
of the cable in question. This is rarely a problem pensive to replace than an expulsion fuse. The
except where a fuse might be use of a bayonet fuse in se-
protecting several cables or ries with an under-oil current
several sections of decreasing- Transformers can limiting fuse can overcome
size cable. If the system engi- many of these disadvantages,
rupture as a result of since the replaceable element
neer encounters such a
problem, the obvious solution large internal faults. opens for low-level faults or
is to insert additional fuses overloads, and the current-
wherever a conductor size limiting element opens for
change occurs. high-level faults.

PROTECTION AGAINST PAD-MOUNTED Philosophy and Theory of Rupture Prevention

TRANSFORMER TANK RUPTURE The basic philosophy of rupture prevention is to
Internal Faults as Cause of Rupture prevent ruptures for any and all fault conditions.
Of the very small percentage of transformer tanks The consequences of a rupture are as follows:
that fail by rupture, most rupture because of in-
ternal faults. The magnitude of fault current is • Release of oil and the consequent environ-
highest for a fault between the primary leads mental damage,
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 9 5

• Ejection of flaming oil and metal parts into the pad-mounted transformer will rupture. Equation
air surrounding the transformer with possible 3.4 represents an approximate formula for calcu-
damage to equipment and surroundings, and lating the symmetrical fault current that will re-
• The possibility of transferring the fault onto sult in a known I2t level.
the incoming primary lines. This formula was solved for selected X/R ra-
tios at the transformer rupture levels shown in
There are no standards for the ability of pad- Table 3.7. With the results presented in Table
mounted transformers to withstand internal pres- 3.7, the maximum current that overhead and
sure from a particular level of fault current. Gen- pad-mounted transformers can withstand at typi-
erally, pad-mounted transformers have a higher cal distribution voltage levels and selected X/R
withstand value than overhead transformers be- ratios was derived and is shown in Table 3.8.
cause of the superior energy absorption capabili- However, these levels are by no means an au-
ty of a rectangular tank compared with a cylin- thoritative guide. Consult the manufacturer of the
drical tank. Tables 3.7 and 3.8 show some possi- particular brands of transformers in use on a co-
ble fault levels that can be used as general guide- operative’s system for their withstand capability.
lines for the fault level at which an overhead or
Practical Prevention/Reduction of Ruptures
Pressure-Relief Valves
Equation 3.4 The pressure inside a transformer tank will in-
crease because of extended periods of overload
IS = (IA2t) × (18.75 + 105 cos θ) or low-level faults that are not cleared by the
protecting fuse. If unchecked, these pressures
can increase to levels high enough to severely
where: IS = Symmetrical fault current that will deform the tank and damage bushing seals. A
result in known I2t level
pressure-relief valve will release these slow build-
IA = Known I2t level that may result in ups of pressure, thus avoiding the development
destructive transformer damage
θ = Arctan (X/R)
of high internal pressures and tank damage.
However, a high-level or internal fault builds the
pressure too fast for the pressure-relief valve to
be effective. In these cases, the pressure-relief
TABLE 3.7: Approximate Levels of I2t (Amperes2 x Seconds) That May valve cannot protect the tank from damage
Result in Destructive Transformer Failure for Internal Faults. caused by excessive pressure.
System Voltage Overhead Transformers Pad-Mounted Transformers
Secondary Breakers
15 kV 1.2 × 105 5.0 × 105 Secondary breakers act no faster than do expul-
25 kV 6.6 × 104 3.0 × 105 sion fuses. In particular, the minimum clearing
time for a secondary breaker is approximately
35 kV 5.0 × 104 1.0 × 105
0.8 cycles, or the same as a fuse. More important,

TABLE 3.8: Approximate Levels of Fault Current Symmetrical (Amperes) That May Result in
Destructive Transformer Failure for Internal Faults.
Overhead Transformers (X/R Ratio) Pad-Mounted Transformers (X/R Ratio)
System Voltage 2.5 5 10 20 2.5 5 10 20
15 kV 2,600 2,200 1,900 1,700 5,400 4,400 3,800 3,500
25 kV 2,000 1,600 1,400 1,300 4,200 3,400 3,000 2,700
35 kV 1,700 1,400 1,200 1,100 2,400 2,000 1,700 1,500
9 6 – Se c t i on 3

most ruptures are caused by internal faults that rupting the maximum available fault current.
would not be cleared by secondary breakers. A common cause of tank rupture is degenera-
tion of oil into combustible gases as the result of
Expulsion Fuses a sustained secondary fault that eventually causes
Internal fuses typically have a maximum inter- an internal expulsion fuse to operate. The fuse
rupting rating of 3,500 amperes asymmetrical for ignites the combustible mixture and a violent
the weak-link type of fuse rated 7.2-kV phase- tank rupture can result. Because this type of fail-
to-ground. Internal fuses rated 14.4-kV phase-to- ure occurs when an expulsion fuse ignites the
ground typically have a maximum interrupting gas mixture, the use of current-limiting fuses and
rating of 2000 amperes asymmetrical for the pressure-relief valves (to vent gas as it is gener-
weak-link type of fuse. These interrupting rat- ated) will help reduce this type of violent failure.
ings vary from manufacturer to manufacturer
and should be checked for the particular fuse. Current-Limiting Fuses
Even lower interrupting ratings are typical of Current-limiting fuses are nonexpulsion fuses
three-phase transformers, where phase-to-phase and generally have a maximum interrupting rat-
faults may occur. Three-phase 25-kV transform- ing of about 10,000 to 50,000 amperes symmetri-
ers with internal weak-link expulsion fuses may cal current. The maximum interrupting rating
have an asymmetrical interrupting rating as low varies depending on the manufacturer, model,
as 600 amperes. Where the maximum available and size of the fuse. On the majority of under-
fault level exceeds the rating of the fuse, an ex- ground systems, a current-limiting fuse capable
ternal expulsion fuse with of interrupting maximum fault
greater interrupting rating or a currents at all or almost all
full-range current-limiting fuse locations should be available.
should be installed in series Current-limiting Be sure that the maximum
with the internal weak link. fuses can protect load current is less than the
As with all fuses, the maxi- continuous current rating of
mum clearing time for faults against tank rupture. the largest current-limiting fuse
within the interrupting rating available.
of the fuse is 0.8 of a cycle. If Manufacturers of current-
the maximum I2t let-through limiting fuses have available
current as read from Table 3.8 or calculated graphs or tables indicating the maximum I2t
from Equation 3.4 is less than the I t required let-through. To protect against tank rupture,
to rupture the transformer, then an expulsion the maximum total clearing I2t of the fuse must
fuse could prevent tank rupture. It is understood be less than the I2t withstand capability of the
that the external fuse must be capable of inter- protected transformer.

Effect of Inrush TRANSFORMER MAGNETIZING age curve of the source at the time the trans-
Current on INRUSH CURRENTS former is energized. If the transformer is ener-
Sectionalizing When a transformer is first energized, the only gized when the supply voltage is zero, the
magnetic field in the transformer is that caused inrush current will be at a maximum value if
by any residual flux. For a very short time after there is no residual flux within the core. If the
the transformer is first energized, the current transformer is energized when the supply volt-
flow will be relatively large until the steady-state age is at a maximum level, the inrush current
flux level is reached. The size of this magnetiz- will be zero.
ing inrush current depends partially on the
residual flux in the core and the impedance of Estimating Magnetizing Inrush Current Level
the source. Also controlling the size of the mag- Calculating the maximum available inrush cur-
netizing inrush current is the point on the volt- rent for a particular transformer is not feasible.
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 9 7

These calculations require detailed design data Fuses
that are not usually available for the transformer The main problem associated with fuses comes
in question. There are many rules of thumb for from using an undersized fuse. Using an under-
transformer inrush current levels. Most of these sized fuse on a large pad-mounted transformer
use 0.1 second as the maximum duration for is a fairly common practice, particularly where
which the inrush current will flow before dying the present load is much less than the capacity
out. One rule of thumb uses of the pad-mounted trans-
12 times the transformer base- former and where coordina-
rated full-load current for tion with the protective device
transformers greater than 3 Undersizing protective at the source prevents use of
MVA in size. For transformers devices can lead to the size fuse that is normally
less than or equal to 3 MVA in used for full capacity. If the
size, the maximum magnetiz- tripping because fuse falls below the magnetiz-
ing inrush current is generally of magnetizing ing inrush current point, the
considered to be eight times fuse may have to be either in-
the base-rated full-load cur-
inrush current. creased in size or replaced
rent. The 3-MVA level used in with another fuse of the same
this rule of thumb is the three- size but a slower speed.
phase MVA capacity of the transformer or of It is critical at this point to recheck coordina-
the transformer bank if three single-phase tion of the new fuse with the source-side de-
transformers are used. vices. If this fuse is on a large transformer bank
This magnetizing inrush current is shown on on a rural system, this coordination is difficult.
a time-current coordination curve as a single Fuses are particularly troublesome when under-
point on the 0.1-second axis at the appropriate sized, as the magnetizing inrush current may
inrush current level. All protective devices not cause the fuse to operate the first few times
located on the source side of this transformer the transformer is energized. However, over a
should have curves with all points on the period of time the fuse is gradually damaged,
curve located either above or to the right reducing the effective size of the fuse. This
of the magnetizing inrush point. damage can lead to the eventual failure of the
fuse for no apparent reason. Current-limiting
Effects on Devices fuses are generally not affected if they are par-
The main problem associated with magnetizing tial-range fuses. Full-range current-limiting fuses
inrush current is the unnecessary operation of would be affected if undersized to the point
protective devices. This problem typically results that the magnetizing inrush current falls above
from choosing devices with operation curves that the operation curve.
fall below and to the left of the magnetizing inrush
point. When a coordination protection scheme is Breakers
established, not only should devices protecting The area of concern for breakers is the instanta-
single transformers be reviewed for their appro- neous setting. This setting must be above the
priate size and relationship to magnetizing current level of the magnetizing inrush current
inrush currents, but tap fuses or feeder protec- because the operation time of an instantaneous
tive devices also should be investigated. This is unit is less than 0.1 second. A clear indication of
particularly true where these devices protect an improperly set instantaneous level is a breaker
loads—such as industrial parks—that may have with a reclosing relay operating once instanta-
several large transformers. These transformers neously when a transformer is energized and
appear to be one large transformer from the then closing on the second operation, which is a
perspective of the protective device when a time delay curve. If the breaker relay settings are
dead feeder is energized. Below are some of the sized so the operation curve falls above the mag-
problems associated with particular protective netizing inrush point, breakers typically are not
devices. affected by the magnetizing inrush current.
9 8 – Se c t i on 3

The main problem with reclosers results from On a typical distribution system that has been
the initial fast curves being set below the mag- energized long enough that the system has
netizing inrush point. This problem is similar to reached a steady-state condition, not all the
the one with a breaker in that a recloser will op- load-producing devices will be on at any one
erate on the fast curves where a large transformer time. Appliances such as air conditioners, heat-
is located on the circuit and then close in and ing systems, refrigerators, and water heaters nor-
stay closed when operating on the time-delay mally cycle on and off. Therefore, at any instant,
curves. Again, the solution is to simply set the a percentage of these devices will be in their off
fast curves above the magnetizing inrush point. cycles. For example, a circuit that has a 2,000-kW
In addition, reclosers with electronic controls load on it may have 500 kW in continuous load
that have instantaneous trip or lockout acces- such as lights and 3,000 kW in cyclical devices,
sories must have the instantaneous current set- of which only half are energized at any one time.
ting above the magnetizing inrush current level. (Note that these values are used as an example
and not intended to show normal values on a
Sectionalizers system.) If this circuit is de-energized for an ex-
Sectionalizers can be armed by magnetizing in- tended period (e.g., 30 minutes) and the system
rush current; that is, the sectionalizer sees the is then energized, all the cyclical loads will be in
high current level as a load-side fault, which is an energized state or will go to an energized
then interrupted by a source-side recloser. In state upon resumption of the source voltage.
other words, the normal attenuation of the mag- This energized state occurs because the parame-
netizing current appears to be a recloser operation ters that are used to operate these devices—
to the sectionalizer. Some of the new sectionaliz- such as air temperature or water temperature (in
ers are able to differentiate between a magnetiz- the case of a water heater)—exit the acceptable
ing inrush current and a true fault current. range and, therefore, initiate operation of the
applicable device. In this example, the loads
Application of Sectionalizing Devices seen upon re-energizing the circuit are 3,500
Sizing protective devices or their curves to avoid kW. The load experienced by a system after the
their operation as the result of magnetizing inrush resumption of service following an extended
currents is usually simple. The curves should be outage period is the cold-load pickup. Caution
chosen so they are located either above or to the should be taken when re-energizing a feeder
right of the magnetizing inrush point. For exam- after an extended outage because it may be dif-
ple, a magnetizing inrush point ficult to distinguish between
of 0.1 seconds and 5,000 am- cold-load pickup and an un-
peres simply shows that any corrected fault.
Cold-load pickup
point on the curve for which
the operation level is less than can cause protective Estimating Cold-Load
5,000 amperes should be devices to trip. Pickup Currents
greater than 0.1 second. Any The magnitude of cold-load
point on the protective device pickup varies depending on
curve that is less than 0.1 sec- the type of load served and
ond in operating time must have a current level of the time of year. In most areas, the cold-load
greater than 5,000 amperes. As cautioned earlier, pickup during the spring and fall is less than
several large pad-mounted transformers should during the summer or winter because many of
be treated as one transformer for those instances the cyclical devices such as heaters or air condi-
in which circuit protective devices or station tioners do not operate during these periods.
feeder breakers may be used to energize the Cold-load pickup also clearly depends on the
group of transformers. geographical location of the utility in question.
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 9 9

In the Southeast and Southwest, the cold-load Effects on Devices
pickup during the summer is quite significant In general, where the time-current curves for a
because of the air-conditioning load. In northern device fall below the cold-load inrush points, the
states, the cold-load pickup during the winter is protective devices will operate for cold-load
probably the most significant. However, the pickup. In general, it is desirable to choose de-
cold-load pickup during the winter also depends vices or particular curves for those devices so
on the percentage of electric as compared with the curves fall above or to the right of the cold-
nonelectric heating systems. load inrush points. In those instances where
other restraints prevent this choice, it may be
necessary to segment the system to pick up load
Rule of Thumb 3.1
after an extended outage. This segmentation is
Where large amounts of resistive heating or air condi- done by opening the feeder that suffered the
tioning are in use, the cold-load pickup may be esti- outage at different points, picking up a section
mated as the following: at a time starting at the end of the feeder nearest
• Two times full load current for 30 minutes, and the source, and allowing each section to remain
• Three times full load current for 30 seconds. energized for long enough for the load to return
to its steady-state level before energizing the
next section. The effects of cold-load inrush on
These are rules of thumb and may vary. The different types of devices are addressed below.
three most important variables the operator can
expect concerning the amount of cold load to Breakers
be picked up upon service restoration are: The breaker may operate if the cold-load pickup
• length of outage, is large enough. Where an instantaneous relay is
• type of load, and associated with the breaker, it may be that a
• weather conditions. cold-load pickup will trip the breaker once on
instantaneous trip with the breaker then reclose
Unless the outage is at a time of extreme tem- and provide service from that point on. The so-
perature, an outage of less than 15 minutes will lution here is to simply increase the pickup level
not allow enough time for most of the thermostats of the time-delay curve on the breaker or, in the
to call for heating or cooling. The practice of case of an instantaneous pickup, to increase the
putting a time-delay relay on compressor start pickup level. In some instances, it may be ac-
after an outage is becoming fairly common. This ceptable to have an instantaneous pickup that
design approach reduces the initial inrush upon trips once on cold-load pickup.
line energization but does not reduce the 30-min-
ute load requirement of Rule of Thumb 3.1. Most Reclosers
cooperatives should have an idea of the cold-load Reclosers are similar to breakers in that they will
pickup on their systems based on experience. trip if the cold-load pickup points on the time-
Furthermore, the cold-load pickup in a system current curves are above the recloser curves. This
will, of course, vary from one circuit to another is particularly true for the fast curves on the re-
depending on the type of load on that circuit. closer. In those instances in which the fast curves
For example, a circuit feeding an all-electric fall below the cold-load pickup points but the
housing development will have a higher cold-load time-delay curves do not, the recloser may trip
pickup than will a feeder into a residential neigh- once or twice on the fast curves and then lock
borhood where the main heating methods are in. Those reclosers with electronic controls may
oil, propane, or natural gas. Also, some feeders have instantaneous trip devices that should be
with large loads using large motors, such as irri- set above the cold-load pickup current level.
gation systems or crop-drying systems, may have Older, electronically controlled reclosers have an
lesser values of cold-load pickup because these accessory that temporarily doubles the amount
systems may have to be manually restarted. of current required to trip the recloser.
1 0 0 – Se c t io n 3

Newer electronic controls have a variety of the cold-load pickup current will be insufficient
cold-load pickup adjustments. Any standard to cause immediate operation of the fuse, but
curve can be used for the cold-load pickup will damage the fuse. Subsequent cold-load
curve, along with any trip level. Other features pickups will further damage the fuse until it
that may be available are a time delay after eventually blows either during a future cold-load
which the curve returns to the normal curve, pickup or sometimes simply during times of
additional time and current adjustments to the high load level.
curve, and cold-load pickup curves for phase, The solution is to increase the size of the fuse
ground, negative sequence, and other types of or to replace the fuse with a fuse of the same
system conditions. size but with a slower operating curve. How-
ever, because of the long duration of cold-load
Sectionalizers pickup currents, the slower speed fuse will gen-
The cold-load pickup current may be sufficient erally not work. When larger fuses do not coor-
to trigger the sectionalizer. In other words, the dinate with source-side devices and cold-load
cold-load pickup current will appear as a fault pickup is not expected to occur very frequently,
to the sectionalizer. However, sectionalizers also the time-current curve of the fuse can slightly
require a sharp reduction in current following overlap the cold-load pickup points.
the actuating current to register as an operation
of the source-side protective device. Sectionaliz- Application of Sectionalizing Devices
ers also have a reset time. Where possible, the device curves should be set
In most instances, cold-load pickup current above or to the right of the cold-load pickup
will, at best, cause one count on the sectional- points on the time-current curves. In addition,
izer; in those instances in which the current de- the pickup level for instantaneous relays or ac-
creases slowly, the sectionalizer may not even cessories should be set above the highest cold-
note any counts. For those sectionalizers that are load pickup current level. In some instances in
set for two or more operations before tripping, which other criteria prevent increasing the
cold-load pickup typically will not be a problem. pickup level or curves, it may be acceptable for
reclosers and breakers to trip on their instanta-
Fuses neous or fast curves before locking in perma-
If the cold-load pickup is sufficiently large, it nently. In those instances, it is very important
will blow the fuse, interrupting service to all that all cooperative personnel are aware of that
consumers beyond the fuse. In many instances, possibility.

Selection of REVIEW OF OVERCURRENT • The number of sizes and types is limited.

Underground PROTECTION METHODS • The total clear curves and minimum melt
Sectionalizing Fuses curves overlap at high fault current levels for
The main advantages of fuses are that they are: fuses with current ratings that are close to
each other.
• Inexpensive,
• The maximum current-interrupting rating is
• Compact,
limited, especially with expulsion fuses.
• Require little maintenance, and
• Expulsion fuses produce hot gases and
• Are easy to replace.
Moreover, a current-limiting fuse is the only • Fuses do not have any reclosing capability.
readily available device that effectively limits • Fuses have no ability to sense low-level
fault current and, thus, reduces the destructive ground faults.
failure of transformers and capacitors. The dis- • Fuses cause “single-phasing” on three-phase
advantages of fuses are as follows. circuits.
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 1 0 1

• Fuses cannot be controlled or monitored by • The types of relays that may be used to con-
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition trol the breakers are available in a wide
(SCADA) systems. variety of characteristics.
• The relays (typically inverse overcurrents on
In general, the main appli- a distribution circuit) may be
cation for fuses is on radial varied over a wide range of
taps that do not require simul- time dial settings and pickup
Fuses are the most
taneous three-phase protection levels to accommodate most
and that are not subject to fre- frequently used system conditions and to allow
quent temporary faults. Fuses protective device on changes as the load increases
particularly lend themselves to over time. In addition to over-
protecting underground cir- an underground current functions, many of the
cuits. The inability of fuses to system. electronic relays provide al-
reclose is not a limitation on most any known relay function
underground circuits and within one relay. Some of
transformers, because faults on these functions include over/
this type of system tend to be permanent. Re- under voltage, over/under frequency, sensi-
closing on this type of system simply increases tive earth, directional power and/or current,
the amount of fault damage. Using current-limit- impedance, negative sequence, reclosing, and
ing fuses on pad-mounted transformers is very sync check. Other features may include fault
beneficial when the maximum fault level is location, a wide variety of metering functions,
enough to cause destructive failure of the trans- event recording, and communications. Pro-
former for internal faults. The primary condi- grammable logic functions can be used to de-
tions that limit the use of expulsion fuses at fine the sequence of responses to almost any
certain locations are the following: type of event.
• Reclosing relays are available where breakers
• Where the maximum fault current exceeds protect portions of overhead line;
the fault-interrupting capability of commonly instantaneous relays are available to provide
available expulsion fuses, and high-speed operation during high fault levels.
• Where the maximum load current exceeds • Breakers can be purchased with maximum
current ratings of expulsion fuses (typically interrupting capability that exceeds that avail-
200 amperes). able in most reclosers.
• Breakers are rated for more operations
Another shortcoming of fuses is that their between maintenance than are reclosers.
curves do not always coordinate well with up- • Breakers interrupt all three phases
stream breakers or reclosers. For this reason, at simultaneously.
certain locations, particularly on heavily loaded • Breakers are available with ground
feeders, a breaker or recloser rather than fuses trip protection.
may be needed to coordinate with substation
breakers or reclosers. The disadvantages of breakers are:

Circuit Breakers • They require separate relays that add to the

Most circuit breakers on underground distribu- total expense.
tion systems are found in substations, although • They require much more space than fuses do.
it is possible to install breakers on platforms on • They require an outside power source (typi-
overhead portions of the system or in metal or cally a battery).
fiberglass enclosures. Some of the advantages of • Their relays must be calibrated initially and
breakers follow. periodically.
1 0 2 – Se c t io n 3

• They are harder to operate • Three-phase protection is
and maintain than reclosers Three-phase reclosers desired.
and, particularly, fuses. and breakers are used • Ground fault protection is
• They are significantly more desired.
expensive than other avail-
for the following: • It is advantageous to use
able devices. SCADA for both control and
Three-phase status reporting of reclosers.
Reclosers protection,
Reclosers are available in both Where three-phase or sin-
single-phase and three-phase High load current, gle-phase reclosers are used
versions. The single-phase se- on underground circuits, it is
ries-trip versions do not re- High fault current, simple to disable the reclosing
quire an outside power source and feature and have one-shot op-
and are frequently used on eration of the recloser.
distribution lines, although Ground fault
they are seen more frequently protection. Sectionalizers
on overhead than on under- Several types of sectionalizers
ground systems. The interrupt- are currently available in both
ing rating of most single-phase reclosers is overhead versions and those that can be in-
typically less than or equal to that of most distri- stalled in pad-mounted enclosures. For a sec-
bution fuses. The main advantage of a recloser tionalizer to work properly, it must be set for
is that it does reclose; however, as indicated ear- one less operation than its companion recloser
lier, this is not considered an advantage on an or breaker. In other words, for a permanent
underground system. fault, a recloser located be-
Three-phase reclosers can tween the sectionalizer and
be supplied with a ground- Sectionalizers are the source senses a fault,
fault-sensing unit, which is an opens, recloses, and continues
advantage. This is a particular
not subject to fault- to open and reclose until the
advantage on circuits with interrupting limitations. fault is cleared or it trips for a
large load where the minimum maximum number of times
phase-to-ground fault may be (usually four) and locks out.
on the same order of magni- The properly coordinated sec-
tude as the maximum load current. Three-phase tionalizer senses a fault condition, counts each
electronically controlled reclosers are also easily recloser operation, and locks out just before the
changeable in pickup level and operating recloser goes through its final close operation.
curves. The sectionalizer has, thus, isolated the fault be-
Three-phase reclosers with electronic control yond it, allowing the recloser to successfully re-
are available with a wide range of SCADA acces- close and continue service to the rest of the
sories. Reclosers are usually less expensive than system. On an underground system, it is desir-
breakers and come with all controls included. able to have the sectionalizer set for only one
The electronic reclosers do require an outside operation to limit the exposure of the under-
power source, typically 120 volts ac, although dc ground system to through-fault damage and pos-
versions are available. Reclosers are typically sible safety problems. The source-side recloser is
used as a circuit protective device inside a sub- set for two or more operations to lock out. The
station and on main three-phase lines where the total number of operations for the recloser de-
following apply: pends on whether the majority of the system is
overhead or underground.
• The load current exceeds the rating of A problem inherent in many of the older sec-
typical fuses. tionalizers is that they tend to count magnetizing
Underground System Section a l i z i n g – 1 0 3

inrush or cold-load pickup currents as faults circuits are readily available. Each incom-
and, therefore, lock out unnecessarily. Section- ing/outgoing circuit will pass through a solid bus,
alizers are available that are capable of distin- a fuse, a switch, or a combination fuse/switch.
guishing between faults and inrush currents Almost any kind of circuit arrangement can be
such as magnetizing or cold load. These section- accommodated by a switching enclosure or
alizers use different methods for doing so. One enclosures. See Figure 3.6.
criterion is to check for loss of voltage on the Switches and fuse/switch combinations may
line. A true recloser operation de-energizes the be designed for de-energized switching duty
line, allowing the voltage to fall to zero. Another only or they may be equipped with an arc sup-
method is to require that the load current drop pression device that allows opening and closing
to essentially zero after the high inrush current. the switches under load up to a maximum rated
Again, the operation of a recloser results in zero current level. This interrupting rating may be
current while the recloser is open as opposed to equal to or less than the maximum continuous
inrush or cold-load pickup for which current current rating of the switch or combination
drops to a normal level. Other features are also fuse/switch. Extreme care should be taken to
available in existing and new sectionalizers that avoid opening or closing a switch that is carry-
reduce nuisance tripping. ing current in excess of the interrupting rating.
Some of the advantages of sectionalizers are Therefore, a design engineer should never apply
as follows: an interrupting device in a location where load
will exceed its rating.
• They are less expensive than reclosers Different types of fuses are available. An
or breakers. expulsion fuse is the most commonly available
• They do not interrupt faults and, therefore, type. This fuse is frequently supplied with a si-
can be used in areas with higher available lencer that eliminates or reduces venting when
fault currents than can fuses. (The short- the fuse operates and also muffles any sounds.
time-current withstand capability of the A silencer is a necessity where fault currents are
sectionalizer, however, must be greater relatively high in magnitude and the resulting
than the available fault current.) exhaust gases, if released within the enclosed
space of a pad-mounted compartment, can be
Sectionalizers are also useful where coordina- disastrous.
tion between devices is tight, as they have no At some locations, available faults exceed
time-current curve. Heavily loaded taps often the maximum interrupting capacity of expulsion
cannot allow another level of coordination. fuses. In addition, high-level faults can lead to
the disruptive failure of load-side devices such
PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT IN as transformers. Full- or partial-range current-
PAD-MOUNTED ENCLOSURES limiting fuses are available for
Fuses and Switches use in these locations. Figure
Fuses and switches are com- 3.6 shows an assortment of
bined here because both are Most protective current-limiting fuses that are
often found in the same enclo- devices, with the used in pad-mounted
sure, although enclosures can switchgear.
be purchased with switches exception of breakers, Another solution for high
only or fuses only. In addition, are available in fault current level areas is a
fuses combined with integral partial-range current-limiting
load-interrupting mechanisms
pad-mounted form. fuse in conjunction with an
that provide the dual function expulsion fuse. The expulsion
of a fuse and switch in one fuse will operate for low- to
device can be purchased. Pad-mounted enclo- moderate-level faults without damaging the
sures with up to four or more incoming/outgoing more expensive current-limiting fuse. Both fuses
1 0 4 – Se c t io n 3

Vacuum switches are also available from some
manufacturers. These switches have contacts in a
vacuum bottle which increases the interrupting
capacity of the switch to handle higher ranges of
fault current. In addition, the duty cycle of the
contacts is greatly increased by the vacuum. In the
past, oil switches were available, but these have
essentially been replaced by vacuum switches.
The operation of all types of switches can be
controlled by several different means:

• These switches can be simply opened or

closed manually at the switch location by
using hot sticks in energized switches.
• Switches can be equipped with stored-energy
operators for local operation. These can be
FIGURE 3.6: Current Limiting Fuses for Pad-Mounted Switching spring-operated or battery-operated. Stored-
Cabinets. Courtesy of Hi-Tech Electric (T&B), 2007. energy operators generally have better
switching ratings.
• Automatic switch operators are also available.
will operate for high-level faults, with the cur- These may have current-sensing controls with
rent-limiting fuse limiting the length and magni- or without inverse time-current curves. When
tude of the fault and consequently limiting the equipped with inverse time-current curves, these
total magnitude of energy expended at the fault. vacuum switches can then be coordinated with
Sometimes the voltage withstand characteristics source-side and load-side devices such as
of blown partial-range current limiting fuses fuses, reclosers, and other vacuum switches.
mandate the simultaneous operation of both
fuses so that the open circuit created by the ex- Reclosers
pulsion fuse removes voltage from the partial- Single-phase and three-phase hydraulic and
range current limiting fuse. three-phase electronically controlled reclosers
Another type of protective device is the elec- are available for pad-mounted enclosures. Vac-
tronic fuse, which is actually a hybrid device. A uum interrupters are typically used for increased
control module uses electronic circuitry to sense fault-interrupting capability and increased service
a fault, initiate tripping, and control the time- life. Hydraulic reclosers with a limited number of
current characteristics of the device. An inter- curves and current trip levels are available, as
rupting module interrupts the fault under the are electronically controlled units with an exten-
control of the control module. The interrupting sive number of curves and current levels. Fault-
module also has current-limiting capabilities. interrupting capability varies with the current
This device is available in a range of pickup lev- interrupting level of the hydraulic units and is
els and time-current curves. Continuous current typically 12,000 amperes or higher for the elec-
ratings up to 600 amperes and maximum sym- tronically controlled units. Some manufacturers
metrical current interrupting capability up to have overhead SF6 gas-insulated reclosers avail-
40,000 amperes are available. The various time- able that, if not yet available for pad-mounted
current curves available with this device can enclosures, may be available in the future.
often provide better coordination with adjacent
devices than can traditional thermal fuses. An- Sectionalizers
other advantage is that the continuous rating of At least one manufacturer makes a single-phase
the larger modules exceeds that available in cur- sectionalizer that is designed for installation in
rent-limiting fuses. a pad-mounted enclosure. This sectionalizer is
Underground System Section a l i z i n g – 1 0 5

intended to work in conjunction with an upstream the system section that is suspected of contain-
recloser or breaker and is available in one, two, ing the fault. The recloser or vacuum switch that
or three counts before operating configuration. opened to isolate the fault is then closed to re-
A sectionalizer that is designed to differentiate establish service to the remainder of the system.
between a true fault current and a current spike Yet another reason is to retry a recloser or
caused by magnetizing inrush or cold-load vacuum switch after a lockout caused by an
pickup should be chosen. Additional informa- overcurrent condition. On an underground system,
tion on the application of sectionalizers may be this practice is not typically routine; however,
found in Electrical Distribution System Protec- there are circumstances in which this would be
tion by Cooper Power Systems (1990). applicable. One instance is where the under-
ground circuit feeds overhead taps that are un-
Live-Front Vs. Dead-Front fused. Another instance is where the suspected
Typical air-insulated, air-break pad-mounted faulted section has been removed manually and
switchgear is available in either live-front or the locked-out device is remote from the fault
dead-front styles. The older, traditional live-front location. Another instance is when cold-load
style uses standard outdoor porcelain or poly- pickup current or a switching surge is the sus-
mer terminations, or stress cones for terminating pected cause of the overcurrent condition.
cable. A removable barrier just inside the doors
provides some level of protection of personnel. Devices That Can Be Remotely Operated
Once removed, the lineman is easily exposed to Devices that can be remotely operated are elec-
the energized parts. tronically controlled reclosers, vacuum or oil
Dead-front gear generally limits access to en- switches, circuit breakers, and load-break-type
ergized parts by the use of modular elbow-type switches with motor operators or other types of
terminations. Both types of switch are generally power operators. These devices must typically be
operated by external handles on source posi- ordered with a remote open-and-close accessory,
tions, but often must be operated with insulated although such an accessory may be field-installed.
sticks on fused positions. Only dead-front style
switchgear is currently approved for new con- Precautions in Remote Operation
struction by RUS. The most serious danger in remotely closing a
device is the possibility of energizing a line or
REMOTE OPERATION OF equipment that is in contact with human beings.
SECTIONALIZING EQUIPMENT These could be cooperative personnel working
Reason for Remote Operation on the line or members of the general public
There are several reasons to remotely operate a who are in contact accidentally, such as through
recloser or switch. One reason is to redistribute an automobile that has damaged a pad-mounted
load. Doing so might be a response to load condi- transformer. They could also be individuals who
tions on the distribution system or to remove load have tampered with an enclosure. Another dan-
from a transformer or other piece of equipment ger is re-energizing a faulted line or transformer
that is scheduled for maintenance or replacement. that will lead to increased equipment damage
Another reason is to isolate a faulted portion and possible human injury.
of the system. Switches can be opened to isolate

Faulted-Circuit Faulted-circuit indicators faulted line section will be lo-

Indicators (FCIs) can be used to locate a FCIs sense fault cated between the last indica-
faulted section of underground tor showing a fault condition
primary cable. FCIs sense the current and display and the first indicator showing
passage of a fault current and fault conditions a normal condition. Field per-
display a fault condition. The sonnel responding to a power
1 0 6 – Se c t io n 3

outage can trace the status of application problems can be
the FCIs and quickly identify The FCI can be corrected through a better
the faulted line section. They understanding of how an
can then isolate this line sec- a valuable FCI works and its limitations.
tion and promptly restore fault-locating tool. In addition, some manufactur-
power. ers now supply FCIs with an
Without FCIs, field person- array of automatic timed reset
nel must search for the fault by options, which can greatly re-
sectionalizing and reclosing on the fault until the duce or eliminate problems associated with false
faulted line section is located. This latter method tripping.
of fault locating is time-consuming and can The following information gives guidelines for
cause cable insulation deterioration. proper selection and application of FCIs. When
When properly specified and applied, FCIs properly specified and applied, the FCI is quite
provide the following advantages: reliable and can be a valuable fault-locating tool.

• Reduced outage time, FALSE TRIPPING

• Reduced crew and equipment cost, An FCI has a sensor to detect the current magni-
• Reduced stress on system components, tude present in a cable. A current that exceeds
• Reduced blowing of expensive fuses, the trip rating of an FCI causes the display to
• Improved system reliability, and show a faulted condition. Unfortunately, the
• Improved consumer relations. sensor cannot distinguish between fault current,
inrush current, and backfeed
RELIABILITY OF FAULTED- current. The indicator simply
CIRCUIT INDICATORS responds to any current that
Older designs of FCIs have Inrush and backfeed exceeds its trip rating. As a re-
been plagued with operational currents that exceed sult, inrush and backfeed cur-
and application problems. As a rents that exceed the trip
the trip rating cause
result, they have acquired a rating cause false tripping.
reputation with some utilities false tripping.
as being unreliable. In re- Inrush Currents
sponse, manufacturers have Inrush current is a higher than
improved the design of FCIs, normal current that occurs
and IEEE has approved a guide for testing FCIs when a distribution circuit is energized. The
(Standard 495). These efforts have helped to inrush current decays to the normal current
eliminate some of the operational problems. For value after some time. The types of inrush cur-
example, FCIs are available with the following: rents and their decay times are explained above
in the subsection Effect of Inrush Current on
• Rugged current sensors that operate in accor- Sectionalizing Devices.
dance with IEEE Standard 495, When power is restored to a de-energized
• An inrush restraint feature to minimize false line, an inrush current will flow through the
trips caused by inrush currents, cable. If this inrush current exceeds the trip
• Sensitive current resets and low-voltage resets rating of an FCI, the FCI will show a fault condi-
for use on lightly loaded circuits, and tion. Manual reset units will continue to show
• Sensors suitable for three-phase use where a fault condition until they are reset by hand.
cables are close together. However, automatic resetting units will change
back to a “NORMAL” indication when the inrush
An operational problem that persists is false current decays to the normal load current level.
tripping caused by backfeed currents. This con- In this situation, only the manual reset units
dition is reviewed in the next subsection. Many continue to show a false trip condition.
Underground System Section a l i z i n g – 1 0 7

the FCI trip rating. Again, the falsely tripped FCIs
Recloser Fault
remain in “FAULT” indication following recloser
lockout. Figure 3.8 illustrates this situation.
C-Phase FCI 1 It is difficult to predict the magnitude of in-
rush current. Therefore, it is difficult to choose
Current FCI 2 an FCI trip rating that is greater than the un-
FCI 3 known inrush value. For this reason, most man-
LEGEND FCI 4 ufacturers offer an inrush restraint feature on
Load 1 their FCIs. Typically, this feature disables the trip
FCI, normal indication
FCI, fault indication response for 15 to 60 cycles following the ener-
gization of cable. The 15- to 60-cycle delay al-
FIGURE 3.7: Inrush Current Resulting from Operation of Three-Phase lows the inrush current to decay to its normal
Recloser. load value. The inrush restraint feature increases
the cost of the FCI by about 35 to 40 percent.
This additional cost is easily justified on under-
FCI 3 ground systems that “see” the cycling action of a
Load 1 source-side recloser.
Recloser FCI 1 Inrush
Current Backfeed Currents
Fault Backfeed currents continue to produce false
FCI 4 Inrush trips and resets of FCIs. However, unlike inrush
Current currents, backfeed currents can remain on the
FCI 5 system for long durations. Therefore, a time-
delay feature will not alleviate the problem. To
Load 2 address this situation, the cooperative engineer
FCI, normal indication
needs to be aware of situations that likely pro-
FCI, fault indication
duce backfeed currents.
FIGURE 3.8: Inrush Current Resulting from Operation of Single-Phase Backfeed currents can occur on three-phase
Recloser. circuits when a single-phase fault is cleared by a
single-phase protective device. For example, a
fuse will clear a cable fault on one phase while
Two other situations produce false tripping the other two phases remain energized. Any
and obscure a fault location. The first is when a load-side capacitors connected to the faulted
three-phase recloser or breaker protects the un- phase may discharge into the fault. If the circuit
derground cable. For example, a fault on phase impedance is low enough, this discharge current
A trips the FCIs on phase A. The recloser or could be large enough to trip FCIs located be-
breaker opens and interrupts power to all three tween the fault and the capacitor bank.
phases. When the recloser recloses, phases B More common backfeed currents result from a
and C experience inrush current. If this current delta-connected motor load on a grounded-wye,
exceeds the FCI trip ratings, then those FCIs will grounded-wye transformer. For example, con-
show a “FAULT” condition. Usually the recloser sider an underground system that serves several
locks open before the FCIs can reset. The out- three-phase transformers. A cable fault in the first
age crew now finds FCIs tripped on all three cable section is cleared by a fuse. The other two
phases. Figure 3.7 illustrates this phenomenon. phases remain energized and continue to supply
The second situation is when a single-phase partial power to any delta-connected motor
recloser protects a main line with one or more loads. The motors produce backfeed currents
laterals. A fault on the main line trips the FCIs along the underground cable to the fault loca-
along the main line. During reclosing, some of tion. If the current level is high enough, it will
the laterals may experience inrush that exceeds falsely trip the FCIs between the cable fault and
1 0 8 – Se c t io n 3

the delta-connected motor load. 800 amperes could trip for any
All FCIs on the faulted phase The FCI trip rating current in the range of 720 to
may show a “FAULT” indication. 880 amperes. Therefore, it is
These same backfeed cur- should be close to important to select an FCI that
rents and voltages can also the available minimum remains sensitive to the mini-
produce false resets. Because mum fault current throughout
the FCI trip level is usually
fault current level. its range of trip ratings.
hundreds of amperes and reset Conductor size also affects
current level is usually less trip ratings. The FCI sensor
than three amperes, false reset is a more likely mounts around an underground cable and
problem than is false tripping. A feedback volt- senses the magnetic field produced by the flow
age can also exist on the faulted phase. These of current. This magnetic field is a function of
voltage levels can reach 50 percent of the nor- the radial distance from the conductor. The
mal line-to-ground voltage for a grounded-wye, larger the radial distance, the weaker the mag-
grounded-wye transformer. For grounded-wye netic field. FCIs are typically calibrated at a spe-
delta transformers, this voltage can reach 86 per- cific cable diameter. If the actual cable diameter
cent of the normal line-to-ground voltage. Most is less, then the trip rating is reduced. Likewise,
low-voltage reset units have a minimum reset a large cable diameter increases the trip rating.
voltage that is lower than 86 percent of the The manufacturer should be asked to supply the
nominal voltage. Therefore, these units would
not be suitable for grounded-wye, delta trans- 1
formers with delta-connected loads. Because .8
grounded-wye, delta-connected transformers .6
should not be installed on a distribution system, .4
this situation should not occur frequently. .3

Load and Fault Current Magnitudes
The trip rating of an FCI is the current magnitude .1
that causes the FCI to display a fault condition. .07
An ideal trip rating is low enough to sense the .05
Time (Seconds)

minimum available fault current and high enough .04


to ignore load, inrush, and backfeed currents. To





meet this criteria, the FCI trip rating should be .02

close to the available minimum fault current level.
If the available fault current level is unknown,
manufacturers suggest a trip rating of two-and- .009
one-half to three times the expected load current. .007
At long distances from the substation, the available .005
fault current drops substantially. As a result, the
available fault current may get close to the mag-
nitude of the load current. Again, the trip rating .002

should be close to the fault current magnitude.

However, the margin between the trip rating and .001
the inrush and backfeed currents is decreased.







Thus, the FCI is more susceptible to false tripping. Current (Amperes, RMS)
The accuracy of the trip rating also affects se-
lection. Most FCIs have an accuracy of ±10 per- FIGURE 3.9: Trip Response for Peak-Current-
cent. For example, an FCI with a trip rating of Sensitive Units.
Underground System Section a l i z i n g – 1 0 9

cable diameter at which the FCI is calibrated and If the FCI is not the peak-current type, its trip
a correction curve for other cable diameters. response time is a function of the current magni-
tude. Figure 3.10 shows the time-current charac-
Coordination with Current-Limiting Fuses teristics for this type of FCI. Note the difference
Some FCIs are peak-current sensitive and will in the trip response time for the two types. For
operate within two milliseconds for any current example, look at the 800-ampere curve of Fig-
that exceeds the trip rating. Figure 3.9 shows the ures 3.9 and 3.10. The peak-current-sensitive FCI
response time of peak-sensitive units. The peak- has a response time of two milliseconds. The
current devices will coordinate with all types of other FCI has a response time of 0.3 seconds
fuses, including current-limiting fuses. Proper (300 milliseconds).
coordination means that the FCI will trip before These slower devices should be compared
the fuse clears the fault. If the total clear time of with the time-current curves for the source-side
the fuse is faster than the FCI response time, the protective device. For proper coordination with
FCI will not show a fault condition. link-type fuses, the FCI curve must be to the left
of the total clear curve of the fuse at the mini-
mum fault current value. For example, refer to
Figure 3.10. For a minimum fault current of
450A FCI

800A FCI

15E 30E 100E 1,000 amperes, a 450-ampere FCI coordinates

10 with a 30E and a 100E fuse. The FCI should also
coordinate with a source-side current-limiting
fuse. To coordinate, the FCI must trip at the let-
through peak-current level before the fuse clears
the fault. For most current-limiting fuses, the
clear time is approximately three milliseconds.
1 As shown in Figure 3.10, a 450-ampere FCI will
coordinate with a current-limiting fuse that has a
let-through current of 1,100 amperes or greater.

Adaptive-Trip FCI
Time (Seconds)

The adaptive-trip FCI does not have a specified

0.1 trip rating. Instead of tripping at a predetermined
current magnitude, this device responds to a
sudden increase in current followed by a loss of
current. Figure 3.11 shows the increase in current
magnitude required to set the trip mechanism.
For example, consider a sensor type B shown in
0.01 Figure 3.11. To set the trip mechanism, the FCI
must see an increase of 130 amperes within a
50-millisecond time or 100 amperes within an
80-millisecond or greater time. The trip mechanism
will release and show a fault indication only if
the line current drops to zero. If the line current
0.001 does not drop to zero within 60 seconds, the
10 100 1,000 10,000
trip-set condition will reset to normal. This trip-set
Current (Amperes)
and trip-release sequence prevents the FCI from
LEGEND showing a false trip as a result of motor starting
Fuse Minimum Melt Curve Fuse Total Clear Curve FCI Trip Response Curve load or cold-load pickup. Like the other types of
FCIs, the adaptive-trip FCI must be checked for
FIGURE 3.10: Trip Response for 450A and 800A FCIs. coordination with upstream protective devices.
1 1 0 – Se c t io n 3

100 For an exact section of faulted cable in an un-
derground system to be located, an FCI must be
placed at the source end of each cable section.
Most cable sections terminate in some type of
pad-mounted equipment. Because this equip-
ment also provides easy access to the cable, the
10 location is ideal for FCIs. The following subsec-
tions show several types of underground sys-
tems and the placement of FCIs.

2 Underground Segments of Overhead Feeders

Overhead feeders may occasionally have segments
1 of underground cable. These underground seg-
.6 ments are often installed to avoid overhead line
Time (Seconds)

.4 clearance problems. Some applications of under-

ground segments are the following:
• Lake or river crossings,
0.1 • Highway crossings,
0.06 • Transmission line crossings, and
0.04 • Airport glide path crossings.

0.02 Because these underground segments are part

of a main feeder, they are usually not fused.
0.008 Rather, a set of solid-blade disconnects is placed
0.006 at each end of an underground cable section.
0.004 A set of FCIs at each cable end will enable
workers to determine if a fault has occurred on
0.002 the underground segment. The set of FCIs on the
source side will show a “FAULT” indication for a
10 100 1,000 10,000 fault on the underground cable or on the outgo-
Current (Amperes) ing overhead feeder. The second set of FCIs on
Fisher Pierce Fault Indicator
Model 1547 Adaptive Trip the load side will show a “normal” indication for
Time Current Curves a fault on the underground cable and a “FAULT”
(5A Base Current)
indication for a fault on the overhead feeder.
FIGURE 3.11: Trip-Set Characteristics for Adaptive-Trip FCI. This arrangement is shown in Figure 3.12.
Courtesy of Fisher Pierce Division of Thomas & Betts. Another consideration for this application is
whether to use a three-phase FCI or three single-
phase FCIs. The three-phase FCI
After the circuit is re-ener- has three current sensors and
gized, this FCI will adjust to Locate FCIs at the one display. The display shows
the line current within 60 sec- a “FAULT” indication for a fault
onds. During this 60-second source end of each on any of the three phases. This
period, the FCI is in trip re- cable section. indicator is suitable when the
straint. This feature helps pre- underground cable is sectional-
vent false trips caused by ized with single-phase devices.
upstream reclosers. In addi- The single-phase sectionalizing
tion, the FCI continuously readjusts itself for device will be open on the faulted phase, thus
changes in the nominal line current. showing which underground cable is faulted.
Underground System Section a l i z i n g – 1 1 1

Three-Phase Underground Feeders
Recloser FCIs Underground Line Segment FCIs The most extensive type of underground feeder
connects two substations. During normal opera-
tion, this feeder has an open point with each
side being fed by a different substation. In this
FIGURE 3.12: FCI Placement on Overhead Feeder with Underground application, the FCIs are placed on the circuit
exits and on either the incoming or outgoing ca-
bles in each sectionalizing cabinet. Figure 3.13
In contrast, a three-phase sectionalizing device shows this arrangement.
will open on all phases, regardless of which phase Another consideration for this type of system
is faulted. A three-phase FCI will show a “FAULT” is the choice of a trip rating. To select a proper
indication; however, it does not indicate which trip rating, the cooperative engineer must con-
phase. For this type of application, it is better to sider the load and fault currents during normal
use three single-phase FCIs. Here, only the FCI on and alternate feeds. If possible, a trip rating
the faulted cable will show a “FAULT” indication. should be selected that will respond to the fault
The use of three single-phase FCIs also works current available during normal and alternate
well on underground circuit exits from a distribu- feeds. Another option is to use an adaptive-trip
tion substation. In many cases, these circuit exits FCI. As this FCI adapts to different line current
are protected by a three-phase sectionalizing de- levels, it responds properly during normal and
vice. If the sectionalizing device has indicators to alternate feeds.
show the faulted phase, a set of FCIs is needed A third consideration is the use of a three-
on the load end of the underground segment only. phase FCI or three single-phase FCIs. As covered
However, if the protective device does not have in the preceding subsection, a three-phase FCI is
phase indicators, a set of FCIs must be placed at suitable only when the feeder is protected by
each end of the underground segment. single-phase sectionalizing devices. If the de-
Some areas may have very long segments of vices are three-phase, the only way to identify
underground cable. These segments may contain the faulted phase is to use a single-phase FCI on
above-ground sectionalizing points or grounding each cable, unless the three-phase protective de-
points. Placing an FCI at these locations will lo- vice has an individual target for each phase.
cate the exact faulted cable section.

Switchgear 1 Switchgear 3

Substation A Substation B


Switchgear 2

FIGURE 3.13: FCI Placement on Three-Phase Underground Feeder.

1 1 2 – Se c t io n 3

Underground Residential Subdivisions
Riser Riser
Pole Pole An underground residential subdivision usually
consists of single-phase transformers and cable
operated as an open-loop system. Figure 3.14
shows this system with one FCI for each trans-
former. This arrangement should work properly
regardless of the location of the loop open point.
Large subdivisions can be more complicated.
These subdivisions often contain multiple single-
phase loops and may contain a three-phase under-
ground sub-feeder. In addition to being placed at
each transformer, FCIs must also be placed in each
switching, sectionalizing, or junction cabinet. Fig-
LEGEND ure 3.15 shows FCI placement in a large subdivi-
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer sion. If SW1 and SW2 were three-phase junction
cabinets without fused taps, then FCIs must also
N.O. Normally Open Point
be placed on each load-side cable. This arrange-
ment lets field personnel open the cabinet and
FIGURE 3.14: FCI Placement for Single-Phase Open Loop.
determine which phase has the faulted cable.

Riser Riser
Pole Pole

Switching Switching
Cabinet Cabinet




Three-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer
Single-Phase, Pad-Mounted Transformer
N.O. Normally Open Point

FIGURE 3.15: FCI Placement for Underground Subdivision with Three-Phase Source.
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 1 1 3

SELECTING A RESET METHOD Because it operates more slowly, this FCI can-
Manual Reset not be used on underground systems protected
The manual-reset type is the simplest and least by current-limiting fuses. Without remote indica-
expensive FCI. It typically costs half that of the tion, crews cannot determine the indicator status
automatic-resetting types. As expected, there are without opening each enclosure. FCIs are, thus,
trade-offs for this reduction in cost. First, service less desirable when used on an underground
personnel must reset this FCI in the field. Any system placed along the front property lines. For
tripped indicators that service personnel miss these reasons, the use of manual-reset FCIs is
will continue to show a “fault” indication. Dur- not recommended.
ing a future outage, these indicators will confuse
crews and probably increase the time required Automatic Reset
to locate the faulted cable section. If this be- FCIs are also available with automatic reset.
comes a common occurrence, crews will soon After tripping, these devices can sense when the
ignore the fault indicators. cable is re-energized and will then reset to a
Failure to reset an FCI is more likely on an “NORMAL” indication. Because the reset is auto-
underground than on an overhead system. On matic, these devices are more likely to show cor-
an underground system, the FCIs are usually lo- rect indication than is the manual-reset type. As
cated inside pad-mounted enclosures. After a a result, the automatic-reset FCIs can be a more
crew locates the faulted line section, they must reliable fault-locating tool.
open all enclosures located before the faulted Manufacturers offer many types of automatic
cable section and reset each FCI. During after- reset. The costs of these different types are
hours power restoration or during inclement very similar. These types have different appli-
weather, this step may be neglected. cations based on their limitations. Each type of
This device has two other limitations: automatic reset and how it is best used is de-
scribed below.
• No coordination with current-limiting
fuses, and Current Reset
• No remote indicator. Current reset is the most common type of auto-
matic reset. The device uses the same sensor to
detect fault and load current (see Figure 3.16).
After tripping, this device resets to “NORMAL”
when it detects the return of load current in
the cable. The load current must be higher
than the reset current level. The standard reset
current levels are three amperes, 1.5 amperes,
and 0.1 ampere.
Before selecting a current-reset FCI, determine
the normal load current. On 35- and 25-kV sys-
tems, the normal load current in a single-phase
residential subdivision may be less than three
amperes. For example, a load of 30 kW on a
24.9/14.4-kV system has a current of about two
amperes. An FCI with a three-ampere reset level
would never reset.
The lower reset levels, 1.5 amperes and less,
FIGURE 3.16: Current-Reset FCI. The unit has are very sensitive and can be susceptible to the
a flag display housed inside a clear viewing
magnetic fields of nearby cables. These stray
window. Courtesy of Fisher Pierce Division
of Thomas & Betts. fields can lead to false tripping and resetting in
the following applications:
1 1 4 – Se c t io n 3

• Single-phase junction cabinets, primary to the secondary side of the transformer.
• Single-phase fuse cabinets, As a safety feature, this sensor has a lumped re-
• Three-phase junction sistance probe and 30-kV insu-
cabinets, and lated cable. The resistance
• Three-phase switchgear. Current-reset FCIs probe will limit the fault
current if there is a primary-
Some of these FCIs can be can be placed in all to-secondary insulation system
equipped with magnetic shield- types of pad-mounted failure.
ing to prevent this problem. The low-voltage-reset FCI is
The current-reset FCIs re-
equipment. ideal for lightly loaded circuits
quire only a current source to where the load current is not
reset. Therefore, these devices high enough to reset a current-
can be placed in all types of pad-mounted reset FCI. This FCI is not affected by the magnetic
equipment and enclosures. fields of nearby cables during reset; therefore, this
device would be suitable for a lightly loaded
Low-Voltage Reset three-phase circuit. The current sensor to detect
The low-voltage-reset FCI is equipped with a fault current would not have to be as sensitive as
probe that connects to the secondary voltage a sensor that must also detect load currents of less
terminal of a transformer (see than three amperes to reset.
Figure 3.17). The current sen- The more sensitive sensors re-
sor has contact with the pri- quire magnetic shielding to
mary circuit neutral. When the The low-voltage-reset minimize the effect of nearby
FCI senses the proper amount FCI is ideal for lightly cables. This is described in
of voltage between the sec- more detail in the Current
ondary terminal and the circuit loaded circuits. Reset subsection on page 113.
neutral, it will reset. Most units For three-phase use, it is im-
have reset voltages of 120 volts portant to know the minimum
or 277 volts nominal and can be used in single- reset voltage. This value should be high enough
phase or grounded-wye, grounded-wye three- to prevent a false reset caused by a feedback
phase transformers. voltage. This effect is described in the Backfeed
The voltage sensor will likely cross from the Currents subsection earlier in this section.

Figure 3.17: Low-Voltage-Reset FCI. Courtesy of E.O. Schweitzer FIGURE 3.18: High-Voltage-Reset FCI. Courtesy
Manufacturing Division of SEL. of Fisher Pierce Division of Thomas and Betts.
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 1 1 5

High-Voltage Reset voltage exceeds five kilovolts,
The high-voltage-reset FCI Time-reset devices an FCI will falsely reset.
mounts on the capacitive test
point of an elbow terminator
do not respond Time Reset
(see Figure 3.18). A primary to feedback voltage The time-reset FCI resets to
voltage level of five kilovolts “NORMAL” after a specified
or current.
or greater for a period of time, regardless of the circuit
about three minutes will reset conditions (see Figure 3.19).
the FCI. These devices can be Therefore, it is very important
used only on elbow termina- to select a time period that is
tors with capacitive test points. Correct FCI sensor long enough for crews to re-
Care must be used on these placement is spond and check the status of
devices to ensure moisture the FCIs. If the time period is
protection. necessary for too short, the FCI can reset be-
For use with three-phase proper operation. fore the faulted cable section
systems, these devices must be is located. These units use a
specified with magnetic shield- lithium battery to keep the
ing. Without this shielding, an reset time during the power
FCI can show a false trip or reset caused by cur- outage and to power a flashing LED or beeping
rents in nearby cables. Another concern on type of fault indicator. Most batteries have a ca-
three-phase systems is the chance of feedback pacity of 800 flashing or beeping hours during a
voltage on the faulted phase. If this feedback 10-year operating life. At the end of 10 years,
most manufacturers recommend replacing the
battery. If the unit does not have a replaceable
battery, it must be replaced with a new unit. Be-
cause these devices will not reset because of
feedback voltage or currents, they can be very
helpful in some three-phase applications.

Proper Placement on Cable
During a phase-to-ground fault, fault current flows
through the conductor and a portion returns
along the neutral. In a concentric neutral cable,
the resulting magnetic field of the neutral tends
to cancel the magnetic field of the conductor. If
an FCI is installed directly over the concentric
neutral, it may not detect the fault current be-
cause the magnetic field is canceled or reduced.
A second problem occurs on a three-phase
system. During a phase-to-ground fault, current
can flow in the concentric neutral of the un-
faulted phases. An FCI mounted directly over the
concentric neutral can sense this current. If the
current is large enough, it will falsely trip the
fault indicator. Correct placement of the FCI min-
FIGURE 3.19: Time-Reset FCI. This unit is
battery powered and has an LED flashing light imizes these problems.
display. Courtesy of Fisher Pierce Division of Correct placement can be done in one of two
Thomas & Betts. ways. The first method is to train the concentric
neutral conductors back over themselves on the
1 1 6 – Se c t io n 3

current. Therefore, an FCI can be placed directly
over a shielded cable without adversely affecting
the operation of the FCI.

Effect of Adjacent Conductor Current

The FCI current sensor responds to the magnetic
field that results from a fault current flowing
through the underground cable. When under-
ground cables are close together, these magnetic
fields can overlap. These conditions exist in three-
phase pad-mounted transformers, sectionalizing
Concentric Neutral Must cabinets, and junction cabinets. A sensor that is
Be Looped Back Through
not magnetically shielded can sense the mag-
Sensor Core to Cancel
Effect of Current in Neutral netic field of adjacent conductors. A fault current
on one conductor can produce a magnetic field
strong enough to trip the FCIs on the other two
FIGURE 3.20: Correct Placement of FCI Sensor. Adapted from Yeh, 1990.
conductors. This false indication can be avoided
by not using unshielded current sensors in three-
phase, pad-mounted equipment. Three-phase
applications require the use of shielded sensors.
A shielded sensor forms a complete magnetic
circuit around the conductor to which it attaches,
effectively shielding the sensor from nearby
magnetic fields. However, some closed-core sen-
sors are designed to detect very low current flow,
as low as 0.1 ampere. These sensors are extremely
sensitive to low magnetic fields and, thus, sus-
ceptible to false trips and resets. These sensors
cannot be used in three-phase equipment.
IEEE Standard 495 requires a test for the effect
of adjacent current-carrying conductors. The test
must verify that the indicator will continue to
show “NORMAL” when the sensor is at the man-
ufacturer’s specified distance from an unshielded
FIGURE 3.21: Incorrect Placement of FCI Sensor. Adapted from cable carrying a fault current. The sensor must
Yeh, 1990. not be affected by orientation.

cable. The FCI is then installed over the portion To be of any use, an FCI must show—by a
of the cable where the neutral conductors are visual display, a radio frequency (RF) output,
overlaid. The second method is to train the neu- or other means—that a fault condition occurred.
tral conductors to the outside of the FCI. The Figure 3.22 shows an FCI with an RF signal
FCI is placed on the cable above the concentric output. Figures 3.19 and 3.17, respectively,
neutral conductors. Figures 3.20 and 3.21 illus- show FCIs with remote LED and visual flag
trate correct and incorrect FCI placement. displays.
For a shielded cable with 5- or 10-mil tape, An RF FCI eliminates the need to look for the
the impedance of the tape shield is large unit. This is a definite advantage in areas where
enough that it carries very little fault current. snow or vegetation may obscure a visual dis-
Instead, the neutral will carry most of the fault play. RF FCIs are also significantly more effective
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 1 1 7

display that was previously used had an indica-
tor arrow that pointed toward the fault. This type
of FCI provides some advantage in large subdivi-
sions because crews can first check an FCI in the
middle of a cable run and trace the fault from
there instead of from the dip pole. The direc-
tional feature is also useful if cable circuits are
operating in parallel. Some models of the direc-
tional FCI must be connected to a secondary-
voltage bushing or an elbow test point in order
to establish the direction of fault current flow.
When this type of FCI requires secondary volt-
age, it is suitable for use in pad-mounted trans-
formers only; extreme care must be used in
correctly connecting the secondary leads to
establish the proper polarity. There are other
models of directional FCIs that do not require
a voltage connection.
Visual displays can be mounted on the sensor
FIGURE 3.22: Typical Radio Transmitter Unit
or can be supplied with a lead to allow remote
to Accommodate Up to 12 FCIs. Courtesy of
E.O. Schweitzer Manufacturing Division of SEL. mounting. To view a display that is mounted on
the sensor, outage crews must open the trans-
former or switchgear, which requires unlocking
when the cable is relatively inaccessible, such as a padlock and releasing the captive bolt. Then
under bridges, in subterranean vaults, or in diffi- the cabinet must be restored to a secure condi-
cult terrain. Another advantage tion. This process can be time-
is that the fault-locating consuming, especially when
process is faster because the crew is under pressure to
An FCI indicates a
crews do not have to open locate the fault and restore
pad-mounted equipment. fault condition by service.
The more usual kind of in- a visual display or Mounting the display re-
dication is the visual display. motely on the enclosure wall
Common types include the other signal. reduces the time spent identi-
flag display, the LCD readout, fying the faulted section of
and the LED flashing light. A cable. The display can thus be
flag display and LCD readout are typically viewed without opening the piece of equipment.
housed behind a clear viewing window that This mounting method does require installing a
ranges from one to three inches in diameter (see viewing window on the enclosure. Most pad-
Figure 3.16). In contrast, the size of the flashing mounted equipment can now be ordered with
light is only ¼-inch in diameter (see Figure provisions for mounting FCI remote indicators.
3.19). This size of opening is definitely easier to For existing equipment, remote mounting kits
install in a manner that maintains the integrity of are available.
the equipment enclosure. The flashing light is A viewing window for a flag display must
easily seen at night but can sometimes be diffi- be large enough to expose its face, usually a
cult to see in bright sunlight. An internal battery one- to three-inch diameter circle. A circle is cut
powers the flashing light display. through the enclosure wall. This opening is then
Some FCIs have directional capability. These covered with a piece of Plexiglas®. The Plexiglas
are useful in locations where fault current might provides some protection from impact and entry
flow in either direction. One type of directional into the enclosure. Remote mounting of the
1 1 8 – Se c t io n 3

flashing LED is possible with a fiber optic cable indication state when the transformer lid is
and requires only a ¼-inch hole. The display slammed open or shut. This is particularly im-
mounts directly through the hole; there is no portant for indicators with mechanical flags.
Plexiglas cover.
Remote displays allow restoration crews to OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
trace fault indicators faster. This reduces outage Fault Current Withstand
time and improves system reliability. However, a FCIs are exposed to high fault currents. To be
determined vandal could break through the reliable, an FCI must continue to operate prop-
Plexiglas and gain entry into pad-mounted erly after being exposed to these high current
equipment. The flashing light indicator presents levels. The cooperative engineer should specify
less risk of forced equipment entry. However, that all FCIs meet the Short-Time Current Test of
the cooperative engineer should investigate the IEEE Standard 495.
durability of this device to be sure that it is very
difficult to damage or remove. A ¼-inch hole is Maximum Continuous Current
large enough to probe an object into the pad- An FCI must be capable of operation when ex-
mounted enclosure. In areas subject to vandal- posed to the maximum continuous load current.
ism, a display mounted on the sensor or a Indicators with fixed pickup settings will give
remote flashing light display should be consid- false indications if the load current exceeds their
ered. In other areas, remote displays of either rating. Adaptive FCIs have the ability to accom-
type are beneficial. modate increasing load currents, but, in some
Acoustic annunciation is another specialized cases, these changes in trip characteristics may
type of FCI output. This type of FCI has a bat- impair coordination with system overcurrent
tery-powered speaker that emits a distinctive protection.
tone after the passage of a fault. Application of
acoustic FCIs is generally limited to locations Environmental Requirements
where the equipment could be obstructed by An FCI must operate in harsh environments
snow or vegetation, thus limiting the effective- including direct sunlight, earth burial, and
ness of visual indicators. Acoustic indicators are intermittent or continuous water submersion.
usually time-reset with provisions for manual An FCI must also operate under a varying range
reset during circuit restoration. of temperatures. IEEE Standard 495 requires that
Another type of FCI output is a contact suit- FCIs operate properly in an ambient tempera-
able for input to a distribution SCADA system. ture range of -40 to 85°C. In addition, this
This approach might be useful in congested standard requires the following design tests
areas, such as shopping centers, where there are to ensure that FCIs will function in their harsh
many fault indicators and an opportunity for environments:
communication circuits to connect several FCIs
to a common SCADA remote terminal unit. • Temperature cycling test,
A final concern is that the display maintains • Water submersion test,
its state during normal handling in the field. • Outdoor weathering of plastics test,
IEEE Standard 495 requires an impact resistance • Salt spray test, and
test. This test requires the display to maintain its • Immersion corrosion test.
Underground System Section a l iz i n g – 1 1 9

Summary and 1. Fault current values should be available conductor. Equation 3.3 and Tables 3.2
Recommendations from system fault current study. through 3.6 can be used to evaluate the
2. Sometimes the maximum interrupting rating temperature increase in the concentric
of a protective device is rated in asymmetri- neutral or shield during faults.
cal amperes but only a symmetrical fault 8. Table 3.8 shows fault levels that may lead to
current rating is available. Use Equations 3.1 destructive transformer failure for internal
and 3.2 and Table 3.1 to convert from faults. If actual withstand levels of I2t values
symmetrical to asymmetrical. are known for a particular transformer,
3. When minimum fault is calculated, a fault re- Equation 3.4 should be used to calculate a
sistance of zero to 10 ohms for underground corresponding maximum symmetrical fault
cable and 30 to 40 ohms for overhead line is level. Current-limiting fuses should be used
recommended. Zero ohms for underground to protect against destructive transformer
and 30 ohms for overhead are less conser- failure in high-fault areas.
vative and should be used only within the 9. The magnetizing inrush current point for
restrictions noted in the Minimum Available a transformer is estimated as follows:
Fault subsection and subject to good
engineering judgment and knowledge
Transformer Size Magnetizing
of the system.
4. All load-carrying components should be Three-Phase Single-Phase Inrush Current
rated to withstand maximum through-fault >3 MVA >1 MVA 12 × base-rated
currents on the system. If this is not possi- full-load current
ble, current-limiting fuses or circuit recon- for 0.1 seconds
≤ 3 MVA ≤ 1 MVA
figuration should be used to limit the fault.
8 × base-rated
5. Proper location of protective devices will
full-load current
limit fault damage and the number of con- for 0.1 seconds
sumers affected by the fault and also help
locate the fault. Recommended locations
are the following: Protective device curves should fall to the
right of and above this point to prevent
(a) In substations,
unnecessary tripping.
(b) At the beginning of underground cable,
10. A good rule of thumb for cold-load pickup
(c) At transitions from underground to
current is the following:
(d) On taps off main feeders and (a) Six times full-load current for one second,
sub-feeders, (b) Three times full-load current for up to 10
(e) On transformers, and seconds, and
(f) Within long feeders. (c) Two times full-load current for 100
seconds up to 15 minutes.
6. Use the cable damage curves in Appendix F
to determine if a protective device protects Frequently, these points may be modified
a cable against through-fault damage. The on the basis of the type of load and local
short-circuit curves are normally used; how- climate. Protective device curves should
ever, the emergency overload curves can be fall to the right of and above these points
used for a more conservative approach or to prevent unnecessary tripping. This
where the cable is normally operated near coordination may not always be possible.
its continuous ampacity limit. 11. Several types of protective devices are
7. Where the neutral/shield is reduced in size available for use on an underground
or is jacketed, the temperature increase in system. Most of these are available in a
the shield during faults may be more critical pad-mounted type enclosure. Several of
than the temperature increase in the phase these devices can be operated remotely.
this page intentionally left blank
Equipment L o a d i n g – 1 2 1

4 Equipment Loading

In This Section: Primary Cable Ampacity Summary and Recommendations

Pad-Mounted Transformer Sizing

For an underground distribution system to be kVA ratings must be selected to carry highly di-
operated reliably and efficiently, the two major verse loads with peaks that may exceed the
system components—cables and transformers— transformer rating. Transformers must be de-
must be sized properly. The current rating or signed to carry these temporary overloads while
ampacity of primary and secondary cables must lasting 20 years or more. By reviewing the con-
be selected to economically serve the load over ditions that affect primary and secondary cable
the lifetime of the installation. To meet this re- ampacity and the ability of transformers to carry
quirement, cables must supply the load during overloads for short periods, the engineer will
peak periods without overheating and within ac- have the tools to design the best UD system to
ceptable voltage limits. Pad-mounted transformer meet various system requirements.

Primary Cable A simple definition of ampacity is the amount of thermal operating limit of the cable. Voltage
Ampacity current that a cable can carry under a specific drop is often the deciding element in very long
set of circumstances. When current flows cable runs. For short runs and large currents,
through a cable, losses in the form of heat are ampacity is usually the limiting element.
generated in the conductor Maximum insulation temper-
and insulation. The ability of ature is not the only considera-
the cable to transfer this heat tion for an underground
to the surrounding environ-
Ampacity = Current circuit. Soil temperature
ment sets the actual ampacity Rating of Cable around direct-buried cable or
of the cable. conduit should also be consid-
The maximum conductor ered. If cable temperature rises
operating temperature limits to an excessive level, the sur-
the allowable loading of UD cable, although rounding soil may dry out, causing a large in-
loading the cable to the maximum operating crease in soil thermal resistivity. If the condition
temperature of the insulation will not shorten persists for an extended period, it can lead to
its life. However, voltage regulation and flicker thermal instability of the soil, which will cause
can limit circuit loading to a value less than the higher cable temperatures and shorter cable life.
1 2 2 – Se c t io n 4

In light of these aspects that affect the rating The actual computations are quite involved,
of a cable, a more exact definition of ampacity but engineers will rarely find it necessary to cal-
canbe formulated. The ampacity rating of a culate ampacity ratings for the cables in their in-
cable is the amount of current (in amperes) that ventories because ampacities for a large range of
will cause the temperature of the conductor to cable sizes and installation conditions have al-
rise from the stated ambient temperature to, but ready been calculated. The ICEA created Publi-
not above, the rated operating temperature of cation No. P-46-426, Power Cable Ampacities,
the insulation under specific conditions that af- Volumes I and II, dated 1962. These tables are
fect the rate at which heat is removed from the now quite dated and are valuable only for the
surface of the cable. On the basis of this defini- installation conditions and parameters they
tion, the basic procedure for calculating cable describe. A newer publication, ICEA P-53-426,
ampacity will be explained. which was issued in 1976, addressed UD-style
A method to accurately compute ampacity cables and, in particular, the effect of shield
under various installation and operating condi- losses on ampacities in single-conductor cables
tions was first published in 1957 in a technical and temperatures in the earth surrounding
paper by Neher and McGrath titled “The Calcu- buried cables and ducts.
lation of the Temperature Rise and Load Capa- Although these publications have served the
bility of Cable Systems.” This basic procedure is industry well over the years, new insulation
still used today to calculate cable ampacity. It is compounds and manufacturing processes have
used to calculate the maximum conductor tem- made the older tables of limited use. The Insu-
perature as limited by the lated Conductor Committee of
rated operating temperature of the IEEE compiled more up-
the insulation. The conductor dated cable ampacity tables
Use ampacity tables
current required to produce and published IEEE Standard
the temperature change can be to pick cable ratings. 835-1994, which lists cables
calculated with Equation 4.1. from 600 volts to 500 kV, in
ducts, in air, and in direct-
buried situations, with virtually
Equation 4.1 all combinations of single-phase, vee-phase,
three-phase, and multiple circuits. An abstract of
TC = I2 RC RT these tables is reproduced as Table 4.1.
Two-conductor, concentric neutral power
where: TC = Change in conductor temperature in degrees Celsius caused cables consist of one insulated central conductor
by current-produced losses (T conductor/T ambient) and one copper concentric neutral conductor
RT = Effective thermal resistance between the conductor and applied helically over the insulation. They are
ambient soil, in °C-cm/Watt used on single-phase or three-phase primary
RC = Effective electrical resistance of the conductor, in underground distribution systems with operating
micro-ohms per ft voltage up to 35 kV.
If an application arises that is not covered by
I = Conductor current, in kiloamperes
these ampacity tables, IEEE 835-1994 or Appen-
dix G should be consulted. Cable vendors can
The change in conductor temperature, TC, is
also supply cable ampacity ratings for the special
given for a particular installation being consid-
installations. Also, PC-based ampacity programs
ered. Once RC and RT are calculated, Equation
calculate ampacities for most cable installation
4.1 can be solved for cable ampacity:
arrangements and types of cable. Such programs
also help to perform sensitivity analyses in which
different parameters can be varied to determine
T –T
I = conductor ambient their effect on the ampacity of the cable. Unfortu-
RC RT nately, these programs are sometimes expensive
Equipment L o a d i n g – 1 2 3

TABLE 4.1: Ampacities for Single-Phase Primary Underground Distribution Cable—XLPE,
TR-XLPE, and EPR Insulated.

Conductor Conductors Rated 15 kV, 90°C, 100% LF

Size AWG Copper Aluminum
or kcmil Buried* In Duct* Duct in Air** Buried* In Duct* Duct in Air**
4 200 121 91 156 94 71
2 260 155 118 203 121 92
1 297 176 135 232 137 105
1/0 339 200 154 264 156 120
2/0 387 227 176 302 177 137
3/0 442 258 201 344 201 156
4/0 504 293 230 393 228 179
250 — — — 437 255 200
300 — — — 488 288 226
* Two-conductor full-concentric-neutral cable in direct burial at an ambient temperature of 25°C, 100% load factor, and
soil thermal resistivity rho-90.
** Two-conductor full-concentric-neutral cable in conduit in air at an ambient temperature of 40°C, 100% load factor,
full sun, no wind.

The multiplying correction factors for load factors of 50% and 75% are as follows:
Correction Factors
75% Load Factor 50% Load Factor
Cable Rating kV Buried In Duct Buried In Duct
15 1.08 1.04 1.16 1.07
Continuous loading at maximum rating may lead to moisture migration away from the cables and increased soil thermal
resistivity, and a condition of thermal runaway may occur. See “Power Cable Ampacities,” ICEA Publication No. P-46-426;
IEEE Publication No. S-135, Section 5, page XIII; or ICEA Publication No. P-53-426 (Reaffirmed 1982), NEMA Publication
No. WC 50, page VI, Section E.3, and IEEE Standard 835-1994.
Adapted from ICEA S-66-524, NEMA WC 7 (12/84), page 83, and ICEA S-68-516, NEMA WC 8 (reaffirmed 1982), Part 8,
page 7, and modified to 25°C ambient earth temperature by multiplying by 0.9636.

and their purchase cannot be justified by most insulation and elements associated with the instal-
cooperatives for occasional use. lation of the cable. Heat flows outward from where
the losses are generated toward the jacket. When
CONDITIONS AFFECTING CABLE AMPACITY heat flows through the thermal resistance of the
The maximum ampacity of a concentric neutral various elements between the conductor and the
UD cable depends on the ability of its surround- surrounding soil, it causes a thermal gradient.
ing environment to dissipate the heat generated The temperature gradient, when added to the
by internal losses. Losses occur physically within ambient temperature of the soil (or air), equals
the cable in its conductor, insulation, and neu- the final conductor temperature. This conductor
tral. Losses in the insulation and neutral may or temperature must not exceed the operating tem-
may not be negligible, depending on the type of perature of the cable insulation system.
1 2 4 – Se c t io n 4

Electrical Losses them and the central conductor. Because safety
One condition that affects cable ampacity is the practices require the neutral to be grounded at
magnitude of electrical losses. When a cable is multiple points along its length, the induced
energized and current flows, losses in the form voltage will cause current to flow in a three-
of heat are produced in the conductor and its phase application, adding to the total system
surrounding insulation and coverings. The rate loss. Generally, the greater the neutral resistance
at which the heat is removed from the cable de- for cable sizes below 1,000 kcmil, the less the
termines the temperature rise within the dielec- losses will be because of the proportional de-
tric and, thus, the ampacity of the cable. Electri- crease in current magnitude. This effect is
cal losses can be divided into two types: current graphically shown in Figure 4.1.
dependent and non-current dependent. Current- It is not usually necessary to calculate the re-
dependent losses are caused by current flow in sistance of the concentric neutral because it is
the central and concentric neutral conductors. expressed as a fraction of the known conductor
Non-current-dependent losses are due to the ac resistance. For example, full and 1/3 are the
presence of the electrical field within the cable two concentric neutral resistance values speci-
dielectric. They are a function of voltage and are fied in RUS Bulletin 1728F-U1 for primary cable.
present any time the cable is energized. A full neutral means the neutral and phase con-
Current-dependent losses are ohmic losses in ductors have the same resistance, whereas 1/3
the conductor and concentric neutral and vary means the concentric neutral resistance is three
as the square of the current. Losses in the cen- times the resistance of the central conductor.
tral conductor represent the main heat-generat- Non-current-dependent losses are caused by
ing component and are directly related to its ac losses in the dielectric and charging current loss.
resistance. Losses in the cable concentric neutral The dielectric loss is present any time the cable
occur when voltage is induced on the neutral is energized; the value of the loss is proportional
wires because of the mutual reactance between to the square of the voltage. These losses are

1,000 kcmil
0.3 750 kcmil
500 kcmil
0.25 FULL 350 kcmil
4/0 AWG

0.2 1/3

0.1 1/6
1/3 1/6
FULL 1/3
1/3 1/6

0 25 50 75 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 275 300 325 350 375
Rs (Microohms per Foot)

FIGURE 4.1: Ratio of Shield Loss to Conductor DC Loss (Ysc ) at 90°C as a Function of Shield
Resistance (Rs), 1/C 35-kV Aluminum Power Cables in Triplexed Formation. Source: ICEA
Publication No. P-53-426.
Equipment L o a d i n g – 1 2 5

caused by the in-phase components of voltage Load Factor/Loss Factor
and current induced in the dielectric. A second element that affects cable ampacity is
Charging current losses are caused by the flow the load factor/loss factor of the load. The maxi-
of charging current and are separate from the real mum temperature rise of a cable depends on the
power flow through the cable. Charging current shape of the load curve and the thermal resis-
is a function of cable capacitance and is present tance of the heat transfer path. A cable will have
any time the cable is energized. Loss calculations a smaller temperature rise if the load varies over
involving charging current are, therefore, done a 24-hour period than if the peak load was ap-
at 100 percent loss factor. Losses are equal to plied for the whole day. The effect of a load fac-
the charging current squared times the ac resis- tor less than unity is recognized in ampacity and
tance of the cable. Because charging current is temperature rise calculations by using loss factor.
proportional to voltage, losses caused by it are The loss factor is the ratio of the average losses
proportional to the square of the voltage. to the peak losses over a specified period. The
Although dielectric losses must be considered IEEE ampacity tables are based on loss factors
when setting ampacity ratings for UD cables and determined on the basis of losses for the average
are factored into the ampacity tables, their effects maximum load over a one-hour period. Ampac-
are more pronounced at transmission voltages. ity tables are based on the projected load factor
Equations to calculate con- of the circuit. Load factor is
ductor losses, dielectric loss, defined as the ratio of the av-
cable capacitance, charging Loss factor compares erage load to the peak load.
current, and charging current The relationship between
loss for underground cables
average losses with
load factor and loss factor
are found in Section 1, Equa- peak losses. depends on the shape of the
tions 1.1 through 1.7. load duration curve. Because
losses vary as the square of
the current, the value of the
1.0 loss factor can vary between the extreme limits
of load factor and load factor squared. Figure 4.2
shows this relationship, with curves A and B
0.8 representing the theoretical limits between
A which the relationship can vary. Typical load
curves for any distribution feeder will fall be-
Per Unit Loss Factor

0.6 tween the two curves. The loss factor is always

less than the load factor except where they are
C both unity. This condition occurs when there is
0.4 a constant load on the cable.
The loss factor cannot be calculated directly
from load factor because losses are proportional
0.2 to the square of the current and the resistance,
whereas the load factor depends only on the
current (assuming constant voltage). Note that
both factors are related to time. Observations by
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
many utility engineers over the years have re-
Per Unit Load Factor
sulted in a relationship between the two values
Curve A: Loss Factor = Load Factor that gives a reasonable value of loss factor in
Curve B: Loss Factor = (Load Factor)2 terms of its corresponding load factor. The rela-
Curve C: Loss Factor = 0.2 Load Factor + 0.8 (Load Factor)2 tionship can be expressed by the empirical for-
mula shown in Equation 4.2, which is normally
FIGURE 4.2: Relationship Between Load Factor and Loss Factor used for rural feeders.
Per Unit.
1 2 6 – Se c t io n 4

type of soil (its texture and mineral content), the
Equation 4.2
moisture content, and the structural arrangement
of the soil particles. Generally, the higher the
Loss Factor=0.2 Load Factor+0.8(Load Factor)2 moisture content, the lower its thermal resistance
and the better its heat-dissipating ability. Certain
clay soils tend to dry out and become baked
when heated beyond a certain temperature; this
This equation is shown as curve C in Figure 4.2. drives away the moisture and may permanently
A more thorough discussion of load factor increase their thermal resistivity. Clay is also an
and loss factor may be found in the NRECA example of a soil that shrinks when dry, thereby
Distribution System Loss Management Manual, losing contact with the cable, which creates an
pages 17–20. air layer between the soil and the cable surface
Because the load factor of a cable determines and adds an extreme thermal resistance to the
its ampacity value, consideration must be given heat dissipation path. As the thermal resistance
to future load factors during the expected life of around the cable increases, the cable temperature
the cable. Choosing a load factor of 100 percent rises. If the cable temperature stabilizes at a safe
gives the minimum ampacity value, with all other level, the soil is considered stable. If the tempera-
conditions being equal. An improperly high load ture continues to rise above an acceptable level,
factor could lead to the choice of cable one or the soil is considered thermally unstable.
two sizes larger than necessary. Knowing the ef- Figure 4.3 shows the variation of thermal re-
fect of the other conditions on cable ampacity will sistivity with moisture content for various types
allow the engineer to make a more informed de- of soils. As the moisture content is reduced, re-
cision about the value of load factor chosen. sistivity rises slowly until a critical moisture level
is reached; the thermal resistivity then starts to
Soil Thermal Resistivity increase at a much higher rate. Electric Power
Soil thermal resistivity (rho) is an important ele- Research Institute-sponsored research has shown
ment that affects cable ampacity. The tendency that, at high moisture levels, water fills the gaps
of soil surrounding a buried cable to hinder the between soil particles, which increases the effec-
flow of heat from the cable or conduit surface is tive cross-sectional area available for heat trans-
a fundamental property called soil thermal resis- fer, thus reducing the thermal resistivity of the
tivity, expressed in degrees Celsius-centimeter soil (Boggs, Chu, and Rhadhakushna, 1980).
per watt (°C-cm/watt). Rho is important in the As the moisture migrates away from the cable
selection of load capabilities of UD cables. In surface for any reason, heat conduction takes
some instances, more than one-half the total place through a solid soil matrix. Within the ma-
conductor temperature rise is caused by im- trix, the particles have only point-to-point con-
paired heat flow through the tact with each other. The
earth. Rho can be measured ability of different soils to
along a specific route to help High soil thermal dissipate heat under these
in selecting the proper cable conditions is determined by
size. However, measurements resistivity reduces the particle size distribution
are usually difficult and time- cable ampacity. (packing efficiency) of the soil
consuming to perform. Most and, to a lesser extent, by the
utilities assume soil properties shape of the particles. Figure
that have led to reliable performance in the past. 4.3 shows that, for well-graded soils such as
Selecting an ampacity value is complicated fur- limestone screenings (a quarry waste by-prod-
ther because rho depends on many conditions uct), thermal resistivity is basically constant
that are not constant through the soil profile and down to low moisture contents of approximately
can change with the seasons of the year. two percent. Below this moisture level, the ther-
The thermal resistivity of a soil depends on the mal resistivity is shown to quickly increase.
Equipment L o a d i n g – 1 2 7

210 The ampacity tables in Appendix G list cable-
soil interface temperatures alongside the current
Crushed Shale
values. These interface temperatures show that
180 Silty Sand soil drying around a hot cable can lead to an
increase in soil thermal resistivity and increased
Ottawa Sand soil and conductor temperatures. Interface tem-
Thermal Resistivity (°C-cm/Watt)

perature is the temperature attained by the out-
Critical Moisture Content = side surface of directly buried cable, directly
buried duct, or concrete encasement. Utility
engineers commonly rate cables on the basis of
this method. Field studies suggest an interface
temperature of 50°C to 60°C be used for clay
and loam soils and 35°C for sandy soils (Arman
et al., 1964). Interface temperatures have been
used in the past to rate cables because no other
simple, dependable method exists.
Thermal efficiency of the soil depends mainly
Fire Valley Sand on its moisture content. In most areas of the United
Stone Screenings
States, soil moisture varies with the seasons. Usual-
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ly during the cooler months, January through May,
Percentage Moisture Content rain keeps the soil well saturated. The warmer
FIGURE 4.3: Thermal Resistivity Versus Moisture Content for Various months have less rainfall and the soil dries out.
Soil Types. Source: Boggs, Chu, and Rhadhakushna, 1980. Because thermal resistivity and water content of
the soil are interrelated, it is reasonable to assume
that these two properties will vary with seasonal
and climate factors as well. Figure 4.4 shows
measured variation of soil thermal resistivity at
150 four locations on a monthly basis. The resistivity
is shown to generally increase during the hot/
dry months of August, September, and October.
Thermal Resistivity (°C-cm/Watt)

Soil thermal resistivity
changes with
100 moisture content.

In most cases, for a soil of a particular type
and a fixed water table level, the moisture con-
tent increases with depth. The greater the depth,
60 the less the change in moisture during the year.
A higher water content generally leads to a
lower thermal resistivity.
40 Years ago, experiments were made that inves-
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
tigated the differences in temperature rise for
equally loaded cable buried at intermediate
FIGURE 4.4: Thermal Resistivity of Soil at Various Locations. depths from three to 20 feet. As expected, the
Source: EEI Underground Systems Reference Book, 1957. results showed a lower rho and less temperature
1 2 8 – Se c t io n 4


Depth Below
Surface (Feet)
Air 1.5

Temperature (°C)



Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

FIGURE 4.5: Effect of Depth on Soil Temperatures as Influenced by Seasonal Temperature

Variations. Source: EEI Underground Systems Reference Book, 1957.

rise at 20 feet compared with three feet. How- ambient temperature. The ambient temperature
ever, the increase in cable ampacity could never is the normal soil temperature at the burial
offset the extra cost of deeper burial. Standard depth of the cable that would exist if the cable
industry practice is approximately three feet as were not there.
an acceptable minimum depth for almost all in- The change of ambient temperature below the
stallations outside urban areas. Unfavorable na- earth’s surface is caused by seasonal exchange
tive soil conditions near the surface can be of solar energy between air and earth. The earth
overcome for short runs by using a good ther- acts like a heat sink in the summer and returns
mal backfill in the vicinity of the cable. heat to the air in the winter. Measurements show
that soil temperature decreases with depth in
Ambient Soil Temperature summer and increases with depth in winter. Fig-
Ambient soil temperature affects UD cable ampac- ure 4.5 shows that the temperature change fol-
ity and must be considered when using ampacity lows essentially a sinusoidal curve that changes
tables. Every ampacity table has been computed with the seasons. The cycle does not vary much
for a specific ambient temperature. The temper- from year to year.
ature rise of the cable is added directly to the Cyclical temperature changes below ground
vary considerably from place to place and must
be known for the specific location being consid-
TABLE 4.2: Typical Ambient Soil Temperatures at a Depth of 3.5 Feet. ered. If it is not feasible to make temperature
Source: ICEA Publication No. P-46-426.
measurements at the site, usable temperature
Temperature, °C ranges may be obtained from the state Depart-
Location Summer Winter ment of Agriculture or the agricultural school of
a state university. Table 4.2 gives typical temper-
Northern United States 20 to 25 2 to 15 ature ranges that may be used when site-specific
Southern United States 30 to 35 10 to 20 data are not available.
Equipment L o a d i n g – 1 2 9

Daily variations in air temperature produce mutual reactance will always exist. Another point
negligible changes in ambient earth tempera- that must be considered when spacing cables
tures below one foot. Investigations have shown close together is the mutual heating effect caused
that, at depths below 36 inches, ambient soil by the three conductors. Mutual heating will de-
temperatures lag the air temperature by about crease the load-carrying ability of the system.
two weeks to one month because of the high Another way to reduce circulating current
specific heat of the soil. losses is to increase the resistance of the concen-
tric neutral. This may be done by reducing the
Cable Configuration and Circulating Current number or size of the wires. Industry practice is
Various aspects of installation can affect the to list concentric neutral sizes in relation to the
amount of current a cable can carry. For single- resistance of the central conductor. For example,
phase primary UD cable, dielectric loss is usually a cable with 1/3-neutral would have a concen-
considered negligible when ampacity is calculat- tric neutral resistance three times the phase con-
ed. Therefore, the current rating of most single- ductor. Engineers recognize that the concentric
phase UD applications is limited by current-relat- neutral physically protects the cable. For this
ed losses in the conductor and neutral, plus the reason, cable is usually purchased for standard
heat-sink quality of the surrounding soil. applications with a concentric neutral made up
In a balanced three-phase application using of at least six No. 14 AWG copper wires.
concentric neutral cable, there is no return cur- The preceding discussion shows that a three-
rent because the phase currents vectorially add phase installation is more involved in terms of
to zero at the load. No return current means the ampacity and that more factors limit its ampacity
magnetic field outside the concentric neutral of than for a single-phase circuit. In addition to the
each phase is not totally canceled out. Load cur- conductor losses and the thermal quality of the
rent flowing in the other two phases will cancel soil, the arrangement of the phases in relation to
some of the magnetic field produced by current each other affects the total system losses and,
in one phase. Because the net magnetic field thus, the circuit ampacity.
around the phase is not completely canceled, it
produces a voltage difference along the length INSTALLATION CONFIGURATIONS
of the concentric neutral. In the same way, volt- Physical Arrangement of Phases
age differences are produced along the concen- Example 4.1 shows how the physical arrangement
tric neutrals of the other two phases. of the phase conductors can affect ampacity.
Safety standards require that the concentric
neutrals of all jacketed UD cables be grounded Observations from Ampacity Tables
and connected together at both ends of the The following general observations can be made
cable run, and at as many intermediate points as from reviewing the 1962 ICEA ampacity tables
required by the NESC. This necessary grounding and IEEE Standard 835-1994 for different instal-
of the neutrals at more than one point creates a lation configurations:
cross connection which short-circuits the voltage
between them and allows circulati