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Evaluation of lightning surges transferred from

medium voltage to low-voltage networks


A. De Conti and S. Visacro
Abstract: The effects of transferred lightning surges on loads connected in long branched lowvoltage power distribution networks are evaluated by means of computational simulations.
Sensitivity analyses are presented to indicate the role of several parameters in the development of
transferred surges. Based on the obtained results, remarks are made regarding load protection.

Introduction

The impact of lightning overvoltages on distribution


systems is of great concern, especially for low-voltage
(LV) networks. In such environments, low insulation levels
and the increasing presence of sensitive loads create a
scenario in which lightning-related effects may often become
critical.
Attempts have been made to characterise typical surges
in LV circuits [1, 2]. The obtained results are a clear picture
of how varied they can be. LV networks are inherently
complex, as a great diversity of loads and connections is
usually found in practical conditions. This imposes serious
difculties on the study of lightning overvoltages in such
circuits, making the denition of a typical case almost
impossible. As a consequence, the prescription and adoption of practices able to protect consumer loads in a general
sense is difcult.
This paper focuses on the transference of surges from
medium-voltage (MV) to LV networks. This phenomenon
is believed to be the most frequent among all possible
mechanisms of overvoltage generation on consumer loads,
as it is related to both, induced voltages due to cloud-toground strikes and direct strikes over MV lines [3].
2 Transference of lightning surges from MV to LV
networks
The transference of surges from MV to LV networks may
take place according to three main mechanisms: (i) coupling
of both circuits through distribution transformers and their
connections; (ii) electromagnetic coupling between MV and
LV conductors if they are installed one above the other; (iii)
indirect current injection into the LV circuit due to
ashovers across MV and LV insulators. Case (iii) is
related to the incidence of direct strikes over distribution
systems in urban areas, where MV and LV circuits usually
share the same poles. This is believed to be relatively rare
but serious damage to the connected loads is expected when

it occurs [4]. Case (ii) is related to currents unable to cause


ashovers along the MV system. Their inuence on the LV
circuit depends on several factors but it is usually not as
strong as in cases (i) and (iii). This paper deals exclusively
with the mechanism (i), which is always present if a surge
propagates along a MV line.
Surges transferred through distribution transformers can
usually be split into two components. One is related to the
electromagnetic coupling between transformer primary and
secondary. This coupling allows only high-frequency
components of incoming surges to be transferred to the
LV circuit. The resulting voltages have an oscillatory shape
and short duration and their effects on the connected loads
tend to be small [3, 5]. Currents drained by MV surge
arresters are responsible for the other transferred component, by generating a potential rise at the transformer
grounding [3, 5]. This potential rise is able to determine the
injection of intense currents into the LV circuit, especially if
the neutral conductor is shared by the LV and MV lines.
Laboratory and computational evaluations of transferred
surges on consumer loads have been presented in [6]. In the
investigated cases, only one consumer was considered, i.e. a
single branch was derived from the transformer secondary
and connected to the loads. However, in many applications,
a single transformer may be designed to supply LV lines
with lengths in the range 100200 m and several connected
loads (Fig. 1). The presence of branches and the existence of
distributed earthing terminations make this condition very
different from the one evaluated in [6]. To understand the
inuence of system parameters on the development of
transferred surges in LV networks with such features,
several computational analyses have been performed, which
are presented in Section 3.

r IEE, 2005
IEE Proceedings online no. 20041306
doi:10.1049/ip-gtd:20041306
Paper rst received 15th December 2003 and in revised form 7th December
2004. Originally published online: 8th April 2005
The authors are with the Lightning Research Center, Federal University of
Minas Gerais, Av. Ant#onio Carlos 6627, Pampulha 31.270-901, Belo Horizonte,
MG, Brazil
E-mail: conti@cpdee.ufmg.br; LRC@cpdee.ufmg.br
IEE Proc.-Gener. Transm. Distrib., Vol. 152, No. 3, May 2005

Fig. 1

Evaluated system
351

Developments

3.1

System modelling

The evaluated system consists of an innitely long MV line


terminated at the primary of a distribution transformer. It
was supposed to be divided into spans of 60 m except near
the transformer, where six spans of 30 m were assumed.
From the transformer secondary, a 150 m long three-phase
LV line divided into spans of 30 m was derived (see Fig. 2).
Three-phase loads C0C5 were connected to the LV line at
poles P0P5 by means of 15 m long service drops.

installation reasonably well, according to the experimental


data presented in [8].
The adopted transformer model consists of a simple RLC
equivalent derived from the experimental analysis of the
frequency response of typical three-phase dy distribution
transformers [4]. In all simulations, ZnO surge arresters
were supposed to protect its MV and LV sides. Their V  I
curves are illustrated in Fig. 4a [9].

40

2.0

I, V

P0

Rt

P2

C0
Rc

P3

C2

C1
Rc

P4

Rc

P5

C3
Rc

C4

Rc

30

1.5

20

1.0

10

0.5

low-voltage (right scale)

C5

0.1

Rc

Schematics of evaluated system

1
current, kA
a

10

500

In the simulations, the alternative transients program


(ATP) was extensively applied. All transmission lines were
modelled using the JMarti model. It represents the variation
of the characteristic impedance and the propagation
function of a given line with the frequency by synthesising
both parameters as a sum of rational functions with simple
real poles [7]. A soil resistivity of 1000 O m was assumed.
Figure 3 illustrates the simulated line congurations.

voltage, kV

Fig. 2

P1

voltage, kV

medium-voltage

external phases

400
300
200

internal phase

100

neutral

0
0

2
3
4
time-to-chop, s
b

Fig. 4 Nonlinear characteristics of elements applied on simulations


performed
line configuration

schematics

applied on

1.5 m 0.7 m
phases
neutral
MV line

8.4 m

7.25 m

neutral
0.2 m
phases
LV line

7.25 m
6.65 m
open-wire
neutral

7.25 m

120

LV line and
service drops

multiplexed

Fig. 3

Schematics of simulated lines

A continuous neutral conductor was assumed. It was


effectively grounded at the transformer pole (Rt), at every
service entrance (Rc) (see Fig. 2) and at intervals of 180 m
along the MV line (240 O). All earthing terminations were
represented as simple resistances. To represent the LV
loads, 30 O resistors were connected between each phase
and neutral at the service entrances. This resistance value is
able to represent the module of the impedance of a LV
352

a V  I curves of surge arresters [9]


b V  t curves of insulators [4]

The occurrence of ashovers in the MV line was taken


into account by representing the line insulators as ideal
switches controlled by a modied version of the integration
method. In the original integration method, it is supposed
that the behaviour of a given insulation when submitted to
impulsive waveshapes is governed by the parameters DE*
(dened as the critical disruptive effect), U0 (onset voltage)
and k (a dimensionless voltage-dependent factor), which can
be obtained experimentally [10]. If k 1, a ashover occurs
as soon as the area DE delimited by the waveshape of the
applied voltage U(t) and U0 reaches DE*, for U(t)4U0. The
modied integration method (MIM) proposed in [10]
extends the original one to simulate the response of an
insulation when submitted to voltage waveshapes with
oscillatory prole. According to the MIM, the ionisation
process in a given insulation is extinguished only if U(t)
stays below U0 for t4tpr, tpr being related to the diffusion
time associated with the breakdown phenomenon in gases.
While this condition is not reached, DE is accumulated. A
ashover occurs only if DEZDE*.
In the performed simulations, typical Vt curves were
assumed for the MV insulators (see Fig. 4b), with
tpr 1.0 ms. This value was selected by taking as reference
the experimental results presented in [10]. In the case of
effectively grounded poles, the scheme illustrated in Fig. 5a
was adopted to represent the MV insulators. For noneffectively grounded poles, the action of concrete reinforced
poles as nonintentional earthing terminations was taken
into account by representing them as 350 O resistors
(Fig. 5b). This value is based on the experimental results
presented in [2].
The occurrence of ashovers along the LV line was
disregarded in the performed simulations. In some cases,
this may lead to unrealistically high overvoltages on the
IEE Proc.-Gener. Transm. Distrib., Vol. 152, No. 3, May 2005

MV-phase A

MV-phase A
neutral

neutral

MV-phase B

MV-phase B
MV-phase C

MV-phase C

350

240

4.2

Representation of flashovers in MV line

a Intentionally grounded pole


b Nonintentionally grounded pole

connected loads. However, such overvoltages can serve as


an indication of points prone to lightning-induced failures.

3.2

Simulations

Cloud-to-ground strokes generate currents with peak values


usually below 1 kA in close distribution lines [11].
Preliminary evaluations have indicated that currents of
such magnitude propagating along MV lines are unlikely to
cause severe stresses on LV loads connected in long
branched circuits [5]. In this paper a direct strike over the
MV line is assumed. A pole 420 m from the transformer was
arbitrarily chosen as the incidence point. The lightning
stroke was represented as a current source in parallel with a
400 O surge impedance [2]. A ramp-type current waveshape
(5/70 ms) with peak value of 30 kA was adopted in the
simulations, following the median values associated to rst
negative lightning strokes measured in [12]. Resultant
voltages and energy on the connected loads were calculated
for a total simulation time of 300 ms as the assumption of a
larger simulation time would not imply signicant differences in the calculated energy levels.

16
12

C0

General aspects

150

360 m from transformer

voltage, kV

600
400
30 m from transformer

200
0
200

25

50
time, s
a

75

100

6
voltage, kV

C4
4
2

Fig. 6

C2

0
2

C0
25

50
time, s
b

C1

C2
C3
loads

C4

C5

P4
P3

100
50

P5

P2
P0

P1

0
C0

C1

C2
C3
loads

C4

C5

Fig. 7 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages and dissipated


energy on connected loads as a function of extension of LV line
Rt Rc 80 O

1000
800

P5

P0

200

Figure 6 illustrates typical overvoltages obtained in the


simulations. Flashovers, multiple reections and the presence of arresters at the transformer primary determine the
prole of the resultant waveforms in the MV line.
Regarding the effects of transferred surges on the connected
loads, it is clear that they depend strongly on the location of
the service entrances in respect to the transformer. It is also

P4

P1

Results and analyses

4.1

P3

P2

enegry, J

Line length and number of loads

To understand how the presence of several branches and


loads affects surges transferred from MV to LV networks, a
circuit identical to that of Fig. 2 was initially simulated,
assuming Rc Rt 80 O and an open-wire conguration.
Afterwards, load C5 and sections P4P5 and P5C5 were
removed and a new simulation was performed. In this case,
C4 corresponded to the end of the LV line. After this,
sections P3P4 and P4C4 were removed, together with
load C4 and so on, until only C0 was connected to the
transformer. The obtained results are illustrated in Fig. 7 in
terms of voltages and the maximum value of energy
dissipated per phase at each service entrance. Labels P0P5
in the Figure indicate the last pole along the LV line.
It can be seen in Fig. 7 that the lowest overvoltages and
energy levels on loads are obtained if only C0 is connected

voltage, kV

Fig. 5

apparent that arresters placed at the transformer secondary


fail to reduce the voltages developed along the LV line.
Finally, if different grounding resistances were considered in
the simulations, the resultant overvoltages on the connected
loads would also be different. The inuence of all of these
aspects on the transferred surges is further discussed below.

75

100

Resulting overvoltages in system

Rt Rc 80 O
a MV line
b LV line
IEE Proc.-Gener. Transm. Distrib., Vol. 152, No. 3, May 2005

to the transformer. As new loads are added to the circuit, a


gradual increase is observed at the nal point of the LV line.
As an example, if only C0 and C1 are connected, C1 is
submitted to higher stresses than C0. The same behaviour is
observed if three loads are considered (C0, C1 and C2).
Interestingly, a saturation point is reached for line lengths
beyond pole P2. In this case, loads connected to the end of
the line tend to experience constant voltage values
irrespective of the fact that the line has a total length of
60 m (nishing at P2) or 150 m (nishing at P5).
Analysing a specic load (C2, for instance), we see that
overvoltages tend to be reduced with the progressive
inclusion of C3, C4 and C5. This fact, together with the
saturation observed on voltages developed at the end of
the line, suggests that long LV lines tend to behave better
in terms of transferred overvoltages than short ones, if
multiple loads and distributed earthing terminations are
present. Nevertheless, two aspects are contrary to this
hypothesis. First, as indicated in Fig. 7, shorter line lengths
always lead to lower energy levels on the connected loads.
353

Secondly, although voltage reductions are observed on


loads connected at intermediate positions for longer LV
lines, these reductions are not sufcient to guarantee their
protection. In this case, as it will be discussed in Section 4.5,
the application of surge protective devices could be
necessary. As indicated in [5], if a single additional set of
surge arresters is to be installed along the LV line, its
protective action tend to be extended to a larger number of
loads if the LV line is shorter.

4.3

on loads are lower than those presented in the former. This


was already expected, as the Rt/Rc general ratio for the
circuit becomes lower. However, for Rc 20 O one could
suppose that a proportional increase on the load overvoltages would happen due to an increase in the Rt/Rc ratio,
which is not particularly true for the multiplexed conguration. Actually, in this specic condition, low values of Rc
determine slight voltage reductions on loads C2C5, in
comparison to the case in which Rc 80 O. This phenomenon is associated with propagation effects and the high
electromagnetic coupling present in multiplexed conductors.
For the conventional conguration, such reductions are not
observed, although the curves obtained for Rc 80 O and
Rc 20 O are close to each other.
When it comes to the energy dissipated by the connected
loads, low values of Rc in relation to Rt also lead to higher
stresses. This happens mainly due to the current division
during the slow portion of the surge. In this stage, current
amplitudes in different paths are inversely proportional to
the values of grounding resistances seen in these paths.
In the simulations presented in Fig. 8, all the service
entrances were supposed to have the same values of
grounding resistance (Rc). If a specic load now has its
grounding resistance reduced in respect to the others,
overvoltages at its terminals are amplied, as illustrated in
Fig. 9. The level of this amplication depends on the load
location and on the values of the existing grounding
resistances. For the simulated conditions, it is never lower
than 30%. This suggests that, in some cases, additional
protection may be necessary for loads with very well
grounded service entrances. As a critical example, if C0 has
an improved grounding resistance, overvoltages at its
terminals increase by 70% whereas voltage reductions of
about 35% are observed elsewhere. This happens due to the
proximity between C0 and the transformer (15 m), which
makes their earthing terminations share a signicant
amount of the transferred surge, specially in the rst
microseconds.
Usually, utilities do not have much control over the
grounding connections performed at service entrances.
Therefore, the achievement of an optimal Rt/Rc ratio
depends mostly on the improvement of the transformer

Line configuration

A comparison between the performance of multiplexed and


open-wire congurations is illustrated in Fig. 8. In the
simulations, Rc assumed three different values (20 O, 80 O
and 320 O), for Rt 80 O, and overvoltages and energy on
the connected loads were calculated.
Comparing the voltage curves depicted at on the lefthand side of Fig. 8, one can see that multiplexed conductors
always determine lower stresses than open-wire conductors.
In some cases, as for Rc 320 O, loads connected at the end
of the LV line experience overvoltages twice as high if openwire conductors are installed instead of multiplexed ones.
As indicated on the right-hand side of Fig. 8, the use of
multiplexed conductors is also favourable in terms of the
dissipated energy. The higher electromagnetic coupling
inherent in multiplexed conductors determines energy levels
on loads that, in some cases, are ten times lower than those
observed for the conventional conguration.

4.4

Grounding

14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0

300

energy, J

voltage, kV

In LV lines where there is a single service entrance,


transferred surges reach their lowest levels if the Rt/Rc ratio
is at a minimum, i.e. if the transformer grounding is much
better than the grounding at the service entrance, preferably
with both having reduced resistance values [5]. In this
favourable condition, currents collected by arresters at the
transformer primary tend to be drained to soil locally,
reducing the side effects on the connected loads.
In LV lines with distributed loads, the same tendency is
observed. This can be seen in the left-hand side of Fig. 8. By
comparing the curves for Rc 80 O and Rc 320 O, one
can see that, in the last case, phase-to-neutral overvoltages

C0

C1

C2
C3
loads

C4

energy, J

voltage, kV

4
3
2
1
C1

C2
C3
loads

C0

C1

C2
C3
loads

C4

C5

C0

C1

C2
C3
loads

C4

C5

C0

100
0

C5

200

C4

C5

35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0

b
Rc = 20

Fig. 8

Rc = 80

Rc = 320

Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages and dissipated energy on connected loads, for different values of Rc and Rt 80 O

a Open-wire conguration
b Multiplexed conguration
354

IEE Proc.-Gener. Transm. Distrib., Vol. 152, No. 3, May 2005

2.5
C0

C1

C2

C3

C4

C5

voltage, per unit

2.0

1.5

1.0

extended to C0 due to the proximity between them (15 m).


If not only Rt but also Rc0 is improved (case 2), further but
not very signicant reductions are observed in voltages
developed at C5 for Rt/Rco1, whereas load C0 experiences
slightly higher overvoltages. These results indicate that
improvements in the transformer grounding have a limited
effectiveness in long branched LV lines, as extremely low
values of Rt would be necessary to ensure voltage levels
compatible with the supportability of LV loads.

0.5

4.5
C0

C1

C2

C3

C4

C5

loads with reduced grounding resistance


values

Fig. 9 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages on loads C0


C5 if a specific load is grounded with R 20 O whereas the others
are grounded with Rc 80 O
Reference condition calculated for a multiplexed LV line
Rt Rc 80 O

grounding. The effects of reducing the value of Rt on the


stresses to which loads C0 and C5 are submitted are shown
in Fig. 10, in the curves labelled as case 1. In case 2, Rt and
the earthing resistance of load C0 (Rc0) are varied
simultaneously, whereas the other loads keep constant
grounding values. This practice corresponds to an attempt
to use service entrances close to transformers as remote
grounding connections.
By analysing the results concerning load C5 for case 1, it
can be seen that, if Rt ranges from 0.5Rc to 2Rc, little
variation is observed in the slope of the obtained curve. For
Rto0.5Rc, voltages at C5 are more sensitive to the variation
of Rt, although a peak value of 2.7 kV is experienced by the
connected loads even if Rt Rc/8. The presence of surge
arresters at the transformer secondary makes voltages
developed at load C0 less sensitive to the variation of Rt
because the protective level of such devices is somewhat

Surge arresters

Even if short multiplexed lines are applied in LV networks


together with optimal Rt/Rc values, loads may be exposed
to severe stresses, as discussed in the previous Sections.
Therefore, in many cases, the application of surge protective
devices may be necessary to reduce the vulnerability of
connected loads to transferred surges.
In Brazil, for example, LV surge arresters are regularly
applied only at the transformer secondary. However, if a
customer reports damage attributed to lightning, utilities
usually install a set of arresters at the pole from which the
service drop that feeds the complaining client is derived.
These arresters are connected between phases and neutral,
without an additional grounding connection. Figure 11
depicts the prole of overvoltages developed on loads if an
additional set of arresters is inserted in the circuit of Fig. 2.
The horizontal axis indicates poles where arresters are
placed (for instance, P0P3 stands for arresters at poles P0
and P3). Case P0 is illustrated for comparison purposes.

C0
5

C1
C2

4
voltage, kV

C3
C4

C5

2.5

voltage, kV

2.0

case 2

1.5

P0

1.0
0.5
0
0

P0P1

P0P2

P0P3

P0P4

P0P5

poles with LV surge arresters

case 1

0.5

1.0

1.5

2.0

Rt /Rc ratio

Fig. 11 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages on loads C0


C5 as a function of positioning of additional surge arresters in a
multiplexed LV line
Rt Rc 80 O

voltage, kV

a
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

case1

case2

0.5

1.5

Rt /Rc ratio
b

Fig. 10 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages at C0 and C5


as a function of Rt/Rc ratio in a multiplexed LV line, for Rc 80 O
case 1: Rt is varied
case 2: Rt and Rc0 are varied for Rc constant
a Load C0
b Load C5
IEE Proc.-Gener. Transm. Distrib., Vol. 152, No. 3, May 2005

In Fig. 11, it is clear that the effectiveness of installing


surge arresters along the LV line strongly depends on their
location. If they are placed near the end of the line,
overvoltages are more effectively reduced. Nevertheless,
even in the case of lower overall stresses (case P0P4),
overvoltages may damage connected loads. Installing
arresters at each service entrance would yield better results,
but economic aspects should be taken into account. A
special comment can be made regarding loads directly
connected to the transformer secondary (C0). Figure 11
indicates that placing arresters along the main trunk brings
no benets to them. Their protection can only be improved
with the installation of dedicated arresters at their service
entrance.
355

All analyses presented so far have not considered a


dedicated earthing termination for the additional set of LV
arresters. This condition is now evaluated in Fig. 12,
assuming that arresters are placed at pole P4. It is clearly
seen in Fig. 12 that further voltage reductions are not
obtained if a grounding path is available at the installation
point of the arresters, even if comparatively low resistance
values are obtained. Therefore, if an additional set of
arresters is needed, a dedicated grounding connection is not
necessary provided that there are earthing points at the
service entrances.

the development of transferred surges. Thus, integrated


actions may be necessary to effectively protect connected
loads. LV lines with short lengths are recommended,
preferably using multiplexed conductors. The best condition
for load protection requires a low value for the Rt/Rc ratio,
preferably with reduced values for both parameters. Loads
with improved earthing terminations tend to experience
higher levels of transferred surges. Arresters placed along
the main trunk lead to better results if installed near the end
of the line. Dedicated grounding points are unlikely to
improve their performance. Finally, arresters placed at
every service entrance and close to sensitive loads could
satisfactorily reduce overvoltages to acceptable levels, but
economic issues should be taken into account.

voltage, kV

2
1.6

1.2

1 IEEE Std. C62.41-1991, IEEE Recommended practice on surge


voltages in low-voltages AC power circuits, 1991
2 Nakada, K., Sugimoto, H., and Yokoyama, S.: Experimental facility
for investigation of lightning performance of distribution lines, IEEE
Trans. Power Deliv., 2003, 18, (1), pp. 253257
3 Mirra, C., Porrino, A., Ardito, A., and Nucci, C.A.: Lightning
overvoltages in low voltage networks. Proc. Int. Conf. on Electricity
distribution, 1997, (Session 2, paper 2.19)
4 Bassi, W., and Janiszewski, J. M.: Evaluation of currents and charges
in low-voltage surge arresters due to lightning strikes, IEEE Trans.
Power Deliv., 2003, 18, (1), pp. 9094
5 De Conti, A.R.: Protection of LV networks against lightning:
transference of surges through distribution transformers. M.Sc.
Thesis, Federal University of Minas Gerais, 2001, (in Portuguese)
6 IEEE Task Force, Secondary (low-side) surges in distribution
transformers, IEEE Trans. Power Deliv., 1992, 7, (2), pp. 746756
7 Marti, J. R.: Accurate modelling of frequency-dependent transmission
lines in electromagnetic transients simulations, IEEE Trans. Power
Appar. Syst., 1982, 101, (1), pp. 147155
8 Hoidalen, H.K.: Lightning-induced voltages in low-voltage systems
and its dependency on voltage line terminations. Proc. 24th ICLP Int.
Conf. on Lightning protection, U.K., 1998, pp. 287292
9 Selection and fundamental principles of application of surge arresters
in MV and LV networks. CEMIG internal report 02.111-EG/PR2025, 2000, (in Portuguese)
10 Savadamuthu, U., Udayakumar, K., and Jayashankar, V.: Modied
disruptive effect method as a measure of insulation strength for nonstandard lightning waveforms, IEEE Trans. Power Deliv., 2002, 17,
(2), pp. 510515
11 Eriksson, A.J., Stringfellow, M.F., and Meal, D.V.: Lightninginduced overvoltages on overhead distribution lines, IEEE Trans.
Power Appar. Syst., 1982, 101, (4), pp. 960968
12 Anderson, R.B., and Eriksson, A.J.: Lightning parameters for
engineering application, Electra, 1980, pp. 65102

0.8
0.4
no ground
R = 80
R= 40
R = 20

0
C0

C1

C2

C3

loads

C4

C5

Fig. 12 Peak values of phase-to-neutral overvoltages on loads C0


C5 as a function of the grounding resistance of additional set of
arresters installed at P4
Multiplexed LV line, Rt Rc 80 O

Conclusions

Several simulations were performed to evaluate the effects


of transferred surges on loads connected in long branched
LV lines, for a direct strike over a MV network. The main
conclusions are summarised as follows: the existence of
several branches and grounding connections along the LV
network tends to reduce the importance of each element for

356

References

IEE Proc.-Gener. Transm. Distrib., Vol. 152, No. 3, May 2005