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Development of an Indoor 40.5 kV Vacuum

Circuit Breaker for Back-to-back Capacitor Bank
Switching Duty
Feng Zhao1,2, Biao Hu1,2 , He Yang2, Youyin Wang3
1 State Key Laboratory of Electrical Insulation and Power Equipment, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China
2. Power Distribution Assembly R&D Group, Electrical Sector APAC Eaton, Shanghai, China
3. State Grid Liaoning Electric Power Company Limited, Economic Research Institute Shenyang China

Abstract—Vacuum circuit breaker (VCB) is a mature In order to ensure the back-to-back capacitor bank
technology which is commonly used in medium voltage power switching reliability, SF6 circuit breakers are usually
systems worldwide. However, it is still facing challenges to recommended for this application when the rated voltage is
switch capacitive current, especially for back-to-back higher than 40.5kV in China. However, SF6 circuit breakers
capacitor bank switching. The main reason is that the inrush is not a best solution in this reaction compensation area as its
current can cause serious damages to the contact surfaces relatively low product life and global warming gases. In
and further deteriorate the high voltage withstand ability of contrast, vacuum circuit breaker has unique advantages
the vacuum gap. The objective of this paper is to develop an such as long product life and environment friendly, which
indoor 40.5 kV VCB which is exclusively used for back-to-
are required for the duty of capacitor bank switching. Thus,
back capacitor bank switching. The main circuit of this VCB
adopted vacuum interrupter series technology, which
a high reliable capacitive current switching performance of
adopted different contacts (CuW and CuCr), separated VCB is urgently demanded in power system.
functions and specified operation sequence to deal with the Many investigations have been carried out to study the
challenges of high frequency inrush current and withstanding capacitive current switching performance of VCBs during
of (1-cost) recovery voltage. In order to satisfy the frequent recent decades. Kamikawaji et al [4] investigated the
operation duty, permanent magnetic actuator and simplified capacitive current switching performance of CuCr material
linkage arrangements were used during mechanical designing. and found that the main cause of restrikes was micro-
The type tests were successfully passed, showing that no
particles. Yokokura et al [5] found that CuW contact
restrike or NSDD occurred during 1200 A back-to-back
capacitor bank switching test. The mechanical life reached
material was the best contact material compared with
30,000 cycles, and the short circuit current interrupting CuTeSe, CuBi and CuCr. Yu et al [6] found that CuW10/90
capability was 31.5. and CuCr50/50 had different pre-arcing behaviors when
making inrush currents. Dullni et al [7] and Körner et al [8]
Keywords—Capacitor banks Switching; Vacuum Circuit experimentally revealed the relationship between
Breaker; Vacuum Interrupters; Inrush Current; prestriking characteristics and restriking characteristics;
also, they investigated the key factors which could impact
I. INTRODUCTION capacitor switching performance, such as contact gap and
contact structure. Several researches focused on emission
Vacuum circuit breaker (VCB) is a mature technology current: Zadeh et al [9] and Yu et al [10] studied field
which is commonly used in medium voltage power emission current measured under recovery voltage after
systems worldwide. However, some special operation duty, high inrush currents. Smeets et al [11] observed an
e.g., back-to-back capacitor bank switching in power interesting phenomenon of inrush current interruption
substations, still remains challenges for VCBs because of which meant that current could remain zero within a period
the making inrush current (4250Hz, 20kA peak) and of time during a prestrike. Zhang et al [12] did a further
withstanding of (1-cosɷt) shape recovery voltage with investigation. They found that the damages on the contact
long period. Usually, this reactive compensation duty surface caused by prestrike arc could impact the above
needs frequency operations of VCB. The statistical results inrush current interruption phenomenon and further impact
showed that this operation duty should be executed once or the restrike probability. They proposed a new conditioning
twice a day [1-2]. Bonfanti et al concluded that 60% of all method to improve the capacitor bank switching
the capacitor banks were switched up to 300 times a year performance of VCBs [13]. Delachaux et al [14] found that
and a further 30% were switched up to 700 times a year[3]. higher closing velocity could benefit switching
So low restrike probability is highly required as performance because of less contact welding generated on
overvoltage caused by restrike would threaten the stability the contact surface. Smeets et al [15] and Niayesh et al [16]
of power system. studied the late breakdown and NSDD phenomena. Sabot et
al. [17] proposed some kinds of damping circuits to avoid
potential problems for capacitor bank switching. Zhao et al


[18] proposed an outdoor VCB solution, which was using
two VI series technology, to increase the capacitive current
switching performance and achieve zero restrike during
According to these previous studies, it was indicated that
inrush current, contact materials, contact structures, and
mechanical characteristics etc., played important roles in
capacitive current switching. So far, the performance was
sufficiently improved in 12 kV VCBs. But for 40.5 kV VCBs,
it was still very difficult to achieve the C2 class required IEC
standard. The objective of this paper is to propose an
indoor 40.5kV VCB solution for back-to-back capacitor
bank switching.


In this paper, the test was carried out at the ‘China
National Center for Quality Supervision and Test of
Electrical Apparatus Products’ Laboratory. As shown in
Fig 1 , a direct three-phase test circuit was used to verify
the back-to-back capacitor bank switching capability of the
test VCB. The test power was provided by a short-circuit
generator CF through a short-circuit transformer DB. C2
was the load capacitor bank, which determined the value
of breaking current. C1 was the back-to-back capacitor
bank, which determined the value of inrush current during
making operation. YH1/YH2 were used to measure the
power frequency voltages from supply circuit. LH1/LH2 Fig. 2. Overall dimension of an indoor 40.5kV vacuum circuit breaker
were used to measure circuit currents. FY was used to
measure the recovery voltage among the test VCB SWtest.
Fig.2 shows the overall of an indoor VCB. In order to
facilitate convenient retrofitting, the main dimensions were
kept the same as the current indoor SF6 circuit breakers.
The distance between two phases was 300 mm. the
distance between upper and lower contacts was 400mm.
The distance between lower contact and earth was
1100mm. in order to avoiding the impact of surrounding
environment, the three phases adopted embedded pole
designing. For each phase, two vacuum interrupters (VI1
and VI2) were embedded in an epoxy pole. Based on the
different functions of these two VIs, two different contact Fig. 3. Meachnism of an indoor 40.5kV vacuum circuit breaker.
materials were used. The contact material of VI1 was CuCr
and the contact material of VI2 was CuW.

CF: Short-circuit generator; SWBD: Master CB; SWHK: Making CB; Rt1: Power factor resistor; Lt1: Adjustable reactor;
DB: Short-circuit transformer; SWCD: Operation VCB; SWtest: Test VCB; C1: Back-to-back capacitor bank; C2: load capacitor bank
YH1/YH2: Voltage transformer; LH1/LH2: Current transformer; FY: Voltage divider; Rjd: Earthing resistor;
Fig. 1. A schematic diagram of this three-phase back-to-back capacitor bank switching test circuit.

For long product life purpose, these two VIs were

operated by two separated actuators following a certain

sequence. Fig 3 shows the mechanism of this indoor VCB. Fig. 5 shows the peak value of inrush current for each
Two permanent magnetic actuators were mechanically making operation during BC2 test. Some could reach more
linked to the two independent linkages and finally drove than 20 kA and some only were lower than 10 kA. The
the movement of VIs. Fig 4 shows the operation sequence . average values were 24 kA, 17 kA and 18 kA for 11 for
VI2 should be closed and opened before VI1 in normal Phase A, Phase B and Phase C, respectively.
operation sequence. The time ΔTc and ΔTo represented the
operation intervals between two VIs. According to previous study, the prestrike arc of inrush
current could be established on both two contacts. Then
Table I showed the back-to-back capacitor banks the contact surfaces were melted locally. Finally the two
switching type test conditions according to IEC62271-100 contacts could weld together when VCB closed. Serious
standard and GB1984 standard. A test duty T60 was contact welding was formed at inrush current with high
carried out as a preconditioning test before the back-to- amplitude, which may even cause an opening failure for
back capacitor banks switching test. Then a test duty BC2 normal commercial VCB. But this welding issue can be
which contained a series of 80 “CO” operation was carried resolved by proposed solution. the reason was that the time
out. Fig.3 showed the test current and recovery voltage. interval ΔTc let the prestrike only occurred inside VI2.
Inrush current of 20kA peak and frequency of 4250 Hz Moreover, in order to increase the anti-welding ability,
flowed through the test VCB during making operation. CuW was chosen as the contact material of VI2. Fig. 5
Then the recovery voltage with peak value of 85 kV was shows the photographs of contact surfaces. For CuCr
applied to the test VCB after interrupting a capacitive contact, there was only arcing trace. It meant that there
current of 1200 A rms during breaking operation. As last, was no welding damage caused by inrush current because
a test duty BC1 was carried out for the test VCB. It of setting the time interval ΔTc. For WCu contact, there
contained 24 “O” operations which meant the test VCB did were lots of damages caused by inrush current. However,
not suffer inrush current. The capacitive current in the BC1 as strong anti-welding ability, no serious welding was
formed on the contact surface. So there was no
significant protrusions which would impact dielectric

Fig. 4. Operation sequence of VCB.


Test Duty Operation Breaking current
18.9 kA
T60 O - (a) CuCr contact (left: movable contact, right: fixed contact)
%dc ≤20%
BC2 80 CO 40.5 kV 1200 A
BC1 24 O 40.5 kV 350 A

(b) WCu contact (left: movable contact, right: fixed contact)

Fig. 6. Photographs of contact surfaces

Fig. 5. Peak value of inrush current in test duty BC2 .

strength of vacuum gap.

duty is 350 A. Table II shows the restrike probability of this test

VCB during back-to-back capacitor banks switching test.
For both BC2 and BC1 test duties, there was no restrike
As the BC2 test was executed by a directly three-phase TABLE II. RESTRIKE PROBABILITY OF CAPACITOR BANKS SWITHCING
test circuit, the peak values of inrush current varied TEST

according to the making phase angle of source side voltage.

Test Restrike
Operation NSDD
Duty Probability
BC2 80 CO 0% 0
 BC1 24 O 0% 0
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