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High-Voltage On-Site Testing with Partial Discharge Measurement






Groupe d’Action 05 R. Pietsch, Convenor (DE): 2007-2010, W. Hauschild, Convenor (DE): 2004-2007, J. Blackett (AU), R. Bodega (NL), A. Claudi (DE), M. Gamlin (CH), B. Finlay (AU), E. Gockenbach (DE), E. Gulski (NL), R.A. Jongen (CH), Th. Leibfried (DE), E. Lemke (DE), S. Meijer (NL), P. Mohaupt (AT), M. Muhr (AT), F. Petzold (DE), E. Pultrum (NL), G. Rizzi (IT), Th. Strehl (DE), C. Sumereder (AT), S. Tenbohlen (DE), P. Werle (DE)

During the life cycle of high voltage (HV) apparatus or systems (Fig. 1), many tests and measurements are performed to characterize the insulation condition. The results of these tests and measurements should be compiled in a “life data record”, which supplies information on trends of diagnostic indicator values. The HV on-site test with PD measurement has an intermediate position between routine tests and in-service monitoring measurements (on-line or off-line):

In addition to type and routine testing, HV on-site testing is an important part of quality assurance. On-site tests are applied:

as a part of commissioning of equipment on site to demonstrate that the transport from manufacture to site and erection on-site have not caused any critical defects, which lower the dielectric withstand voltage of the insulation below coordination withstand level U cw ;

after repair on site to demonstrate that the equipment has been successfully repaired;

for diagnostic purposes in the framework of the asset management program by providing reference values of diagnostic indicators (e.g. partial discharge values and dielectric parameters) for later trending of test results. On site tests are normally applied after a warning is received from the condition monitoring program.

Furthermore it has to be considered that depending on the particular condition of the HV component:

the expectations from testing depend on the test procedure as selected for the particular component;

some degradation and breakdown risks may be related to the level and the duration of withstand voltage stresses as applied during on-site testing;

voltage withstand testing at the selected voltage level gives go/no-go information for this test voltage level and requires confirmation by methods such as PD measurement of possible field strength effects on the insulation system.

The different aims of HV testing on the one hand and insulation diagnostics/monitoring on the other hand may have caused the sometimes quite different philosophies (Table 1). But the common physical background of the measured phenomena is the behaviour of dielectrics in the electric field. Therefore, the tests and measurements in the factory and on-site (off-line or in-service) should be harmonized. This offers an improvement of on-site test procedures supported by PD measurement.

PD measurements play an important role in both quality assurance tests and monitoring for condition assessment. In contrast to diagnostics of integral dielectric parameters, such as tan δ, ε r and dielectric response,which are characteristics of the whole dielectric volume, partial discharges are related to local insulation defects. Such “weak-points”, are a part of the insulation system, where under certain stress circumstances of e.g. mechanical, chemical, thermal or electrical character a severe PD activity prior breakdown may occur. 

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Fig. 1: Data sampling and recording during the life cycle of HV apparatus 502 T

Fig. 1: Data sampling and recording during the life cycle of HV apparatus





In case of new insulation, critical defects are the result of assembling failures which can be found by a routine test consisting of the HV withstand test combined with PD measurement. In case of the insulation of HV equipment in service (which has been tested successfully and which operates for years) a critical defect might be caused by high electrical, thermal or mechanical stresses or by the “aging” of the insulation itself. This means the partial discharges are symptoms and sometimes also the results of this “integral” process in the volume of the insulation, which causes – over a more or less long

period – the previous mentioned “weak point”. In other words, partial discharges indicate the non-reversible destruction of solid or mixed insulation. This is important for both the detection of production faults by means of quality assurance test and the recognition of weak points/defects caused by aging during service by means of diagnostic tests. Consequently, all HV withstand tests, also if performed on site, should be combined with PD measurement.

During the HV dielectric withstand test, the 

be combined with PD measurement. During the HV dielectric withstand test, the  No. 262 -

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502 T ECHNICAL BROCHURE WG D1.33 Figure 2: Life time characteristic of a solid insulation Figure



Figure 2:

Life time characteristic of a solid insulation

Figure 3:

Test cycle for withstand test with PD measurement

insulation is stressed with the specified test voltage (ut) for a specified time duration (tt), see Figure 1. This test

is successful if the insulation withstands the applied

stress. If a disruptive discharge occurs, the insulation

fails the withstand test, which means the result delivers

a clear answer which does not require any further

interpretation. Therefore the withstand test is a direct

test, which is intended to destroy a defective insulation whereas healthy insulation should pass the test. During an indirect test other parameters, such as the apparent PD is measured. The insulation passes the test when the measured parameter value remains below

a predefined limit during the test. The limit value is

derived from laboratory and field experience, computer simulation based on physical models or simply from an agreement between the utility and manufacturer. The certainty of the interpretation of the on-site test results is very much dependent on how the limit value is originally determined. On-site voltage levels and the test duration should also to be taken into account. In most cases, the certainty of the interpretation from indirect tests is very much lower than those of direct tests.

Additionally it is necessary to consider the life time consumption of a withstand test. Each electrical stress consumes life time, depending on parameters such as

voltage level, test duration and test frequency. A healthy insulation has a higher withstand voltage than insulation with critical defects. A withstand voltage test must be designed in such a way that the life time consumption

of healthy insulation is negligible whereas the voltage is

high enough to cause breakdown in defective insulation (Figure 2).

For non-self-restoring insulation it should be noted that insulation with defects may pass the withstand test with the test stress triggering defects which in time lead to a failure in service. To check the presence of insulation defects, the withstand test should be combined with a sensitive PD measurement (Fig. 3). The voltage should be increased to the highest test voltage value in steps and then decreased in identical steps. The voltage step levels and the time of voltage application on each step can differ when applied to power cables, GIS or power transformers. The PD magnitude at each step (ut) should not exceed a defined limit and the PD inception and extinction voltages should be above the maximum operation voltage. It is recommended that the PD measurement be performed on all voltage steps prior to, during and following the withstand test levels as this may provide an indication of possible damage of the insulation.

The combination of withstand testing and PD measurement is strongly recommended. The test voltage sequence as given in Fig. 3 has been a recommended procedure for quality testing during routine tests for many years (this method cannot be applied to all HV equipment with non-self-restoring insulation however). It is expected that the combination of withstand testing and PD measurement will become mandatory for both routine and on-site tests in future. Additionally, the condition-assessment of insulation should take into account different methods of periodic inspection or monitoring. As a general principle periodic inspections or monitoring should deliver a warning which 

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502 T ECHNICAL BROCHURE Table 2: Test voltages used on-site for various HV apparatus / systems

Table 2: Test voltages used on-site for various HV apparatus / systems






withstand voltage test (e.g. 60 s, AC)



frequency-tuned resonant circuit for AC voltage generation



voltage test with PD measurement



medium voltage



voltage test with dielectric measurement (mainly tan δ), no withstand test






transformer circuit for AC voltage generation

1) applied in the past and no longer recommended



inductance-tuned resonant circuit for AC voltage generation

2) mainly for PD diagnostics

might be followed by a diagnostic off-line test. This test should apply the same procedure of withstand testing and PD measurement as described above. The PD values of that test shall be compared with the reference values (“fingerprints”) of the initial on-site test.

There are many different types of HV apparatus and systems. To be able to test them all requires a wide variety of well adapted mobile HV test facilities including PD measuring equipment. Fig. 4 shows examples of a selection of the HV test facilities outlining the type of test object, the purpose of the on-site test, methods of handling and the cost requirements. A main aspect should be that the test voltage should represent stresses in service. Related aspects are given in chapters 4 and 5.

Clear guidelines for the requirements of the test voltages to be applied are given in IEC 60060-1 and 60060-2 for routine testing and in IEC 60060-3 for on-site testing. For installations which have been in service, lower voltages and/or shorter durations may be used. These test values should be fixed, taking into account the age, environment, history of breakdowns, and the purpose of carrying out this test, as there is not a general principle for the value of the on-site test voltage levels for all type of HV apparatus. The test voltage levels required for insulation coordination are only related to new insulation, and any similar coordination

for in-service insulation is not currently available.

Furthermore, it is important to coordinate the quality assurance tests (routine tests in factory, commissioning tests on-site, and tests after repair) and the diagnostic tests (off-line or on-line). The results of measurements of partial discharges, dissipation factor and other quantities of quality tests are used as the references (“fingerprints”) for later diagnostic tests and measurements. Records of repeated measurements may be used to show trends (e.g. PD magnitudes, pulse rate/s, etc.) which present the most important information for condition assessment. All this enables the establishment of the “life cycle record” (Fig. 1) for important HV equipment as the reference for condition based maintenance (CBM).

The brochure is organized in six chapters. In chapter 2, titled “High Voltage Sources and Accessories for On-Site Applications” the general requirements for on-site test voltages as published by CIGRE WG 33.03/

TF 04 and published in ELECTRA No. 195 (2000) are up-dated with the state of the art of test voltages, used for PD measurements (continuous alternating voltage (AC); damped alternating voltage (DAC), very-low frequency voltage (VLF)). A survey on the application of these test voltages for various HV apparatus is given

in Table 2.


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Chapter 3, “On-site PD Measurements”, presents actual aspects of PD detection, measurement, noise reduction and PD evaluation including identification and localisation of defects in the insulation. In this context it should be noted, that recently an application guide on PD measurements in compliance with IEC 60270 was published as TB No. 366. Moreover, another TB by CIGRE WG D1.33, which deals with so-called non-conventional PD detection methods, should be mentioned here. Therefore, the fundamentals of both conventional and non-conventional PD detection techniques are only briefly presented, whereas practical experiences gained from on-site PD tests are discussed more in detail in this brochure.

Chapter 4, “Preconditions for On-Site Testing Including PD Measurement”, gives a short list of information with the aim to help in the selection of optimised HV test systems and test procedures for any kind of on-site test. The list is subdivided into



three parts referring to the characteristics of the HV component under test and its installation, the aim and requirements of the test as well as the characteristics of the HV test system to be applied.



Various examples of HV on-site tests in combination with PD measurements are given in chapter 5, “Examples of Test and Measuring Techniques for Apparatus and Systems”. Each example includes the description of the HV test sources, the PD measurement methods and the test procedures for on-site PD tests on GIS, power cables, rotating machines and power transformers.

Chapter 6, “Conclusions”, summarizes the most important aspects of on-site testing with PD measurement as follows:

1. HV withstand testing plays an important role in quality assurance of HV apparatus. 


Figure 1.4: Examples for HV tests with PD measurement


400 kV GIS by ACRF (frequency tuned resonant circuit) test system of modular reactors via bushing


400 kV GIS by ACRF test system with directly flanged reactor


150 kV HV cable system by DAC test system


400 kV/433 MVA power transformer by static frequency converter

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volume, partial discharges are “weak point






phenomena” as it is also the electric breakdown.








In case of the new insulation, the critical








defects/weak points are e.g. the result of an





electrical insulation.

assembling failure which can be found by a routine test consisting of the HV withstand

2. As







test including PD measurement. In case of

generation on site

which can be applied

the insulation of HV equipment in service

for withstand

testing combined with PD

(which has been tested successfully and

measurements, the


brochure discusses

which operates for years) a critical defect

and presents those various and commonly

might be caused by high electrical, thermal




and PD measurement

or mechanical stresses and by

techniques developed for

on-site tests.

the “aging” of the insulation itself.



3. In this context PD measurements play an important role in both quality testing and monitoring for condition assessment. As opposed to most dielectric measurements (tan δ, εr, dielectric response parameters) which are characteristics of the whole dielectric

4. It is expected that HV on-site testing with PD measurement will play an increasing role for the improvement of the reliability of equipment for electric power generation, transmission and distribution.


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