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Voltage Surge

in electrical engineering, a voltage rise that endangers the insulation of electric equipment. A
correct calculation of voltage surges is of great economic and practical importance in the
selection of insulation and of measures for power-supply system protection, particularly for
voltages above 10 kilovolts (kV). There are two types of voltage surgeslightning surges and
system-generated surges.
System-generated voltage surges. System-generated voltage surges are surges that appear in
electric equipment when abrupt changes occur in operating conditions. The principal causes are
switching events such as the connection or disconnection of a current and short-circuiting to
ground. Switching is accompanied by transient processes, after which new operating conditions
are established within the system. Consequently, a distinction is made between brief, switching
surges lasting several microseconds or tens of microseconds and prolonged surges that occur
under steady-state conditions.
Switching surges can be produced by the repeated igniting and extinguishing of electric arcs in
circuits with capacitive susceptance. Such voltage surges are obtained, for example, in
disconnecting unloaded lines or by the grounding through an arc of one of the phases of a three-
phase system with an insulated neutral conductor. In a certain approximation, an unloaded line
can be considered to be a capacitance (Figure 1, a). When such a line is disconnected, an arc
ignited between the contacts of the switch K will be extinguished when the arc current is passing
through its zero value and the source voltage is passing through its maximum value (Figure 1,b).
When the arc is extinguished, the capacitance C is disconnected from the source and remains
charged at the maximum voltage. Should the arc in the switch be ignited again after half a
period, when the source voltage will have changed its polarity, the capacitance C will be
recharged through the inductance of the source L
. The arc may be again extinguished at the
moment when the voltage is at its maximum and the recharging current has the value zero. In this
case, the capacitance, disconnected from the source, will be charged with a voltage three times as
great as before. If, after another half-period, the arc is again ignited, and extinguished, the line
voltage will reach the value 5U
, where U
is the phase voltage of the line. Voltage surges in
real lines are limited by good disconnecting capabilities of switches and by effective losses and
do not exceed 3.5U
. Voltage surges arising when one phase of a three-phase system is
grounded through an arc are of a similar nature and also involve the accumulation of charges in
the conductors of the line.

Figure 1. Formation of voltage surges when an unloaded line is disconnected: (a) equivalent
circuit of an unloaded line, (b) dependence of the instantaneous values of the arc current i and the
line voltage u
on the time t given a sinusoidal source voltage u
; (K) switch, (L
) source
inductance, (C) capacitance of the unloaded line
When inductive loads, such as unloaded transformers, induction motors, reactors, and mercury
rectifiers during current breaks, are disconnected, the switching voltage surges that occur are a
consequence of the abrupt reduction of current in the inductance and of the release of the
electromagnetic energy stored in the inductance. Were a truly instantaneous interruption of
current to occur, all of the stored energy would be used to charge the self-capacitance of the
inductive load with respect to the ground (Figure 2,a). For this case, the amplitude of the voltage
surge u
can be determined from the energy conservation equation

In reality, the current in the coil does not disappear instantaneously. The surge attains its
maximum value at the moment when the decrease of current occurs at a maximum rate. The
surge then diminishes to zero in a sequence of damped oscillations (Figure 2,b).
A special case of voltage surges occurs in superconducting solenoids when the winding material
undergoes the transition from the superconducting state to the nonsuperconducting state and the
effective resistance of the solenoid abruptly increases from zero to some finite magnitude. The
initial current in the solenoid cannot decrease abruptly; hence, at the moment of transition, a
potential difference builds up across the terminals of the solenoid. This difference can be as high
as several hundred kV.
Switching surges that occur upon making a connection to a line are associated with the
development of a transient process in the oscillatory circuit formed by the capacitance of the line
and by the inductances of the line, transformers, and generators. Particularly large surges occur
in automatic reconnection. In this case, after a disconnection, for example, after a single-phase
short circuit, the capacitance of the undamaged phases of the line remains charged. Upon
reconnection, the oscillatory circuit (the line) with the previously charged capacitance is
connected to the current source (the generator).

Figure 2. Formation of voltage surges when an inductance is disconnected: (a) equivalent circuit,
(b) dependence of the current i in the inductance and of the voltage u across the inductance on
the time t; (U
) source voltage, (K) switch, (L) inductive load, (C) intrinsic capacitance of the
load, (u
) maximum value of the voltage u
Voltage surges under steady-state conditions are associated with the capacitance effect in linear
circuits and with resonance at the fundamental frequency or at the higher harmonics. An example
of such a surge is the voltage rise that occurs in non-loaded power lines when the natural
of the source-line system is close to the frequency of the voltage source
. If

, resonance occurs and a surge is consequently generated. Such surges are possible in
long power lines that operate at voltages of 330 kV or higher. Resonance at the fundamental
frequency can also occur if one of the phases of a three-phase AC line is interrupted and
grounded and a lightly loaded transformer is connected to the end of the line (Figure 3,a). At
higher harmonics, a resonance can occur, for example, if there is a single-phase or two-phase
short circuit to ground in a line fed from a salient-pole generator. During such short circuits,
higher harmonics of the voltage appear at the terminals of the generator. These harmonics can
cause resonance in the circuit that consists of the inductance of the generator and the capacitance
of the undamaged phases of the line. In nonsalientpole generators and in generators equipped
with damper windings, surges of this type do not arise.

Figure 3. Interruption and grounding of one phase of a three-phase line that feeds a lightly loaded
transformer: (a) three-phase circuit, (b) equivalent single-phase circuit; (U
) phase voltage, (Tr)
transformer, (L) inductance of transformer windings, (C) capacitance of line, (U
) maximum
value of voltage
System-generated voltage surges usually do not present a danger to the insulation of electric
equipment that is operated at 220 kV or less; lightning surges are a more important factor for
such equipment. For equipment operated at or above 330 kV it becomes necessary to limit
system-generated voltage surges. A lowering of switching surges can be achieved by using
specially designed valve dischargers, by using switches equipped with shunt resistors, and by
controlling the moment of switching. To limit the surges that occur under steady-state
conditions, electric shunt reactors are also used.
Lightning surges. Lightning surges are voltage surges that are associated with lightning
discharges either directly into the current-carrying parts of electric equipment (direct-strike
surges) or into the ground adjacent to the equipment (induced surges). In a direct strike all of the
lightning current passes into the ground through the struck object. The voltage drop across the
resistance of the object also creates a surge that can be as great as several megavolts. The
duration of voltage surge caused by a direct lightning stroke is smallof the order of several
tens of microseconds. It is possible, however, for several lightning discharges to follow the same
path. The insulation of very high voltage electric equipment is not capable of withstanding a
direct lightning stroke. For reliable operation of the equipment it is necessary to implement a
number of protective measures. Induced surges arise in the wires of power lines as a result of an
abrupt change in the electromagnetic field near the ground at the time of a lightning stroke. The
amplitude of the induced surges usually does not exceed 400500 kV; such surges present a
danger only to equipment with a voltage rating of 35 kV or less.