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Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Ground Resistance Computations Using the


Numerical Electromagnetics Code (NEC)
J. Patrick Donohoe, Ph.D., P.E.
Professor
Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Mississippi State University
Steel Distribution Pole Forum
Reston, Virginia
May 17, 2002

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Objectives:
(1) Use the Numerical Electromagnetics Code
(NEC-4) to accurately determine the ground
resistance of steel poles.
(2) Compare the computed ground resistance
of a steel distribution pole to that of
commonly used grounding electrodes
(ground rods, concrete piles).

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Numerical Electromagnetics Code (NEC-4)
l Code Description
! Designed for analyzing antennas and scatterers
! Method of moments solution
! Electric field integral equation (frequency domain)
l Code Features
! Versatile geometry input

(straight segments for wires, flat patches for surfaces)


! Solution algorithm applicable to electrically small
structures (low frequency)
! Allows for perfect conductors and/or conductors of
finite conductivity
! Allows for lossy ground planes and conductors that
penetrate the ground plane

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Definitions
ANSI / IEEE Std 81-1983 IEEE Guide for Measuring Earth
Resistivity, Ground Impedance, and Earth Surface
Potentials of a Ground System
Ground Resistance (of a grounding electrode) the ohmic
resistance between the grounding electrode and a remote
grounding electrode of zero resistance.
A remote grounding electrode is sufficiently distant that the
mutual resistance between the two electrodes is zero.
Mutual Resistance (of grounding electrodes) the voltage change
in one electrode produced by a change of one ampere of
direct current in the other, expressed in ohms.

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Components of the Electrode Ground Resistance
IEEE Std 142-1982 IEEE Recommended Practice for
Grounding of Industrial and Commercial Power Systems
1. Resistance of the electrode
2. Contact resistance between the electrode and the soil
3. Resistance of the soil from the electrode surface outward

Resistance components (1) and (2) are very small in


comparison to component (3).
Resistance components (1) and (3) are included in
NEC-4 analysis.

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Components of the Electrode Ground Resistance
(Equivalent Current Carrying Capability)
Steel
Pole
40 ft. Class 5
(40G5)
45 ft. Class 3
(45SX3)
65 ft. Class 2
(65EP2)

Wall
Thickness

Cross
Sectional
Area*

Resistance
per unit
length

0.10 in.

12.127 cm 2

107.20 /m

0.12 in.

142.127 cm 2

87.63 /m

0.162 in.

19.414 cm 2

66.96 /m

Equivalent
copper
conductor
350 MCM
(19 strand)
400 MCM
(19 strand)
500 MCM
(37 strand)

0.507 V

* Cross sectional area is determined 5 ft. from the pole top

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Methods of Measuring Ground Impedance
ANSI / IEEE Std 81-1983
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Two-Point Method
Three-Point Method
Ratio Method
Staged Fault Tests
Fall-of-Potential Method

Modeled with NEC- 4

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Fall-of-Potential Method
z

Vo
+

s
+

Ground
electrode

R(x) =

V(x)

Voltage
probe

V(x)
I

Current
electrode

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Code Validation
NEC-4 is used to determine the ground resistance of a
10 ft. steel ground rod (5/8 in. diameter) for different soil
types. The computed ground resistances are compared
with results obtained using the analytical formula.

62% Rule - Using the fall-of-potential method under


ideal conditions, the measured resistance should
match the theoretical ground resistance at a distance of
0.618s.

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Fall-of-Potential Method
10ft. (5/8 in. diameter) Ground Rod
1
Ground rod
location

0.9

Current electrode
location

0.8

V(x) (Volts)

0.7

Voltage probe
location

0.6
V(0.618s)

0.5
0.4
0.3

s=30.48m (100 ft)

0.2

0.618s=18.84m (61.8 ft)

0.1
0
-5

10

15

x (m)

20

25

30

35

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Alternative Fall-of-Potential Method
z

Vo

s
R(x) =

V(x)

Voltage
probe

V(x)
I

Ground
electrode

Current
electrode

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Alternative Fall-of-Potential Method
10ft. (5/8 in. diameter) Ground Rod
1
Current electrode
location

0.9
0.8

V(x) (Volts)

0.7
0.6

Voltage probe
location

Ground rod
location

0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0
-125

-100

-75

-50

-25

x (m)

25

50

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Grounding Resistances of Typical Ground Rods
Length Radius

Soil
Type

Rcomputed Ranalytical

10 ft

5/8 in

sand

0.443 V

1.46 mA

304

311

10 ft

5/8 in

clay

0.443 V

33.7 mA 13.1

13.4

8 ft

5/8 in

sand

0.489 V

1.33 mA

368

375

8 ft

5/8 in

clay

0.489 V

30.9 mA 15.8

16.2

8 ft

1/2 in

sand

0.500 V

1.31 mA

382

389

8 ft

1/2 in

clay

0.500 V

30.4 mA 16.4

16.8

0.507 V

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Current Density Surrounding a 10ft. (5/8 in. diameter)
Steel Ground Rod in Sand (total current = 1A)

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Outside diameter at pole top
0.133 m (5.25 in)

Steel thickness
3.05 mm (0.12 in)
10.4 m (34 ft)

40 ft. Class 3
Steel Pole
Outside diameter at groundline
0.303 m (11.93 in)

1.83 m (6 ft)
Outside diameter at pole base
0.333m (13.11 in)

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NEC-4 Steel Pole Modeling Issues
l Pole Taper
! NEC allows for tapered conductors.
! The conductor radius must be constant for conductors
that penetrate the air/soil interface.
The steel pole is modeled as a straight conductor with radius
equal to the mean radius of the tapered pole below ground
[6.26 in. (0.159m) for the 40 ft. class 3 steel pole].
l Below Grade Protection (Insulation)
! NEC allows for insulated conductors.
! NEC does not allow for insulated conductors below

the air/soil interface.


An upper limit on the grounding resistance of the coated steel
pole is determined by modeling only the bare portion of pole
below ground.

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Grounding Resistance of a Coated Steel Pole

db

Coated portion
Bare pole
(Rbare)
Bare portion

db

Rcoated < Rbare


Coated pole
(Rcoated )

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Computed Grounding Resistances (Upper Bounds)
for Partially Coated Steel Poles
Length of
bare
portion (d b)

Soil
Type

Rbare

Length of
bare
portion (db)

Soil
Type

Rbare

6 ft

sand

213

6 ft

clay

9.20

5 ft

sand

239

5 ft

clay

10.3

4 ft

sand

269

4 ft

clay

11.7

3 ft

sand

310

3 ft

clay

13.4

2 ft

sand

366

2 ft

clay

15.8

1 ft

sand

465

1 ft

clay

20.3

0.507 V

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


NEC-4 Concrete Pile Modeling Issues
l Inhomogeneous Ground (Concrete/soil)
! NEC does not allow for an inhomogeneous ground.
! The conductivity of concrete is lower than the average
conductivities of sand or clay. The conductivity of
concrete is comparable to dry sand.
A lower limit on the grounding resistance of the concrete
pile is determined by computing the grounding resistance
of the bare conductors in homogeneous soil.

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Grounding Resistance of a Concrete Pile

Rbare < Rpile


Steel
conductors in
concrete

Concrete pile
(Rpile)

Steel
conductors in
soil

Bare Conductors
(Rbare)

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Computed Grounding Resistances (Lower Bounds)
for the Concrete Pile
Concrete Pile Details
All conductors in. diameter steel
Vertical conductors 6 ft. in length
Horizontal conductors 1 ft. diameter circles

Soil
Type

Rbare

sand

243

clay

10.6
0.507 V

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Sand

Clay

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Conclusions
l A 40 ft. class 3 steel pole with between 3 and 4 feet of

buried bare length offers equivalent grounding


capability to a 10 ft. (5/8 in. diameter) ground rod.
l A 40 ft. class 3 steel pole with approximately 2 feet of

buried bare length offers equivalent grounding


capability to an 8 ft. (5/8 in. diameter) ground rod.
l A 40 ft. class 3 steel pole with between 1 and 2 feet of

buried bare length offers equivalent grounding


capability to a 8 ft. (1/2 in. diameter) ground rod.
l A 40 ft. class 3 steel pole with between 4 and 5 feet of

buried bare length offers equivalent grounding


capability to the concrete pile.

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Conclusions
l The steel pole grounding equivalencies computed here are

very conservative given the assumptions made in the steel


pole and concrete pile modeling.
l More precise numbers for the steel pole grounding

equivalencies could be computed using a custom code


developed especially for this purpose.