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CIGR 1996 : 21/22-01

COMPARISON OF OVERHEAD LINES AND UNDERGROUND CABLES FOR ELECTRICITY TRANSMISSION


by Joint Working Group 21/22-01*

SUMMARY High voltage transmission lines are the subject of increasing public opposition and continuous demands that they be undergrounded. CIGRE Study Committees 21 and 22 set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) to compare high voltage transmission lines and underground cables so that the latest technical developments and current practices in different countries pertaining to both overhead lines and underground cables could be determined and the findings published. The report of the JWG and its associated guidelines are being finalised and this paper gives a preview of the main findings. This paper identifies the factors to be considered when comparing overhead lines and underground cables. It also reports on the analysis of the responses to a questionnaire to utilities in the 19 member countries of the JWG. This analysis together with the knowledge and experience of the JWG members is the basis for the conclusions set out in the paper. KEYWORDS High Voltage, Overhead Line, Underground Cable.

1. INTRODUCTION In todays world, all promoters of new projects can expect to be questioned by legislators, planning authorities, community groups and members of the public not only on the need for their project, but also on the manner in which it is to be executed. In most countries, environmental protection legislation has been enacted which prescribes strict procedures for an environmental impact assessment of a project as part of its planning permission application process. High voltage transmission projects are no exception and overhead transmission lines in particular have become one of the focal points for public opposition with the invariable question: Why cant they be undergrounded? Mindful of this question, CIGRE Study Committees 21 and 22 set up a Joint Working Group, JWG 21/22-01, titled Comparison of Overhead Lines and HV Cables to study the matter and to prepare a report. The JWG report and guidelines are being finalised and the publication is expected later in 1996.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________ * Members of the Joint Working Group: R. Miller (Australia), G. Bischur (Austria), A. Pauquet (Belgium), M Hartley/Y. Motlis (Canada), C. Holleriis (Denmark), M. Torikka (Finland), R. Fieux/S. Sin (France), F. Selle (Germany), P. Ahluwalia (India), M. McMahon, Convenor ** (Ireland), P. Nicolini (Italy), K. Sasaki/T. Fujita (Japan), A. Wiersma (Netherlands), B. Dag Evensen (Norway), E. Palazuelos Berto (Spain), C. Olsson (Sweden), P. de Weck (Switzerland), R. Jackson (United Kingdom), S. Cluts/M. Conroy (United States of America). ** ESBI Engineering Ltd, Stephen Court, 18/21 St Stephens Green, Dublin 2, IRELAND.

The objective of this paper is to inform CIGREmembers of the main findings of the work of the 19 member JWG over the last 3 years. The terms of reference of the JWG were: to identify the various factors to be considered when proposing to partly or wholly underground 110kV or higher voltage transmission lines, to prepare and issue a questionnaire to utilities to obtain information on their general philosophy and practice on undergrounding, to analyse the results of the questionnaire, to prepare guidelines on overhead line undergrounding options, including factors which influence relative costs, for various transmission voltage levels, which would be of assistance to utilities in planning routes for transmission circuits and in negotiating planning permissions and wayleaves with the relevant authorities. Within the time constraints the JWG members, decided to limit the comparison to alternating current transmission circuits in the range from 110kV to less than 765kV and not to consider Life Cycle Cost Analysis. Early in the course of their deliberations the members agreed that the key factors in the comparison were:planning and operation environmental technical costs

2. PLANNING AND OPERATION Under this heading data on existing, approved and planned overhead lines, underground and submarine cables was sought. Utilities were asked to indicate their policy on undergrounding and to give their reasons for using or taking underground cables into consideration for specific projects. They were also asked if in mixed networks they enhanced the network current carrying capacity by installing reactors, and what influence repair time had on network planning. Finally, requirements for planning of transmission systems, both, overhead and underground were requested. 2.1 Network Data

The analysis indicates that of over 800,000 km of transmission circuits less than 14,000 km or 1.7% are undergrounded. The percentage undergrounded decreases with increasing voltage but is estimated to increase for approved and planned transmission circuits to be constructed in the future. The following table 1 gives the percentage of undergrounded cables relative to total transmission circuits for the three voltage ranges considered. Table 1 - Percentage Undergrounded voltage range 110-219kV 220-362kV 363-764kV existing circuits 2.7% 1.0% 0.27% approved circuits 10% 1.7% 0.4% planned circuits 18% 4.0% 0.8%

To obtain the relevant information from utilities on these key factors a questionnaire was prepared and circulated early in 1994 to all of the JWG members for distribution to the utilities in their respectitive countries. The questionnaire contained 280 questions many of which were answered by simply indicating a 0, 1, 2 or 3 ranking as follows:0123no importance low importance high importance compulsory

Reactors are not generally installed to improve the current carrying capacity in mixed transmission networks. 2.2 Undergrounding Policy

The information was requested for three voltage ranges namely: 123110 - 219 kV 220 - 362 kV 363 - 764 kV

The policy of most utilities is to: Underground only when it is not possible to build overhead lines, for example in central city areas; underground only up to 400kV and then only for relatively short lengths - a few kilometers. The most important reasons stated for undergrounding in over 50 different transmission projects were:Public debate Environmental reason Topographical reason Technical reason - stated 31 times - stated 29 times - stated 17 times - stated 17 times

so that the influence of voltage level could be determined. A total of 58 utilities from the 19 member countries responded. Each member collated the responses from his countrys utilities so that the national response was derived and considered by the JWG. Their main findings are given in the following sections of this report.

National laws, company policies and construction or erection times did not emerge as being deciding factors.

2.3

System Planning and Operation

System planning has as its objective the development of a transmission network of sufficient capacity with high availability and reliability. A requirement to underground or partially underground a circuit has significant system planning implications. Permanent fault repair times are generally much longer for underground cables than overhead lines. In most countries this does not, however, have a significant influence on network planning due to the small amount of cable in the network. Underground cables have lower impedances than their equivalent overhead lines and this may result in higher fault current levels and possible downgrading of protection relaying selectivity. System planning is subject to design criteria. Typically the (n-1) criterion is used. This means that any line or busbar can be disconnected due to a fault without any customer interruptions and without any network component overload. It is assumed that the repair time is so short that no other fault will occur in the network before the faulty component is taken into operation again. This is the case with overhead lines but may not apply for underground cables. It is important to note that the replacement of an existing overhead line with a cable in a meshed transmission network should be analysed from a system planning viewpoint with particular regard to availability and protection operation. The legal requirement to provide a safe and reliable power supply must also be considered in addition to environmental constraints and costs when comparing overhead line and underground cable options. 3. ENVIRONMENT To assess the environmental impact of overhead power lines and underground cables many aspects (e.g.: land occupation, limitation of land use, visual impact on the landscape, possible physical and chemical pollution, etc) must be considered. The problem is further complicated by the fact that for most of these aspects

only a qualitative evaluation can be made. In addition, during the last decade, most industrialised countries have witnessed increased public concern regarding the construction of power lines including alleged health effects linked to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields. [1] The increased sensitivity of the public to environmental issues is also an important factor in forcing standardisation organisations, local authorities and governments to develop standards and policies. There is also a widespread tendency on the part of the public and some environmentalists to seek the replacement of power lines with underground cables, thus highlighting that there is a serious lack of information about the economical, technical and even environmental reasons which severely inhibit the adoption of this solution. An analysis of the results of the questionnaire indicates that in the case of electric and magnetic fields, only about half of the countries specify limits and these are generally per the IRPA guidelines. In this context it is worth noting that an European draft standard ENV 50166-1, which fixes exposure limits for workers and the general public to electromagnetic fields has recently been endorsed by CENELEC. No country indicated minimum building distances from cables for environmental reasons and only four countries have established minimum distances for overhead lines. Only four countries have classified zones or locations where the building of overhead lines is not permitted. Cables are, however, not excluded from such zones. Most countries permit building and tree planting, with obvious height restrictions, under lines and as many as 13 countries indicated that it was not allowed to build or plant trees over cables. As shown in Fig. 1 in terms of the previously mentioned rankings, the points of greatest public concern regarding overhead lines were visual impact, magnetic field effects and depreciation of land values. Concerns about underground cables were significantly lower and centered on magnetic field effects, ground occupation and depreciation of land values.

visual impact magnetic field effects land depreciation electric field effects ground occupation effects on forests and natural environment security effects on agriculture effects on cattle audible noise radio interference 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5

cables lines

Fig. 1 - Points of greatest concern about lines and cables (rankings: 0=no importance; 1=low importance; 2=high importance; 3=compulsory). The question on construction duration and areas affected produced very dispersed replies, however, the main temporary impacts for overhead lines was perceived as damage to agricultural and wildlife plantations while those for cables were road obstruction with consequent inconvenience to the public. The permanent restrictions on land use by overhead lines related to buildings and air traffic while those for cables were buildings and land cultivation. 4. TECHNICAL For the transmission of electric power, air-insulated overhead lines are mostly employed at high and extra high voltages. Underground cables are mostly employed at low and medium voltages within urban localities and within the precincts of power plants and other installations. 4.1 Overhead Lines 4.3.2 Reactive Charging Current An overhead line comprises air-insulated conductors generally supported on lattice steel towers with insulator strings. Single or multi conductors are used per phase depending on the transmission voltage and the power transmitted. 4.2 Underground Cables The large capacitance of cables produces charging current, which can cause voltage rise (Ferranti effect) and adversely affect generator stability. The charging current increases with length of cable installed and to combat its effect expensive shunt reactors may be required at one or both ends of the circuit. 4.3.3 Load Sharing In a complex network consisting of multiple paths including underground cable circuits parallel to overhead lines the cables will tend to carry a disproportionate amount of the load unless control measures are taken. These measures include phase regulating transformers and compensation devices to equalise the relative impedances.

High pressure oil-filled pipe type paper insulated cables (HPOF).

Solid dielectric insulated cables are simpler in design, easier to install and do not require expensive facilities to maintain oil pressures. 4.3 Characteristics

4.3.1 Dielectric Losses High voltage underground cables produce dielectric losses in the insulation. These losses increase with the square of voltage. At 400 kV, they can be greater than twenty per cent of the thermal rating. These no-load losses occur whenever the cable is energised. Corresponding overhead line losses are much lower.

Underground transmission cables are generally directly buried underground or installed in underground ducts, tunnels or steel pipes. There are three principal types of transmission cables Solid dielectric insulated cables (EPR, XLPE ) Self-contained oil-filled paper insulated cables (SCOF).

4.3.4 Availability Outages on overhead lines are caused primarily by flashovers due to lightning strikes, switching surges, accidental contact and insulation contamination [2]. Outages of underground cables are caused primarily by dig-ins and faults at terminations and joints. Most outages on overhead lines are temporary and the lines are restored to service by automatic reclosers. Outages to underground cables are generally lengthy as it may take days or weeks to undertake the necessary repairs [3]. 4.3.5 Ratings On overhead lines the continuous thermal rating is determined by design temperature. Long overhead lines are operated near their surge impedance loading (SIL) for reasons of economy and stability. Short lines are often operated up to their thermal limits which are typically 2 to 3 times their SIL. Underground cable rating is determined by the deterioration temperature of insulation. An underground cable has a greater thermal inertia than an overhead conductor and thus has a greater short-time overload capacity. 4.3.6 Reliability Overhead lines are subject to more frequent short duration outages which are usually restored by automatic reclosers. Underground cables may have, fewer incidents, but these result in outages of longer duration. The availability of overhead lines is thus superior to underground cables. 4.3.7 Uprating and Upgrading Existing overhead lines can often be uprated or upgraded by replacing conductors or by increasing their voltage level. This uprating or upgrading is not generally practical with an underground cable circuit.

times were considered by most utilities to be important while weather conditions, overvoltages, differences in losses and short circuit levels were not considered important when comparing overhead lines and underground cables. 5. COSTS Studies of overhead line and underground cable costs frequently concentrate on the capital or investment cost of purchasing and installing specific circuit lengths of these plant items used for transmitting electricity and this report is no exception. It is, however, recognised that apart from the immediate financial investment there are other costs which are incurred throughout the life of an installed line or cable. Principal amongst these are the operating and maintenance costs and the cost of losses. The former have generally been found to be a relatively small component of the total costs whereas the cost of losses can be more significant depending on the amount of power that is transmitted over the life of the line or cable. The latter is, therefore, a very variable quantity and a considerable depth of analysis is necessary for its determination. For this reason it has not been possible to report on this component of costs within the time constraints of the JWG. When an attempt is being made to present an international picture of overhead line and underground cable capital costs, there are many variables which reflect the different historical practices used by countries. This is both in the design and manufacture of overhead lines and underground cables and the particular statutory or regulatory requirements that such transmission links may have to meet. Thus, in some countries it is practice that the land traversed by lines and/or cables is purchased and then owned by the utility and this is part of the overall cost. This can vary from country to country depending on the price of land and there are also other different practices such as an annual payment for land rental.

With such a range of factors which have a potential influence on costs it is impossible within the timescale to do other than attempt to draw some general observations which are a guide when comparing 4.4 Questionnaire Findings overhead lines and underground cables on an international scale. More detailed studies which refine The replies to many of the technical queries in the this process and which take greater account of some of questionnaire were diverse. However, the availability of the variables mentioned here have been undertaken in right of ways, power transmission capacity and repair some countries and these have been valuable to the Table 2 - Summary of International Capital Cost Data Voltage Range Mean MVA/circuit Mean Line Cost $/km/MVA Mean Cable Cost $/km/MVA Cost Ratio Spread 110 - 219 kV 200 820 6100 7 3.6 - 16 220 - 362 kV 600 390 4900 13 5.1 - 21.1 363 - 764 kV 1800 255 4700 18 13.6 - 33.3

JWG in identifying those factors of major relevance to costs and which, therefore, have to be included in the survey. The results of the questionnaire dealing with the relative capital costs of purchasing and installing overhead lines and underground cables have been carefully examined. With such a range of factors which have a potential influence on costs it might be supposed that it is impossible to provide any clear data from which to draw conclusions. However, some fairly clear generic information can be deduced which is presented in Table 2. Again it is stressed that the information can only be regarded as a guideline and particular cases may depart significantly from the average. The table encapsulates some important albeit well recognised fundamentals of the economics of transporting electricity and in so doing identifies the differences between overhead and underground. In the case of overhead lines, the capital cost per MVA of power transmitted falls substantially with increase in voltage level (820$/MVA through 390$/MVA to 255$/MVA). The extra cost of taller towers and longer insulators is a relatively small oncost when the increased power transmitted is taken into consideration thus resulting in a fall in the cost when expressed in $/MVA. The situation is different for insulated cables because the applied voltage generates heat in the insulation. The higher the voltage, the greater the heat produced. In addition, the more insulation there is around the conductor, the more difficult it is for the heat to escape into the ground, where the cable is normally buried. The ability of the cable to transmit electricity is reduced as a consequence and the conductor has to be made larger to compensate. When such large high voltage cables are buried in the ground they must be kept quite far apart to avoid mutual heating and this means large trenches have to be excavated. The consequence is that the extra cost of an underground cable installation is more significant as the voltage level is raised and there is a smaller drop in $/MVA (6100$/MVA through 4900$/MVA to 4700$/MVA). 6. CONCLUSIONS The results and analysis of the questionnaire and the views and experience of the JWG members can be summarised under the following headings: 6.1 System Planning Long term overloads are more critical for cables than overhead lines. If a cable is operated with a heavy overload, it ages faster and may be damaged. Typical repair times are much longer for cables than for overhead lines, thus the system planning approach will be different if cables are introduced into meshed transmission networks consisting primarily of overhead lines.

When planning transmission networks the comparison of overhead lines and underground cables has to be a continuing process embracing operational experiences and technical, environmental, costs and regulatory developments. 6.2 Environmental Constraints and Policies Overhead lines and to a lesser extent underground cables have environmental implications. In many cases, remedial actions can be taken to reduce the effects on the environment. The main problem for utilities seems to be that of developing suitable courses of action aimed at increasing public acceptability by providing precise information on the economical, technical and environmental aspects of overhead lines and underground cables. It is particularly important that the public be advised of the internationally accepted exposure limits for power-frequency electric and magnetic fields, audible noise, and radio and TV interference. They should also be advised of any constraints on land use, impact on the environment during construction, operation and maintenance, visual impact and possible effects on the ecosystem. 6.3 Technical Due principally to the long time required to repair faults on high voltage underground cables, they are on average out of service for longer periods than overhead lines. This, however, does not have a significant effect on present day systems because of the relatively small amounts of underground cables installed. Unlike overhead lines it is impractical to uprate most underground cable circuits. Overhead lines generally have shorter construction times but longer planning permission times than underground cables. 6.4 Comparative Costs Transmission of electricity at high voltage by underground cables is significantly more costly than by overhead line. The disparity in cost increases with the voltage and for the highest voltage range considered (363-764kV), it is on average 18 times more expensive to go underground rather than overhead. 6.5 Future Perspectives Utilities will continue to seek to plan new transmission links using overhead lines and to reserve undergrounding to those situations where it is either impracticable to deploy overhead lines or where amenity considerations are so overwhelming that serious consideration needs to be given to undergrounding. Experience indicates that undergrounding; particularly at the higher voltage levels and notwithstanding the development of new cable types and installation techniques, will, because of its high cost and complexity, continue to be confined to relatively short lengths.

7 [1]

References Electric power transmission and the environment: fields, noise and interference (Working Group 36.01 CIGRE publication No 74 1993) Guide for analysis of failure data of lines (Electra No 126 October 1989) overhead

[2] [3]

Survey on the service performance of h.v.a.c cable systems (Electra No 137 August 1991)