In the context of electrical earthing or grounding. Electrical earthing protection defined as the Protective Earthing of electrical installations at low voltage, i.e. <1,000V AC as described in Electrical Earthing Standards BS 7430.
In this case study, we take a look at a few challenges we came across while designing the HV Earthing and Lightning Protection systems for a 9MW Energy from Waste Plant in Europe.
Case Study Low Voltage & High Voltage Electrical Earthing Protection – At an EFW Plant
- Combined High Voltage HV and Low Voltage LV
- Finite volumes of differing geology affecting earth resistivity
- High soil conduction due to low resistivity geology
- Frequent foot-traffic by the public
- Moderately high Fault Levels
The design intent for the 9MW EFW plant was to provide a buried combined HV and LV global earth arrangement that would grade out all hazardous surface potentials across the entire site. The rationale behind this, the site had a relatively high HV feed-in fault level and the facility enjoys frequent visits from the public (foot-traffic) across a wide area of the site, as they go about their business getting rid of the weekly trash.
These findings meant doing a detailed earthing study and assessment of the Rise of Earth Potential to model what happens from an imported HV fault to ensure the downstream electrical earthing protection is adequately provisioned to cope so the general public remain unaffected.
Once the main electrode had been designed to keep touch potential and step potentials to within permissible levels. The above-ground electrical earthing protection (protective earthing) was designed maintaining equipotentiality between structures, and equipment sufficiently to handle fault conditions and/or a lightning attachment (BS EN 62305).
The ampacity of the bonding conductors had to be correctly sized to handle the full lightning current characterised in BS EN 62305 as well as being able to cope with the relevant portion of fault current predicted in certain areas, without exceeding thermal limits.
For the remaining electrical earthing protection that was not going to be subjected to full lightning current or primary faults, was installed with bonding to BS 7671.
So the electrical earthing procedure looked something like:
High Voltage Earthing Study to BS EN 50522
Lightning Protection to BS EN 62305
Protective Earthing to BS 7430
Electrical Earthing Protection to BS 7671
One of the main benefits with a global earthing system is tying everything to the same reference (earth) creating a quasi equipotential surface. Practically, this makes adding future extensions to, or adding equipment a far simpler task to manage, without having to remember if a particular piece of equipment has to stay on separate earth or not, i.e. designing out the potential for human error in the future – future-proofing.
Approving the design-work (compliance)
The final piece in the overall design is the Validation and Verification (V&V). This consists of measuring the impedance of the overall earthing system when it reaches a point of practical completion and comparing the measured result again the predicted design outcome.
In a perfect world, for a design that spans nearly 350m across the diagonal dimension, the test leads would normally extend out to at least 1,000m to escape the electrical influence of the electrode under test (see previous blog). In a corner of West London, that was going to be a problem.
In addition, a previous test using conventional earth tester with only 2.5W signal strength had suffered badly from a build-up in contact resistance at the probe surface. Due largely to a drying out of the top layer of soil. This caused inconsistent and unreliable measurements that were not initially usable. So, to overcome this, the team used their considerable knowledge (top 1% minds) and drove the probes a little deeper and applied a multi-probe array approach as shown in the image.
This approach is particularly useful on the longer lead deployments to increase the contact influence of the potential probe and make picking up returning signal more effective when the surface layer is problematic.
CDEGS HI-FREQ Modelling
Once effectively measuring the impedance next the real-world test configuration is replicated and modelled in the software environment using the top 1% version of CDEGS, called HI-FREQ.
This particular premium version of CDEGS allows the modelling of above-ground elements, such as the fall-of-potential earth test above. (Fyi, there are many versions of CDEGS and this post covers their selection.)
The methodology is to calibrate the virtual model with the measured result. Then one can simulate a fully deployed fall-of-potential earth test without any of the limitations found in the physical world, such as motorways, walls, rail tracks, etc. This means the deployed earth test can theoretically be of infinite length, eg, 1km, 2km, 10km … so you can really make sure the results calculated escape the electrode influence – eliminating doubt! And help make better, more informed decisions going forward.