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Distribution Standard: Part 4 – Medium Voltage



The purpose this bulletin is to revise technical bulletin 99TB-005 written by Phil Crowdy. The original bulletin aimed to explain the purposes of bonding and installing BIL down-wires on MV lines. To make everyone aware of the requirements and the recommended practices in all areas. The requirements do not differ from the MV Standard. The bulletin also gave a method of calculating average number of outages that can be attributed to direct lightning strikes. This can be utilised by performance and maintenance staff to estimate the portion of the line outages that can be reduced by improving the design or maintenance of the line and associated equipment. MV/LV shared structure requirements, alternative methods of ensuring insulation co-ordination and figures of typical installation practices have been added.


The insulation co-ordination as laid out in the MV standard is designed to ensure that installation are safe, have the lowest probability of outage and the lowest failure rate for the capital spent. For optimum performance it is necessary to follow the guidelines laid out below. The selection of the bonding and BIL rating for the line is dependent on the lightning activity in the area and the pollution levels. The installation of bonding and BIL down-wire is a capital expense and this expenditure must be weighed against the probability and costs of damage to the system and the performance requirements for the system. As the performance requirements for the system, safety and repair costs become increasingly important to Eskom more importance is being placed on the reduction of equipment failure and improvement of line performance.

For MV wood pole lines the standard arrangement is that the hardware of all three phases are bonded and a BIL down-wire is installed. A gap of approximately 500mm is left between the bonding wire and the BIL down-wire. A circumferential strap is utilised either side of the gap, connected to the BIL down-wire and bonding wire respectively.

For MV/LV shared structures the same arrangement as above can be used excepting that an additional 50 mm gap be made below the LV. Report DISREAAH7 called “Insulation co-ordination on MV/LV shared wood structures” details the decision on MV/LV shared structures and is published on the Distribution Technology website. The gap construction should be the same as that described for the MV gap above. Figure 1 shows the insulation co-ordination practices for medium voltage and shared structures.

Unless there is a strong reason for doing otherwise these configurations are to be adopted in all regions on new lines. On existing fully insulated lines, where the installation of BIL down wires is not an option, an alternative practice is to install line arresters or double arrestors at the equipment. This is believed to be less effective than the preferred BIL down wire practice. (i.e. more lighting current will reach the terminal equipment and the impulse voltage rise on the system will be higher). The procedures for the installation of line arresters (SCSPVADG8) and double arresters on equipment (SCSPVADG3) are available on the Distribution Technology web site.

are available on the Distribution Technology web site. DISTRIBUTION TECHNOLOGY, PRIVATE BAG 1074, GERMISTON





FAX 011-871-2352


A guide presented later gives areas where it is possible to still get a reasonable performance by

omitting either the bonding or the BIL down-wire based on the expected climatic conditions of the area.

Utilising the options of no BIL down-wire or no bonding should be chosen with care and a consideration

of all the consequences must be undertaken.

3 x 3.35 Galvanized steel BIL downwire 500 mm BIL wood gap 100 mm LV
3 x 3.35
Galvanized steel
BIL downwire
500 mm BIL
wood gap
100 mm
100 mm
50 mm LV gap
750 mm (min)
Telephone line
3 x 3.35
Galvanized steel
BIL downwire

200 mm of 3 x 3.35 Galvanized steel BIL downwire

Medium Voltage

Shared Medium Voltage and Low Voltage

Figure 1: Insulation co-ordination practices to be applied on structures

The standard arrangements utilised, provide the following:

a. A insulation level of 300kV or more between the phase conductors and ground resulting in reduced line outages due to lightning induced surges.

b. Reduced probability of pole top wood burning and pole degradation resulting in reduced operational costs and improved safe conditions. (a leakage current problem)


In general it can be stated that the number of outages on an MV line due to direct strikes is difficult to lower and as such is approximately fixed for a specific line. Outages due to induced lightning surges, equipment damage and equipment failures can however be mitigated by sensible design and



Insulation co-ordination is achieved when the insulation strengths of all components of the electricity system are adequate to withstand the electrical stresses of service within selected reliability margins.

The conditions that system components are designed to meet are:

a. To withstand indefinitely the normal and maximum system operating voltages at supply frequency.

b. To withstand temporary supply frequency over-voltages up to the rated short duration power frequency withstand voltage.

c. To withstand lightning impulse over-voltages up to the rated withstand level

d. To restore the insulation level after a flashover.

Supply frequency voltages and over-voltages

The design, material and specific creepage length of phase insulators influence the performance of a system in terms of (a) and (b) in the paragraph above. SCSSCABI8 is used as the guide for the selection of phase insulators.

Lightning impulse over-voltages

CSIR and TSI studies have concluded that the effect of lightning on the performance of MV overhead power lines can be minimised if the 300kV BIL insulation co-ordination philosophy is adopted. The disturbances due to lightning can be due to either direct strikes or induced voltages from adjacent strikes.

Direct strikes

Direct strikes to an unshielded line nearly always cause flashover to earth of one or more conductors at the pole closest to the strike. If insulation levels are low, flashover may occur at several structures while if the insulation levels are high, flashover may occur at only one structure. The damage to a pole will depend on the surge current and arc path followed. The greater number of poles flashing over and the containment of the arc to the pole surface will result in the lowest probability of damage to poles. Severe impulse voltage may be transmitted to attached equipment depending on the line insulation value. The amount of energy of the impulse may exceed the capability of the surge arrestor at the attached equipment point and hence result in damage to the attached equipment. The probability of damage to attached equipment (transformers, autoreclosers, etc.) is high for a direct strike to the line pole where the equipment is attached. The higher the insulation level of the line the greater will be the probability of damage to the attached equipment and line poles.

Induced voltages

Induced voltages rarely exceed 200 kV with a maximum order of 250 kV. As the induced voltages in different phases are of similar amplitude and identical waveshape, flashovers between phases are not

expected. Flashover to ground will occur if the insulation strength to ground is below that of the induced voltage. The amount of flashovers due to induced voltages will depend on the actual insulation values. The lower the insulation value, below 300kV, the higher the number of flashovers due to induced


Pole and cross-arm damage

The type and extent of damage that occurs depends on factors such as the moisture content and the arc penetration into the wood. Wood poles and cross-arms suffer the least damage when the arc can be restricted to the surface of the wood where superficial splintering may occur. This is achieved by not having a wood path gap in the earth wire of greater than 500mm and applying circumferential strapping at the termination points of the BIL down-wire and bonding-wire on either side of the gap. (the circumferential strapping prevents the arc from penetrating the pole to bolts) Avoid using staples on strapping as this will allow the arc to penetrate the surface of the wood.


Line hardware damage

Most damage to line hardware is caused by the power arc that develops after flashover (0,85 probability), however surges and flashover may also cause damage. The surge or impulse will cause an initial breakdown of the air and ionisation, which will allow a follow through arc to develop. The arc current, will cause erosion of the line hardware at the arc root. Hardware damage will be reduced by rapid operation of the protection equipment and removal of the supply voltage.

Damage to attached equipment

The attached equipment to a power line will be damaged if the surge voltage exceeds the BIL of the equipment. This will be the case for the majority of direct strikes and the higher induced surges. To reduce the equipment damage surge arresters are utilised on the equipment. These surge arresters will clamp the voltage to a value lower than the equipment BIL. Provided the surge energy is less than the arrester capability and the equipment BIL has not deteriorated the arrester will protect the equipment. The energy in a direct strike will normally exceed the energy capability of a surge arrester. Should the strike occur at the pole of the attached equipment the probability of destroying the arrester and damaging attached equipment is high. Should a direct strike be to the line away from the attached equipment there is still a high probability of the energy in the traveling wave exceeding the surge arrester rating should no BIL down wire be applied to the intermediate poles.


The practice of electrically connecting all the hardware and insulator ‘dead’ ends is known as bonding. Small leakage currents (due to pollution contamination on the insulation surface) may cause the burning or degradation of unbonded cross-arms and poles. Bonding the ‘dead’ ends of phase insulators and stay wires can prevent this. In polluted environments this process is more rapid. The bonding wire coupled with the circumferential strapping will also act as part of the BIL system and reduce the probability of cross-arm and pole splitting. Separate bonding designs are provided for all applicable structures in the Distribution Medium Voltage Standard drawing D-DT-0310.

Stay insulators

The insulation level of the conventional porcelain stay insulators is low. Porcelain stay insulators may be considered as adding value to the system only in terms of providing protection to the public against a live stay condition from a broken conductor coming into contact with the stay. The porcelain stay provides very little additional lightning surge insulation. Strain structures are not fitted with BIL downwires since the stay-wire fulfills this purpose. To achieve a higher BIL on a strain structure than the porcelain insulator provides, glass fibre longrod type stay insulators may be used, or stays fitted in such a way that there is a suitable wood path in series. Standard porcelain insulators for new LV structures provide sufficient BIL on strain structures for adequate performance. For MV structures the decision to use the preferred, high BIL glass fibre longrod type stay insulators, is based on high lightning conditions. The porcelain type of stay insulator can be employed on MV lines with low lightning conditions. Stay wire insulators can be found on the buyer guide drawing D-DT-3144. The assembly drawings for the stay wire insulators are D-DT-0341 and D-DT-0341.


Insulation co-ordination and line performance

Typically, the following performance can be expected from lines insulated as follows:

High BIL lines. (1 MV to 2 MV) with no bonding

Direct strike flashovers, Low incidence of flashover Low protection operations from indirect strikes, High stress on attached equipment with a resultant high probability of equipment failure, Some extended outages and safety hazards due to pole and cross-arm damage caused by leakage currents or lightning initiated currents.

Low BIL lines (<200 kV) with bonding

Direct strike flashovers High incidence of flashover High protection operations due to indirect strikes Lower stress on attached equipment Few extended outages due to pole or cross-arm damage

300 kV BIL with bonding

Direct strike flashovers Induced surges will not flashover Moderate protection operations Stress on terminal equipment reduced Little or no pole and cross-arm damage

The insulation level that provides the best overall performance in a high lightning area has been proved on test sites to be between 200 kV BIL and 300 kV BIL. This allows multiple flashovers for direct strikes with no flashover for induced surges. It also limits the voltage and energy traveling down the line to a value that surge arresters can dissipate without damage. This BIL is achieved in the following way:

On suspension/intermediate structures by the application of a BIL downwire and a 500 mm wood path; and on stayed structures by the BIL of the long rod insulator, stay insulators and the position of the stays. On these structures the stay provides the BIL.

Surge arresters and BIL

22 kV equipment installed on MV lines has a BIL rating of 150 kV and is protected by surge arresters. If there are a number of surge arresters in close proximity on the line it effectively reduces the BIL of that line and the design of insulation for a reticulation line thus falls into one of two categories:

a. Townships or areas protected from lightning effects by a relatively high density of surge arresters In these areas, structures, of which the maximum BIL is that of the insulator (170 kV), may be used i.e. concrete or conductive structures. Wood poles need not have a BIL downwire. The surge arresters should in this situation provide sufficient multiple ground paths to ensure suitable line performance without equipment damage.

b. Sparsely populated, high lightning rural areas with long lines and few surge arresters In these areas co-ordinated wood pole structures with 300 kV BIL will perform better in high lightning conditions. The application of downwires will reduce the BIL from 1,2 MV to the desired levels. The incidence of pole and attached equipment damage will be greatly reduced if the practice is employed.


Table B.1 Insulation co-ordination and bonding







Lightning activity (strikes/km 2 /year)

Pollution level

Low (2 or less)


High ( more than 2)


(Few / no pollution related incidents)

No bonding of insulator required

Provide a 500 mm gap between the BIL downwire and lowest/nearest MV insulator

No BIL downwire required

No bonding between insulator hardware is required for horizontal structures. For vertical

Use a 1,2 MV BIL

or staggered vertical structures bonding is





Use a 300 kV BIL.

High/very high

Bond between insulators

Provide a 500 mm gap between the BIL down wire and the lowest/nearest MV insulator


No BIL downwire required


Bond between insulators




Use a 1,2 MV BIL

Use a 300 kV BIL

Note 1 Bonding is not generally required on horizontal structures. This will take advantage of the arc quenching properties of the extra wood on cross-arms. Vertical structure can not capitalize on this advantage due the distances between hardware being too short. The short distances between hardware means that the risk of the wood pole splitting when an impulse jumps between hardware is high. Bonding is therefore required for vertical structures. If one methodology is needed to be standardized throughout a region, bonding of all structures would be recommended.

Table B1 is provided as a guideline to be utilised should a specific area wish to consider not utilising bonding or BIL downwires. It is not to say that should a low pollution condition exist there will be no

leakage currents but simply that the probability of damage due to the formation of leakage current is low.

The costs of bonding in this type of area may be greater than the cost of pole and cross-arm replacement and the importance of the line. The default condition in all cases is to bond and provide a 500mm gap.

This will also only be true for the MV lines, since with the greater consequence of failure and cost of rectification of HV lines bonding should always be utilised.

Line auto-reclose operations

Utilisation of the following formula will give the auto-reclose operations that can be expected from a line due to direct strikes in a specific area.

The number of strikes (N s ) to a line may be calculated as follows:

N s = Ng (28 H 0.6 + W) * L * 10 -3

strikes per year


= ground flash density (km -2 yr -1 )


= line length (km)


= average tower height (m)


= line width (m)

For exposed MV lines the approximate number of auto reclose operations per annum is given in the following table. The line length is the total line length, including spurs.


Direct lightning strikes per year

Line length


Ground flash density /km 2 /yr


























































The ground flash densities for various stations are given in the Distribution Standard and should be used as a guide to determine the expected outage rate in an area.

Should a line exhibit outages in excess of the value shown in the table above then an investigation should be undertaken to determine the cause. Factors other than lightning, such as fires or equipment failure will also contribute to the number of outages. Generally should the number of outages greatly exceed the value calculated then BIL’s will be found to be low on several structures and rectification will need to be undertaken.




G Stanford Plant Technologies Senior Engineer Distribution Technology




A Bekker Plant Technologies Manager Distribution Technology