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Shielding Of Power Cables

Shielding Of Power Cables

Shielding of an electric power cable is accomplished by surrounding the assembly or insulation with a grounded, conducting medium.

This confines the dielectric field to the inside of this shield.

Two distinct types of shields are used:

- Metallic

- Nonmetallic



The purposes of the insulation shield are to:

  • Obtain symmetrical radial stress distribution withh the insulation.
  • Eliminate tangential and longitudinal stresses on the surface of the insulation.
  • Exclude from the dielectric field those materials such as braids, tapes, and fillers that are not intended as insulation.
  • Protect the cables from induced or direct aver-voltages. Shields do this by making the surge impedance uniform along the length of the cable and by helping to attenuate surge potentials.

Conductor Shielding

In cables rated over 2,000 volts, a conductor shield is required by indusby standards. The purpose of the semiconducting, also called screening, material over the conductor is to provide a smooth cylinder rather than the relatively rough surface of a stranded conductor in order to reduce the stress concentration at the interface with the insulation. Conductor shielding has been used for cables with both laminar and extruded insulations. The materials used are either semiconducting materials or ones that have a high dielectric constant and are known as stress control materials. Both serve the same function of stress reduction.

Conductor shields for paper insulated cables are either carbon black tapes or metallized paper tapes. The conductor shieldmg materials were originally made of semiconducting tapes that were helically wrapped over the conductor. Present standards still permit such a tape over the conductor. This is done, especially on large conductors, in order to hold the strands together firmly during the application of the extruded semiconducting material that is now required for medium voltage cables. Experience with cables that only had a semiconductingtape was not satisfactory, so the industry changed their requirements to call for an extruded layer over the conductor.

In extruded cables, this layer is now extruded directly over the conductor and is bonded to the insulation layer that is applied over this stress relief layer. It is extremely important that there be no voids or extraneous material between those two layers.

Presentday extruded layers are not only clean (free from undesirable impurities) but are very smooth and round. This has greatly reduced the formation of water tress that could originate from irregular surfaces. By extruding the two layers at the same time, the conductor shield and the insulation are cured at the same time. This provides the inseparable bond that minimizes the chances of the formation of a void at the critical interface. For compatibility reasons, the extruded shielding layer is usually made from the same or a similar polymer as the insulation. Special carbon black is used to make the layer over the conductor semiconducting to provide the necessary conductivity. Industry standards require that the conductor semiconducting material have a maximum resistivity of 1,000 meter-ohms. Those standards also require that this material pass a long-time stability test for resistivity at the emergency operating temperature level to insure that the layer remains conductive and hence provides a long cable life.

A water-impervious material can be incorporated as part of the conductor shield to prevent radial moisture transmission. This layer consists of a thin layer of aluminum or lead sandwiched between semiconducting material. A similar laminate may be used for an insulation shield for the same reason.

There is no definitive standard that describes the class of extrudable shielding materials known as “super smooth, super clean”. It is not usually practical to use a manufacturer’strade name or product number to describeany material. The term “super smooth, super clean” is the only way at this writing to describe a class of material that provides a higher quality cable thanan earlier version. This is only an academic issue since the older type of materials are no longer used for medium voltage cable construction by known suppliers. The point is that these newer materials have tremendously improved cable performance in laboratory evaluations.

Insulation Shielding For Medium-Voltage Cables

The insulation shield for a medium voltage cable is made up of two components:

  • Semiconducting or stress relief layer
  • Metallic layer of tape or tap , drain wires, concentric neutral wires, or a metal tube.

They must function as a unit for a cable to achieve a long service life

Stress Relief Layer

The polymer layer used with exbuded cables has replaced the tapes shields that were used many years ago. This extruded layer is called the extruded insulation shield or screen. Its properties and compatibility requirements are similar to the conductor shield previously described except that standards require that the volume resistivity of thisexternal layer be limited to 500 meter-ohms.

The nonmetallic layer is directly Over the insulation and the voltage stress at that interface is lower than at the conductor shield interface.. This outer layer is not required to be bonded for cables rated up to 35 kV. At voltages above that, it is strongly recommendedt that this layer be bonded to the insulation .
Since most users want this layer to be easily removable, the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies (AEIC) has established strip tension limits. Presently these limits are that a 1/2 inch wide strip cut parallel to the conductor peel offwith a minimum of 6 pounds and a minimum of 24 pounds of force that is at a 90º angle to the insulation surface.

Metallic Shield

The metallic portion of the insulation shield or screen is necessary to provide a low resistance path for charging current to flow to ground. It is important to realize that the extruded shield materials will not survive a sustained current flow of more than a few milliamperes. These materials are capable of handing the small amounts of charging current, but cannot tolerate unbalanced or fault currents.

The metallic component of the insulation shield system must be able to accommodate these higher currents. On the other hand, an excessive amount of metal in the shield of a single-conductor cable is costly in two ways. First, additional metal over the amount that is actually required increases the initial cost of the cable. Secondly, the greater the metal component of the insulation shield, the higher the shield losses that result h m the flow of current in the central conductor.

A sufficient amount of metal must be provided in the cable design to ensure that the cable will activate the back-up protection in the event of any cable fault over the life of that cable. There is also the concern for shield losses.

It therefore becomes essential that:

  • The type of circuitinterruptingequipmentto be analyzed.What is the design and operational setting of the hse, recloser, or circuit breaker?
  • What fault current will the cable encounter over its life?
  • What shield losses can be tolerated? How many times is the shield to be grounded? Will there be shield breaks to prevent circulating currents?
Concentric Neutral Cables

When concentric neutral cables are specified, the concentric neutrals must be manufactured in accordance with ICEA standards. These wires must meet ASTM B3 for uncoated wires or B33 for coated wires. These wires are applied directly over the nonmetallic insulation shield with a lay of not less than six or more than ten times the diameter over the concentric wires.

Shielding Of Low Voltage Cables

Shielding of low voltage cables is generally required where inductive interference can be a problem. In numerous communication, instrumentation, and control cable applications, small electrical signals may be transmitted on the cable conductor and amplified at the receiving end. Unwanted signals (noise) due to inductive interference can beaslargeasthedesiredsignal. This can result in false signals or audible noise that can effect voice communications.

Across the entire frequency spectrum, it is necessary to separate disturbances into electric field ef€ects and magnetic field effects.

Electric Fields

Electric field effects are those which are a function of the capacitive coupling or mutual capacitance between the circuits. Shielding can be effected by a continuous metal shield to isolate the disturbed circuit fiom the disturbing circuit. Even semiconducting extrusions or tapes supplemented by a grounded dmin wirecan serve some shielding function for electric field effects.

Magnetic Fields

Magnetic field effects are the result of a magnetic field coupling between circuits. This is a bit more complex thanfor electrical effects.

At relatively low frequencies, the energy emitted from the source is treated as radiation. This increases with the square of the frequency. This electromagnetic radiation can cause dislxrbancesat considerable distance and will penetrate any “openings” in the shielding. This can occur with braid shields or tapes that are not overlapped. The type of metal used in the shield also can effect the amount of disturbance. Any metallic shield material, as opposed to magnetic metals, will provide some shield due to the eddy currents that are set up in the metallic shield by the impinging field. These eddy currents tend to neutralize the disturbing field. Non-metallic, semiconducting shielding is not effective for magnetic effects. In general, the most effective shielding is a complete steel conduit, but thisis not always practical.

The effectiveness of a shield is called the “shielding factor” and is given as:

SF = Induced voltage in shield circuit / Inducted voltage in unshielded circuit

Test circuits to measwe the effectiveness of various shielding designs against electrical field effects and magnetic field effects have been reported by Gooding and Slade.

AUTHORS: Lawrence J. Kelly and Carl C. Landinger


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Dry-Type disc wound transformers in MV applications

Dry-Type disc wound transformers in MV applications

Medium voltage, dry-type transformers may have their high voltage windings constructed using either the layer winding technique or the disc winding technique.

Both winding techniques provide the same result in terms of electrical performance parameters, i.e. turns ratio, impedance etc.

However, the use of transformers employing disc wound high voltage windings can result in increased reliability and therefore reduced downtime.


The basic purpose of a transformer is to convert electricity at one voltage to electricity at another voltage, either of higher or lower value. In order to achieve this voltage conversion, coils are wound on a laminated silicon steel core which provides a path for the magnetic flux. The coils comprise a number of turns of conductor, either copper or aluminum, wound as two electrically separate windings, called the primary winding and the secondary winding. The primary winding is connected to the source of voltage while the secondary winding is connected to the load. The ratio of primary to secondary turns is the same as the required ratio of primary to secondary voltages.

The turns of conductor forming the primary and secondary windings must be insulated from one another, while the primary winding must be insulated from the secondary winding and both the primary and secondary windings must be insulated from ground. The insulation of turns and windings is collectively called the insulation system of the transformer. The insulation system must be designed to withstand the effects of lightning strikes and switching surges to which the transformer is subjected, in addition to the normal operating voltages. A further requirement of the insulation system is that it must withstand the environmental conditions to which it is exposed, such as moisture, dust etc. A variety of techniques and materials are employed to achieve the necessary performance characteristics of the insulation system.

Layer winding

Fig.1 Layer winding

Fig.1 Layer winding

For low voltage, i.e. 600 Volt class windings, the winding technique used almost exclusively is the layer winding technique, also sometimes called helical winding or barrel winding. In this technique, the turns required for the winding are wound in one or more concentric layers connected in series, with the turns of each layer being wound side by side along the axial length of the coil until the layer is full. The conductors of the winding are insulated and so between turns there will be a minimum of two thicknesses of insulation. Between each pair of layers there will be layers of insulation material and/or an air duct.

Low voltage windings will generally be wound top to bottom, bottom to top etc. using a continuous conductor, until all layers are complete. High voltage windings, i.e. above 600 Volt class, may be wound in the same way, provided the voltage between layers is not too great.

To reduce the voltage stress between layers, high voltage windings are often wound in only one direction, for example, top to bottom. When the first layer of winding is complete, the winding conductor is laid across the completed layer from bottom to top and then the next layer is wound, again from top to bottom. In this way, the voltage stress between layers is halved.

The conductor must, of course, have additional insulation where it crosses the winding from bottom to top.

Fig.2 Transformer with layer wound coils

Fig.2 Transformer with layer wound coils

Disc winding

In the disc winding, the required number of turns are wound in a number of horizontal discs spaced along the axial length of the coil. The conductor is usually rectangular in cross-section and the turns are wound in a radial direction, one on top of the other i.e. one turn per layer, until the required number of turns per disc has been wound.

Fig.3 Disc winding

Fig.3 Disc winding

The conductor is then moved to the next disc and the process repeated until all turns have been wound. There is an air space, or duct, between each pair of discs. The disc winding requires insulation only on the conductor itself, no additional insulation is required between layers, as in the layer winding.

The disc wound high voltage winding is usually wound in two halves, in order that the required voltage adjustment taps may be positioned at the electrical center of the winding. In this way the magnetic, or effective length of the winding is maintained, irrespective of which tap is used, and therefore the magnetic balance between primary and secondary windings is always close to its optimum.

This is essential to maintain the short circuit strength of the winding, and reduces the axial electromagnetic forces which arise when the windings are not perfectly balanced.

Fig.4 Transformer with disc wound coils

Fig.4 Transformer with disc wound coils

Characteristics of Layer wound coils

As stated previously, the layer wound coil requires insulation between layers, in addition to the conductor insulation. The thickness of insulation required will depend upon the voltage stress between layers, and comprises one or more thicknesses of the appropriate insulation material. In practice, due to the nature of the construction of a layer wound coil, the finished coil will have several unavoidable small air pockets between turns and between layers. Many of these air pockets will become filled with resin during vacuum pressure impregnation of the coil.

Fig. 5 Equivalent circuit for Impulse voltage distribution

Fig. 5 Equivalent circuit for Impulse voltage distribution

However, it sometimes happens that some air pockets remain and it is in these air pockets that partial discharges can occur, greatly increasing the possibility of premature aging of the insulation and eventual failure.

Catastrophic failure can occur within a few months of energization. Under short circuit conditions, the electromagnetic forces developed cause transformer windings to attempt to telescope. At the same time the coil end blocking is trying to prevent movement. The result is often that the turns of the winding have a tendency to slip over one another, causing turn-to turn failure, due to abrasion of the insulation as the turns rub together. A further disadvantage of the layer wound coil is its poor impulse voltage distribution between the first few turns of the winding, due to the high ground capacitance and the low series capacitance.

A transformer winding forms a complex network of resistance, inductance and capacitance. As far as the impulse voltage distribution is concerned, the resistance can be ignored and at the instant of application of the impulse wave, when very high frequencies are predominant, the inductive elements become effectively infinite impedances. The whole structure therefore reduces to a capacitive network (see fig.5). Each turn of a transformer winding is insulated with a dielectric material and can be thought of as one plate of a multiple plate capacitor. In addition, the combination of dielectric material and air between each turn and ground forms further capacitive elements.

Characteristics of Disc wound coils

The major advantage of the disc wound coil lies in its open construction and relative lack of insulation. For a 15kV class transformer employing a disc wound primary winding, the number of discs will typically be in the range 36 to 48, resulting in a relatively low voltage per disc. Since each disc is separated from the next by an air space, the voltage stress between discs can easily be handled by the combination of conductor insulation and air, no additional insulation being necessary.

Each disc comprises a number of turns with each turn occupying one layer, i.e. one turn per layer: the voltage stress between layers is therefore the same as the voltage stress between turns and again, can easily be handled by the conductor insulation. The turns of each disc, being wound tightly together provide almost no possibility of air pockets being present within the disc.

Due to the open construction of the discs, any small air pockets which may be present are readily filled with resin during vacuum pressure impregnation of the coil. A properly designed and manufactured dry-type transformer disc winding therefore displays very low values of partial discharge, typically in the range 10 to 20 picocoulombs.

Unlike the layer wound coil, the disc wound coil provides good impulse voltage distribution, due to its inherently low value of ground capacitance and high series capacitance. The disc wound coil also displays excellent short circuit strength. Each disc by itself is mechanically very strong and the complete assembly of discs are held very securely in place. While the electromagnetic forces resulting from a short circuit result in a tendency, for the windings to telescope, the high voltage turns usually remain intact relative to each other. Instead, the complete disc has a tendency to distort as an assembly, with all the turns distorting by the same amount. The transformer can often continue to function, despite the distortion, until a convenient time arises for repair.


The flow of electric current through the turns of a transformer winding causes power losses which manifest themselves in the form of heat. These losses are called ‘’load losses’’ and are proportional to the square of the current. Obviously, it is necessary to dissipate this heat, to prevent overheating of the transformer, and in a dry-type transformer, this is achieved by the use of air spaces, or ducts, within the winding. The layer wound coil relies on vertical air ducts between layers and between windings, for cooling. Cool air enters the air ducts at the bottom of the coil and by natural convection, rises through the ducts, collecting heat on its way, then exits the coil at the top. It is essential for proper operation of the transformer that these air ducts are kept clear at all times.

The insulation required between the layers of a layer wound coil has a tendency to thermally lag the winding, impeding the dissipation of heat. The greater the operating voltage of the winding, the greater is the amount of insulation required and the greater is the lagging effect of the insulation. Some radiation also takes place from the outer surfaces of the coils. The open nature of the disc wound coil greatly improves the transfer of heat from the winding to the surrounding air. The thermal lagging effect of insulation is removed and the multiple horizontal air spaces between discs provide a large surface area for cooling by both radiation and convection.


The combination of layer wound low voltage winding, disc wound high voltage winding, NOMEX insulation and vacuum pressure impregnation of the windings with a solventless epoxy resin, results in a very reliable transformer with a long life expectancy. Transformers constructed in this way will be relatively free from partial discharge and will provide excellent impulse strength and short circuit strength, vital requirements for reliable operation in the most demanding of applications.


Author: Derek Foster, Olsun Electrics Corporation


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