The ultimate surge voltage protection is obtained through arrester voltage ratings as low as system grounding conditions will permit during normal and abnormal system conditions. Initially, however, when the surge arrester was adopted as the basic protection device, the equipment design (coordination of major insulating structures) assumed that an “ungrounded neutral” or “100% rated” arrester would be used, unless otherwise specified.

In time, after successful service experience with 100% rated arresters (100% of maximum line-line voltage), it was reasoned that lower rated arresters would be suitable on grounded neutral systems. On these systems, the TOV on the unfaulted phases during a line-to-ground fault would bear the same relationship to arrester rating as “maximum line-line voltage” in an ungrounded system.

An “effectively grounded” system was then defined in terms of the symmetrical-component sequence resistances and reactances, for which the TOV on an unfaulted phase does not exceed 80% of the maximum line-to-line voltage. Under this condition, an arrester rated at 80% of maximum line-to-line voltage was deemed applicable, and it was classified as a “grounded neutral” arrester.

The use of a “grounded neutral” arrester with lower protective levels enabled designs in some electrical equipment, such as transformers, to have reduced insulation levels with adequate protection. Reduced insulation allowed reduction in size, weight, and cost. Subsequently, still lower rated arresters were commonly applied whenever the grounding was significantly better than “effective,” particularly at system voltages where these reductions were significant (above 230 kV).

Usually the TOV produced by a system ground fault is greater than that produced by other causes (generator overspeed, ferroresonance, harmonics, etc.). An exception to this might occur on systems where the coefficient of grounding is less than 80%. The rating of gapped silicon-carbide surge arresters generally exceeded the TOV due to a phase-to-ground fault on the system where it was applied.

This criterion was based on the assumptions that the maximum TOV is produced by a ground fault and that the arrester might operate due to a surge while there was a ground fault on another phase. The arrester had then to seal off against the TOV, which was sustained until the fault was interrupted.

There were some arresters that sealed off against voltages higher than their rating. Overvoltage characteristics for these arresters were published in the late 1960s or early 1970s. This feature has sometimes been utilized to provide lower protective levels.

An important consideration for selecting a metal-oxide arrester is the maximum continuous operating voltage (MCOV); however, the arrester will also be subjected to TOVs. A conservative criterion is that the TOV should not exceed the duty cycle voltage rating of the arrester. However, metal-oxide arresters can have thermal capability for TOVs in excess of the duty-cycle rating for specified times, and data and curves of TOV versus allowable time of the overvoltage are available.

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