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ESMO-95 CP-10

Practical Considerations for the Applications of Polymer Post Insulators in Transmission CIass Switch Installations

M.P. Gustek T.M. Grisham, IEEE Member Reliable Power Products Franklin Park, Illinois

AD. Crino Pacific Air Switch Corporation Portland, Oregon

The demonstrated advantages of polymer insulators have been verified by field experience, and these products are becoming widely accepted for suspension and horizontal line post applications. The use of polymer station posts has been comparatively small and mostly limited to bus support applications. This document will review the characteristics of polymer posts for vertical break switch applications. Information is presented which indicates that polymer station posts may be used as direct replacements for porcelain station posts in transmission class switch installations.


Over the past several years, polymer insulators have been replacing porcelain insulators in suspension and horizontal line post applications. A properly designed polymer insulator offers lower leakage currents and improved contamination Bashover performance over a porcelain insulator with a similar leakage distance. In addition, polymer insulators provide vandalism resistance and a lighter weight product which reduces installation costs. However, despite the advantages of the polymer insulators, the use of polymer station posts has not been seriously examined for substation applications, particularly switches. The main concern with the use of polymer station post insulators in a switch application is the flexibility of such a product. It is believed that this flexibility would impede the action of the switch in service and cause failures that would be detrimental to the substation. Therefore, a test program was developed to demonstrate the performance of the polymer station post in a 115 kV vertical break switch. Test procedures and requirements are based on ANSI standards for high voltage switches. Several mechanical and electrical tests were performed for this switch test program. Mechanical properties were examined by three tests. First, the ability of the insulators to withstand the side force generated by high currents was evaluated. Second, an examination was made on the switch's capabilities to withstand t e d pad 1 0 without threatening separation of the contacts. Third, the performance of the switch under severe ice conditions was tested. The electrical section of the test program consisted of performing dielectric tests such as corona, 60 Hz dry withstand, lightning impulse, and open gap withstand. It was not anticipated that the polymer station posts would have difIiculty in passing this portion of the test program.


0-7803-2506-0/95/$4.00 01995 IEEE



Test Specimens Description

The specimens utilized throughout the test program consisted of two parts: ( I ) the polymer station posts and (2) the switch base, contqols, and live parts. The construction of the polymer station posts consisted of an epoxy resin fiberglass core rod (diameter = 2.5 inches), a silicone rubber housing, and five (5) inch bolt circle end fittings. The end fittings were attached by a crimping process. Table I displays the critical dimensions on the constructed station posts. The dimensions of the station post were established to reflect the dimensions of a TR 286 porcelain post classification that would normally be used for a 115 kV switch. Table I--Specification of the Polymer Station Post used for Switch Testing versus Standard Strength Porcelain Station Post (TR 286) Insulator Type TR286 Polymer Voltage Class 115 kV 115 kV

BIL Rating

D r y Arc
(in.) 39

550 550

Section Length (in.)


Leakage Distance (in.) 99



The switch selected was an outdoor aluminum vertical break disconnect switch utilizing three station post insulators with a rating of 115 kV, 1200/1600A. The first insulator in the hinged section rotates to provide the openingklosing hnction of the switch. Below is a diagram of a typical vertical break switch.



Figure 1--Schematic drawing of a Vertical Break Switch

B. High Current Side Force

This portion of the test program. was performed on 115 kV switches rated at 1200/1600A continuous, 61/70kA momentary. The currents were obtained by using an offset asymmetrical waveform and the side forces were produced from a single return high current bus configuration. Momentary current values and bus spacing used for this test are listed in Table II.
The forces that the two different switch ratings are required to meet are 101 pounds per foot of switch length for the 1200A switch and 133 pounds per foot for the 1600A switch El].


Table 11--High Current Test Parameters Test Switch

1 15 kV/1200A 1 15 kV/1600A

Test Bus Spacing (inches) 30 30

Momentary Current (amps) 62089 63257

Test Duration (cycles)


Required Side Forces (lbs/ft)




C. 'l'erminul Pud Loud 7tsf

The switch for this test was mounted in a horizontal, upright position. The loading was applied in a plane parallel to the mounting base in the direction away from the switch as demonstrated in Figre 2. A force was applied to the contact end. The force versus deflection was measured. The same procedure was followed for the hinged end.

Figure 2--Illustration of terminal pad load test set-up The minimum requirement as identified in Table 2 of ANSI C37.32-1990 is 120 pounds of force for both switch ratings. In addition, the deflection cannot exceed 0.75 inches in order to maintain full contact between the blade and stationary contacts.

D. Ice Test
For this portion of the test program, a 115 kV/2000A vertical break switch was used in a single pole configuration. The 2000A switch has four sets of contacts instead of two sets as on the 1200/1600A switches. The added contacts would increase the dificulty of opening and closing the switch under ice conditions. The test was conducted in accordance with ANSI C37.34b-1985 [2]. The conditions for this test are listed in Table III.


Table 111--Ice Test Conditions Test Switch 1 15 kV/2000A Ice Formation clear ice Test Method controlled environment Ice Thickness (inches) 0.75 Type of Operation manual swing handle

The test is successhlly completed if the switch has been operated fiom iced full close to full open and iced hll open to hll close without damage to the switch, i.e. norma! operations would not be impeded.

Four dielectric tests were performed on the 115 kV, 1200/1600A switches. These tests include corona, 60 Hz dry withstand, lightning impulse and open gap withstand and were performed in accordance with ANSI C37.34-1971[3]. The requirements for this switch rating are identified in the table below. In the case of the corona extinction level and the 60 Hz dry withstand test, the tests were performed using three different methods: (1) open switch with energized blade and grounded contact and base, (2) open switch with energized contact and grounded blade and base, and (3) closed switch with grounded base. The lightning impulse test was performed in the same conditions but both negative and positive polarity pulses were used in the testing. For the determination of open gap withstand, both negative and positive polarity pulses were utilized on an open switch with an ungrounded base.

Test Switch

Corona Extinction Level 77 kV

60 Hz Dry Withstand (1 min.)

280 kV

Lightning Impulse

Open Gap Withstand

115 kV

550 kV

Open gap withstand must be equal to or greater than 110% of the line-to-ground flashover value. I


A. High Current Side Forces
Due to the flexibility of the polymer station post versus a porcelain station post, concerns have developed about whether the side forces generated by high momentary currents could be withstood by the switch. These forces are developed when a short circuit takes place allowing a high current to pass through the switch and adjacent bus. The high current test w a s performed to determine the response of the insulators used in the 115 kV switch.


The acceptance criteria for this section of the test program was that the switches would withstand required forces of 101 pounds per foot (1200A rating) and 133 pounds per foot (1600A rating). Based on the return bus distance and the measured current, the calculated side force withstood by the switches was 18.5 pounds per foot ( 1 200A rating) and 192 pounds per foot (1600A rating). The test values are significantly in excess of the required force values.

B. Terminal Pad Load Tesl

Terminal pad loading examines the integrity of the current path when a load is applied to either the contact or the hinged end of the switch. A reduction in the number of bus supports or ice build-up on the bus work will increase the load on the switch and subsequently cause slight deflection in the insulators. The ability of the switch to maintain contact under such conditions is critical to the substation operations. The terminal pad load test was performed so that a graph of deflection versus applied load could be plotted for the two conditions. Below is the graph of the test results. The first observation made from this gaph is that the contact end, as expected, deflects more than the hinged end at a given applied load. The contact end is supported by only one insulator while the hinged end is supported by two insulators connected by a hinge mechanism. This hinged connection provides a more rigid structure which resists deflection. The second observation is that both the contact end and hinged end' successhlly met the acceptance criteria of 120 pounds of force while not exceeding 0.75 inches of deflection. The contact end accepted a force of 217.5 pounds at 0.75 inches deflection. On the hinged end, the maximum deflection observed was 0.44 inches starting at a force of 350 pounds and continuing up to 450 pounds when the test was stopped.

I ----- Contact End -Hinged End I

Figure 3-Terminal pad load test performed on a 115 kV/1200A switch


C Ice Test
Test parameters were selected to maximize the severity of this test. The extra contacts increased the difficulty of opening and closing the switch. In addition, an ice thickness of 0.75 inches was used which represented the largest thickness specified by the ANSI standard. The ice test proved to be less of a challenge for the switch than originally anticipated. The opening was performed in one continuous motion. Metal to metal contact was made during the closing of the switch by using four chopping strokes. In both cases, the integrity of the switch remained intact and successfilly passed the ice test. This performance mirrors that of a switch utilizing porcelain station posts.

As expected, the 115 kV switch utilizing polymer station posts passed all of the dielectric
requirements as shown by the results in Tables V and VI. All values are in excess of the requirements. Table V-Corona and D r y Withstand Test Results

Corona Extinction Levels (kV) [Requirement = 77 kV] Blade Contact Closed 92 100 127

60 Hz D r y Withstand [Requirement = 280 kV for 1 min.] Blade Contact Closed pass pass pass


Lightning Impulse (kV) [Requirement = 550 kV) Blade Contact Closed Pos Neg Pos Neg Pos Neg 72 1 566 777 559 688 572

Open Gap Withstand (%) [Requirement = 1 lo%] Blade Contact Neg Pos Neg I Pos 121 142 115 138


Although the focus of this test program has centered around the 115 kV switch, some testing has been performed on the 230 kV switch (equivalent to a TR 304 porcelain post classification) utilizing polymer station posts. The testing performed included all dielectric tests and high m e n t side force tests. In both cases, the 230 kV switch exceeded all of the test requirements.

Over the past several years, utilities have been increasingly utilizing polymer insulators in suspension and horizontal line applications in place of porcelain insulators. This usage has been attributed to the many advantages that polymer insulators provide. Less attention has been given


to the polymer station post in switch applications because of the perceived disadvantage of such a product -- its flexibility. This test program demonstrates that polymer station posts used in a 115 kV switch application exceed both the mechanical and electrical requirements as required by ANSI standards. Based on the success of these laboratory tests, field tests must be performed to fbrther demonstrate that polymer station pegs can be utilized in switch installations.


ANSI C37.32-1990

Schedules of Preferred Ratings, Manufacturing Specifications, and Applications Guide for Kigh Voltage Air Switches, Bus Supports, and Switch Accessories Supplement to ANSI C37.34-1971: Ice Test Test Code for High Voltage Air Switches


ANSI C37.34b-1985 ANSI (37.34-1973