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798

IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS, VOL. 24, NO. 5 , SEPTEMBERIOCTOBER 1988

Parameters Affecting Neutral-To-Earth Voltage Along Primary Distribution Circuits


Abstract-It is essential to identify the type of primary distribution circuit and to have a thorough understanding of the sources of neutral-toearth voltage in order to achieve success when attempting to mitigate an elevated on-farm neutral-to-earth voltage level originating from off the farm. Neutral conductor grounding may play an important role, but the most important grounding may not be at the farm location. Grounding isolation or step-down transformer banks installed on a line may have an effect upon the neutral-to-earth voltage of the line. Increasing primary circuit voltage may lower levels of neutral-to-earth voltage. Balancing of single-phase loads and power-factor correction can lower primary neutral current on a line. The neutral-to-earth voltage may not be higher during the evening than at other times, even on single-phase primary lines.

PRIMARY DISTRIBUTION CIRCUIT TYPES The primary electrical distribution system in many areas is in a state of gradual change because the electrical needs of the customer is in a state of constant change. It is not uncommon, therefore, to find that a particular substation circuit changes in type at some point, and actually contains two or more subcircuits. For example, a distribution circuit voltage may be increased at the substation to supply the increased power needs of customers. It may be impractical to change the entire circuit over to the higher voltage, thus step-down transformers may be installed so that sections of the circuit can continue to function at the lower voltage until the line can be made ready for the changeover to higher voltage. This is illustrated in Fig. 1. It is important that power supplier personnel determine the exact makeup of a distribution circuit before attempting to make changes to lower the level of neutral-to-earth voltage. There are three common types of primary electrical distribution circuits used by power suppliers to provide power to customers. Individual needs and local conditions are factors that result in a particular type of distribution system being used in a particular area. A common system is the four-wire wye, illustrated in Fig. 2. There are a number of voltages at which this wye system may operate. Some typical voltages are 24 940114 400 V, 12 470/7200 V, 8320/4800 V and 4160/ 2400 V. There may be small differences between these voltages and the actual voltages in use by a particular power supplier. Isolation transformers may be installed on the line to step down the voltage as shown in Fig. 1. The three-wire ungrounded delta distribution system has three wires which are not solidly connected to the earth. Capacitive coupling between the ungrounded wires and the earth will result in a small current flow if one of the ungrounded wires makes contact with the earth. A doublebushing transformer is used to provide single-phase power to customers. There is no grounded primary conductor: therefore neutral-to-earth voltage will not be present due to load current flow on the primary conductors. A typical ungrounded delta primary circuit is illustrated in Fig. 3. The dashed lines indicate the natural capacitive coupling of the line wires to the earth. The three-wire corner-grounded delta primary circuit is used in some areas, particularly where loads are supplied underground and the multigrounded wye system is not available. With this type of system, .one of the primary conductors is solidly connected to the earth. The cornergrounded delta primary circuit is illustrated in Fig. 4. It is common to find more than one type of primary system

INTRODUCTION EUTRAL-TO-EARTH voltage is of concern to livestock farmers, electric power suppliers, agricultural equipment manufacturers, and service personnel. The term neutral-toearth voltage, sometimes referred to as stray voltage, describes the condition of a grounded electrical conductor being at a voltage different from the adjacent earth. The primary causes of this condition are voltage drop on the grounded electrical conductor and ground faults. Either of these causes may occur on the primary electrical supply system to the farm, or on the wiring system of the farm. It is even possible for a cause to be at an adjacent farm, using the primary grounded conductor as a path. It may not be practical to reduce the voltage drop on a grounded conductor to a level in a particular area which will never cause a neutral-to-earth voltage of the same magnitude. Under these conditions there are several mitigation techniques that can be employed to prevent an onthe-farm source from becoming a problem, and likewise the electrical power supplier has several options to prevent an offthe-farm source from being present on a farm. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the primary electrical distribution system, describe the ways in which neutral-toearth voltage is produced by the various primary distribution systems, and present the expected change in level of neutralto-earth voltage as a result of changes of various design parameters of the primary distribution system. The conclusions of this paper are based upon both field observations and neutral-to-earth voltage computer simulations of the operation of a primary electrical distribution system.
Paper GID 87-16, approved by the Rural Electric Power Committee of the IEEE Industry Applications Society for presentation at the 1987 Rural Electric Power Committee Technical Conference, San Antonio, TX, May 3-5. Manuscript released for publication February 4 , 1988. The authors are with the Department of Agricultural Engineering, A.W. Farrall Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1323. IEEE Log Number 8821454.

0093-9994/88/0900-0798$01.00 0 1988 IEEE

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SURBROOK ef a/.: PARAMETERS AFFECTING NEUTRAL-TO-EARTH VOLTAGE

Subcircuit

Main Circuit

r
Substation

2
Substation
Three-phase/ Single-phase Customer Phase A
I

'

Abstation Subcircuit

PhaseA

,
1 Three-phase/ Single-phase Customer

799

Isolation Transformer Step-down or

4
Substation

&

SinglePhase Customer

Transformer

Fig. 4. Three-wire comer-grounded delta primary electrical distribution circuit.

Phase A

Fig. 1. Electrical distribution circuit may contain isolation transformers or step-down transformers which then subdivide the circuit into two or more subcircuits.
Phase A

r1

Isolation Transformer Bank

ix

Phase A

Phase B Phase C

i ,

I--

Phase B Phase C
I

Fig. 5. Isolation bank of transformers used to change form of four-wire wye to three-wire delta primary distribution circuit.

Three-phase/ Single-phase Customer

SinglePhase Customer

Fig. 2.

Four-wire wye, multigrounded electrical distribution system.

Substation
I I

Phase B

I I I I

.-L,-I-.

,
I

. J . .

--

1 . . . -J-. -. . .
_

Capacitive Earth Coupling

Three. phase / Single-phase Customer

Single-phase Customer

Fig. 3. Three-wire ungrounded delta primary electrical circuit with natural line-to-earth capacitance indicated by dashed lines.

used on a distribution circuit. The national trend is to provide electrical power to customers with a multigrounded wye distribution system. Some primary lines originally constructed for operation as a three-wire delta are in the process of being reconstructed and changed over to a wye distribution system. It is possible to find a portion of the circuit operating as a wye

system, and other portions of the circuit operating in the delta mode. A single transformer or a bank of transformers will be used to interface the wye to the delta circuit. These transformers provide a change in voltage as well as isolation between the two distribution circuits. This technique is illustrated in Fig. 5. Another common practice is to use step-down transformer banks to change from the higher voltages of the distribution circuit leaving the substation to the lower voltages of the older portions of the distribution system that are not ready for conversion to the higher voltages. This may be accomplished with an autotransformer using a common winding for the higher and lower voltage circuits, or a two-winding transformer can be used. The common transformer connections are wye-wye and delta-wye. A step-down autotransformer is illustrated in Fig. 6. It is important to keep in mind that the transformer is the source of the electrical circuit and that the primary line should be examined from the transformer to the customer location. If an isolation transformer bank or a step-down voltage transformer bank is the source of power for a customer, it may still be necessary to examine the circuit back to the original substation if the neutrals of the primary circuits are bonded together. There are a variety of different ways in which power suppliers make connections for step-up or step-down voltage transformers and for isolation transformers. The types of transformer banks shown in these figures are for illustrative purposes and should not be viewed as recommended practice for a particular installation.

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800
Substation Phase A

IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS, VOL. 24, NO. 5 , SEPTEMBERIOCTOBER 1988

phase B Phase C Neutral

I
((
J /

Higher Primary Voltage

> 0

I $1

Substation Resistance - to -earth ohm

.-10
.

r q j j
Phase A Primary Voltage Substation

Fig. 6 . Step-down autotransformer is sometimes used to change voltages on primary distribution circuit.

Fig. 9. Effect of substation resistance-to-earth upon neutral-to-earth voltage along simulated single-phase 4.5-km primary distribution line (#4 AHO, ACSR).

20 ohm grounds

every 300m

6v

- ___-----h 20 ohm grounds every 150 m 4.5 km 2v

.f
substation

Distance

1
t

**..*e

...
Branch 2.0 mi.

.
Branch 1.5 mi End. of - line 1.5 mi.

Fig. 7. Effect of changing resistance-to-earth along simulated single-phase 4.5-km primary distribution line (#4 AHG, ACSR) upon neutral-to-earth voltage along line.

t1.

Substation

Fig. 10. Neutral-to-earth rms voltage along 2.4-kV phase-to-earth multigrounded distribution line segment originating from a single-phase isolation transformer with one ground rod at transformer.

a
f 5

P
r

Resistance - to -earth Changed at this location

'.",c$~r~~~,"d'
5 ohm ground
1 ohm ground

.f
Substation

Distance

4.5 km

Fig. 8. Effect upon neutral-to-earth voltage along simulated single-phase 4.5-km primary distribution line (#4 AWG, ACSR) of resistance-to-earth change at one location.

NEUTRAL-TO-EARTH VOLTAGE ON MULTI-GROUNDED WYE PRIMARY LINE Computer simulations have been quite useful to study the neutral-to-earth voltage behavior of electrical distribution lines. The main limitation of these simulations is that operating parameters of each distribution line are quite different. Even though a particular distribution line can only be simulated when specific data is collected for the line, a generalized simulation model can still provide indications of the general behavior of distribution lines. A number of models have been developed for simulation of neutral-to-earth voltage of distribution lines. Fig. 7-1 1 are derived from data presented by Kehrle [l]. A single-phase 7200-V distribution line with a total length of 4.5 km of AWG

Substation

t+

Distance

4.5 km

Neutral Resistance Added

Fig. 11. Effect upon neutral-to-earth voltage along simulated single-phase 4.5-km distribution line (#4 AWG, ACSR) of resistance in neutral near substation.

#4, ACSR conductor, supplying a 1-A load every 300 m was

simulated using a general network-solving mainframe computer program. The simulation is described by Reese and Surbrook [2] in a paper presented at the National Stray Voltage Symposium in Syracuse. The graphs depict rms voltage as would be obtained by measuring from the neutral conductor to a reference ground. Note that in all the graphs the neutral-toearth voltage decreases with distance away from the substation until the voltage reaches zero. If the substation resistance-to-

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SURBROOK et al.: PARAMETERS AFFECTING NEUTRAL-TO-EARTH VOLTAGE

80 1

earth were zero, then the curve would be zero at the substation and increase with distance from the substation. The multigrounded wye primary distribution system utilizes the earth as a parallel conductor to the neutral. The resistance to earth along the line will affect the amount of neutral current that flows through the earth. Fig. 7 illustrates the distribution of neutral-to-earth voltage along the single-phase line with two levels of grounding of the primary neutral. The neutral-toearth voltage is lower for the line with more grounds, or with reduced resistance to earth. When neutral-to-earth resistance of the primary line is reduced, the neutral-to-earth voltage near the substation is slightly increased because the current through the earth is increased. The effect of reducing the neutral resistance to earth at one location along the line is illustrated in Fig. 8. The greatest reduction in neutral-to-earth voltage is achieved at the location where the resistance to earth is reduced. The data illustrated in Fig. 8 is probably more dramatic than in the field because most distribution lines in the Midwest have a lower resistance to earth than 20 Q per ground rod every 300 m. Compare the curve in Fig. 8 for the 5-0 ground at one location with the solid line for the primary with a 2 0 4 ground resistance. Note that at that one location the resistance to earth was reduced to onequarter the original resistance to earth. That is a major resistance-to-earth reduction. The effect of reduction in resistance to earth at a specific location results primarily in a localized reduction in neutral-to-earth voltage. A small reduction in neutral-to-earth voltage will be experienced farther away from the substation. The resistance to earth at the substation, an isolation bank, or at a step-down transformer bank can affect the level of neutral-to-earth voltage in the area of the substation or transformer bank. This effect is illustrated in Fig. 9. Note the rise in neutral-to-earth voltage near the substation as the resistance to earth of the substation is increased. Data on this condition show that neutral-to-earth voltages near an isolation bank can be high, but the voltages drop quickly as distance increases away from the isolation transformer. Fig. 10 is an rms neutral-to-earth voltage graph of a single-phase multigrounded distribution line originating at an ungrounded delta to grounded neutral isolation transformer. Customers near the transformers were those experiencing the problems, which were solved by driving additional ground rods at the isolation transformer. Grounding at the isolation transformers has an effect on these voltages, and it can be worthwhile to drive additional ground rods to lower this resistance. If there is an isolation transformer in the primary circuit feeding a customer with an elevated neutral-to-earth voltage level, lowering the resistance to earth at the isolation transformer may be effective than lowering resistance to earth at the customer location. Branches to the distribution line may also result in a more effective lowering of resistance to earth at the branches, and therefore have a similar neutral-to-earth voltage reduction as shown in Fig. 8. Livestock farmers may experience neureal-to-earth voltage problems near a substation or transformer bank in an area where soil resistivity is high and resistance-to-earth of the substation or isolation transformer is high. The customer who

is located far out on the line will not experience a significant change in neutral-to-earth voltage when substation or transformer bank resistance is changed. A factor that can have an effect on the neutral-to-earth voltage of a distribution line is an abnormal resistrance in series with the neutral conductor. The effect will be variable, depending upon the resistance to earth along the line. Effects of high resistance in series with the neutral conductor at two locations are illustrated in Figs. 11 and 12. It is important to keep in mind that the resistance to earth of the simulated distribution line of this study is 20 Q every 300 m. If the resistance to earth of the line is lowered, then the effect of a resistance in series with the neutral will be less dramatic. Fig. 11 illustrates the effect of resistance in series with the neutral near the substation. There is a significant increase in neutralto-earth voltage on the load side of the resistance, but there is less of an effect farther out along the line. When an abnormal resistance is placed in series with the neutral at some distance out along the line from the substation, there will be an increase in neutral-to-earth voltage on the load side of the resistance and a decrease in the neutral-to-earth voltage on the supply side. For the line of this simulation the resistance between ground rods is approximately 0.5 Q . Note from Fig. 12 that even when the resistance at one location is increased by 0.5 Q , the change in neutral-to-earth voltage may be small. Resistance in series with the neutral can have a more pronounced effect in areas where soil resistivity is high. Similar results with simulation models were obtained by Gustafson and Cloud [ 3 ] using a network solving program. When the substation resistance to earth is not zero, the neutralto-earth voltage decreases as the distance decreased from the substation until a voltage phase shift is experienced, then the neutral-to-earth voltage increases. Shull et al. [4], using an analog direct-current simulator, observed a similar voltage profile along the distribution line. DISTRIBUTION LINEPARAMETERS THAT AFFECT NEUTRAL-TO-EARTH VOLTAGE LEVELS It is necessary to identify the various distribution-line parameters that can affect neutral-to-earth voltage before steps can be undertaken to lower the neutral-to-earth voltage at a specific point along the distribution line. It is also important to understand which of these parameters will have the greatest effect upon neutral-to-earth voltage levels for a particular situation. A reduction in neutral-to-earth voltage at a particular location can be obtained by 1) reducing the current flowing on the primary neutral conductor, 2) reducing the impedance of the primary distribution line, and 3 ) elimination of any ground faults on the primary distribution line or at a neighboring secondary location. A ground fault is an abnormal condition that should be located, if present, and eliminated, regardless of the effect upon the neutral-to-earth voltage at any specific location. The real problem for a power supplier is the decision as to what action should be taken when there does not seem to be a specific problem with the distribution line. What changes to

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802

IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS, VOL. 24, NO. 5 , SEPTEMBERIOCTOBER 1988

e -

Neutral Neutral Resistance Resistance Added Added

> 0
r e

Neutral, 5 A.

I
I

Phase C, 2 A.

* e 2 e

0.5 ohm added

_.._...........

Phase E. 5 A.

Phase A, 7 A.

z
\

4
Substation

Distance

4.5 km

Phase C. 16 A

Fig. 12. Effect upon neutral-to-earth voltage along simulated single-ohase 4.5-km distribution line (#4 AHG, ACSR) of resistance in neutral conductor at one location.

Fig. 14. Phase and neutral current vector diagram for four-wire wye primary distribution line at two levels of line loading.
Phase Wire 20 A.

With the higher level of loading in the evening, as depicted with the right-side diagram, the neutral current is only 2.5 A. Fig. 13. Phase and neutral current vector diagram for single-phase primary This illustrates the benefit that can be achieved from balancing distribution line. an unbalanced line. The level of primary neutral current on a line with two or the distribution line will yield the most significant results at more phase wires generally cannot be controlled any more lowering the neutral-to-earth voltage along a line? Long than the customer loads can be controlled. In cases where the distribution lines may have a high neutral impedance from a customer load pattern is somewhat predictable, it may be distant location to the source transformer bank, and current possible to shift farm loading during milking to a primary flow on the line will result in neutral-to-earth voltage along the phase, which brings the line somewhat into balance during line. The most significant results in lowering neutral-to-earth milking. Keep in mind that this assumes that the time cows will voltage along the line can therefore be achieved by lowering be most affected by neutral-to-earth voltage is during milking. the current flow on the line. This may not be true in some cases. Fig. 15 illustrates an openThe current on the neutral of a three-phase circuit can be wye primary distribution line where most of the load on the determined graphically with vectors, the length of which are in line from customers other than the farm are on phase A, as amperes, and the direction of each phase wire vector is 120" depicted by the left-side diagram. The farm load is on phase B. apart. The current flowing on the neutral will be the length of a The right-side diagram shows the condition with full farm vector, from the tip of the last phase vector to the origin of the load. Note that the current on the neutral is not changed. This graph. Fig. 13 illustrates the current on a single-phase two- can explain why during testing for neutral-to-earth voltage an wire primary line. Note that the vectors for the phase current increase in voltage is not observed when significant farm and neutral current are equal in magnitude, but 180" out of motor load is added. Earlier in the day this may not be true, phase. As the phase current increases, the neutral current will such as when farm load is added at a time when there is little increase. With a multigrounded neutral, all of this neutral current from other customers on phase A. It is important to current does not flow on the neutral wire, but some will flow know what kind of primary system is used to supply a farm through the earth. customer when making a neutral-to-earth voltage investigaThe neutral-to-earth voltage on a single-phase distribution tion, and when taking steps to mitigate a high neutral-to-earth line is frequently higher in the evening than at other times of voltage level. the day. Experience taking neutral-to-earth voltage measureIt is important to check primary line load balancing, but the ments on many farms in the Midwest, however, has shown benefit achieved from balancing the line for one part of the day that this is not always the case. The neutral-to-earth voltage in may be offset by creating a neutral-to-earth voltage problem at the evening can be lower than at some other times of the day. another time of the day. The milking time is not necessarily the In the case of a primary line with two or more phase wires, it is critical time of the day as far as neutral-to-earth voltage is difficult to predict the level of neutral-to-earth voltage in the concerned. Each situation must be treated separately, and a evening as compared to other times of the day. Fig. 14 generalized approach is not always possible. illustrates a primary four-wire distribution line at two levels of The extension of more three-phase distribution lines into line loading. The left vector diagram may depict the line rural areas may at first seem to be a method of reducing neutral loading in the afternoon. Note that the neutral current is 5 A. current and therefore neutral-to-earth voltage. The previous
~

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SURBROOK et ai.: PARAMETERS AFFECTING NEUTRAL-TO-EARTH VOLTAGE

803

Neutral 10.5 A.

L
Phase B. 4 A.

Phase A, 12 A

L
Phase B, 8 A.

I
I

Neutral 10.5 A.

Phase A, 12 A.

Fig. 15. Phase and neutral current for open-wye primary distribution line with two levels of loading on phase B.

discussion points out that this may not be the case, but shows that it depends upon loading pattern of the customer. It is known from experience in the field that large three-phase customer loads on open-wye distribution lines can result in high primary neutral currents. It is recommended for areas where resistance to earth of ground rods is high that large three-phase rural customers on the same line as livestock customers (where practical) be supplied with four-wire wye distribution lines rather than open-wye lines. This will prevent high neutral currents as a result of large three-phase customer loads. Lowering of resistance to earth at one location, or along the primary line, can lower the neutral current, but the results of this technique have been variable. Sometimes a significant reduction of neutral-to-earth voltage has been achieved, and sometimes the results have been insignificant. Lowering the resistance to earth at a farm will generally yield minimal results when the neutral-to-earth voltage is the result of load from other customers on the primary line. An isolation transformer bank or a step-down transformer bank applied a large load at a point on a primary line. The resistance to earth at the transformer bank may be significant in some situations. Under these conditions it may be necessary to lower the resistance to earth to lower the neutral-to-earth voltage on the line close to the isolation transformer. If the supply and load circuit neutrals are bonded together at the transformer bank, then resistance to earth most likely is not causing a neutral-to-earth voltage problem. Power-factor correction has been used on some primary lines to lower the neutral current. This is a technique that can be of benefit only when a primary line is operating with a lower power factor. A fixed amount of power factor correction may not yield satisfactory results for a line where the power factor and line loading is highly variable. The best approach in cases where there is a variable-power-factor problem on a line is to place the power-factor correction at the customer location. Line impedance is another factor that can affect the level of neutral-to-earth voltage of the primary line. If it appears that there is an abnormal amount of line impedance at one or more locations, then additional grounding should be added to the primary at these locations. The effect of line point impedance is generally local, and does not generally cause an increase in

neutral-to-earth voltage along the entire line. Wire types and sizes that become too small for the load should be changed, but the end result may not be an adequate reduction of neutral-toearth voltage to solve a problem at a farm. CONCLUSION The primary distribution line parameters that result in a lowering of the neutral current have generally resulted in the most consistent lowering of neutral-to-earth voltage based upon experience in the Midwest. This can be accomplished by balancing three-phase load, converting open-wye distribution lines to three-phase wye, and in some cases, by increasing the line voltage. The growth of the area and costs of conversion are factors that must be considered along with other methods of mitigating neutral-to-earth voltage problems. It is important to examine and understand the type of primary distribution line, including main and subcircuits, before taking steps to reduce off-the-farm produced neutral-toearth voltage. REFERENCES
A. C. H. Kehrle, Neutral-to-earth voltage-analysis of a single-phase primary eletrical distribution system, Masters thesis, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, 1984. N. D. Reese and T. C. Surbrook, Modelling primary and secondary electrical systems, in Proc. National Stray Voltage Symp., held in Syracuse, NY, published by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, St. Joseph, MI 49085-9659, 1984. R. J. Gustafson and H. A. Cloud, Modeling the primary distribution system, in Proc. National Stray Voltage Symp., Syracuse, NY, American Society of Agricultural Engineers, St. Joseph, MI 490859659, 1984. H. Shull, L. E. Stetson, and G. R. Bodman, An analog model of neutral-to-earth voltages in a single-phase distribution system, presented at the IEEE-IAS, 1983, Rural Electric Power Conference, Industry Application Society, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 345 East 47th Street, New York, N Y .

Truman C. Surbrook (AM83) received the B.S.,


M.S., and Ph.D., degrees in agricultural engineering from Michigan State University, East Lansing, in 1965, 1969, and 1977, respectively. He has worked in the area of electrical power as applied to agriculture for 22 years. Presently, he holds the position of Professor, with responsibilities in teaching and research. His areas of research involve neutral-to-earth voltage, electrical wiring for agriculture, and robotics as applied to agricultural machinery. Dr. Surbrook is a Licensed Master Electrician and serves as an alternate

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8 04

IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS, VOL. 24, NO. 5 , SEPTEMBERIOCTOBER 1988 Mr. Reese is a Licensed Master Electrician. He is a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of Michigan.

member of the National Electrical Code Making Panel 19. He is a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of Michigan.

Norman D. Reese received the B.E.E. degree from Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH, in
1961. He worked 23 years in the electrical utility industry, both for power companies directly and as a Consultant. He has been in the Agricultural Engineering Department at Michigan State University since 1981, teaching courses in electrical technology. His work experience includes design of protection systems for EHV transmission lines and large plants as well as distribution system design. His foreign assignments have-taken him to Brazil, Saudi Arabia,-and Pakistan, and he has done work for clients in Turkey, Bolivia, and Iran.

Jonathan R. Althouse received the B.S. degree in 1985 and is currently working on the M.S. degree in agricultural engineering technology at Michigan State University, East Lansing. He has worked as an Electrician since 1982. Presently he holds the position of Instructor at Michigan State University. His responsibilities include teaching courses in electrical technology and neutral-to-earth voltage research. Mr. Althouse is a Licensed Journey Electrician.

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