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Why Do We Use Grounding Transformers (zig-zag and grounded wye-delta connections)
Why Do We Use Grounding Transformers // zig-zag and grounded wye-delta connections (photo credit: swedishneutral.se)

Purpose of grounding transformer

Grounding transformers are sometimes used on distribution systems. A grounding transformer provides a source for zero-sequence current. Grounding transformers are sometimes used to convert a three-wire, ungrounded circuit into a four-wire, grounded circuit. Figure 1 (see below) shows the two most common grounding transformers.

The zig-zag connection is the most widely used grounding transformer.

Grounding transformer connections (zig-zag and grounded wye-delta)
Figure 1 – Grounding transformer connections (zig-zag and grounded wye-delta)

Figure 2 shows how a grounding bank supplies current to a ground fault. Grounding transformers used as the only ground source to a distribution circuit should be in service whenever the three-phase power source is in service.

If the grounding transformer is lost, a line-to-ground causes high phase-to-neutral voltages on the unfaulted phases, and load unbalances can also cause neutral shifts and overvoltages.

A grounding transformer feeding a ground fault
Figure 2 – A grounding transformer feeding a ground fault

A grounding transformer must handle the unbalanced load on the circuit as well as the duty during line-to-ground faults.

If the circuit has minimal unbalance, then we can drastically reduce the rating of the transformer. It only has to be rated to carry short-duration (but high-magnitude) faults, normally a 10 seconds or 1 minute rating is used. We can also select the impedance of the grounding transformer to limit ground-fault currents.


Each leg of a grounding transformer carries one-third of the neutral current and has line-to-neutral voltage. So in a grounded wye – delta transformer, the total power rating including all three phases is the neutral current times the line-to-ground voltage:

S = VLG × IN

A zig-zag transformer is more efficient than a grounded wye–delta transformer. In a zig-zag, each winding has less than the line-to-ground voltage, by a factor of √3, so the bank may be rated lower:

S = VLG × I/ √3

ANSI/IEEE Std. 32-1972 requires a continuous rating of 3% for a 10-sec rated unit (which means the short-time rating is 33 times the continuous rating).

A 1-min rated bank has a continuous current rating of 7%. On a 12.47 kV system supplying a ground-fault current of 6000 A, a zig-zag would need a 24.9 MVA rating. We will size the bank to handle the 24.9 MVA for 10 sec, which is equivalent to a 0.75-MVA continuous rating, so this bank could handle 180 A of neutral current continuously.

For both the zig-zag and the grounded wye-delta, the zero-sequence impedance equals the impedance between one transformer primary and its secondary.

Another application of grounding transformers is in cases of telephone interference due to current flow in the neutral/ground. By placing a grounding bank closer to the source of the neutral current, the grounding bank shifts some of the current from the neutral to the phase conductors to lower the neutral current that interferes with the telecommunication wires.

Grounding transformers are also used where utilities need a ground source during abnormal conditions.

One such application is for a combination feeder that feeds secondary network loads and other non-network line-to ground connected loads. If the network transformers are delta-grounded wye connected, the network will backfeed the circuit during a line-to-ground fault.

If that happens while the main feeder breaker is open, the single-phase load on the unfaulted phases will see an overvoltage because the circuit is being back fed through the network loads as an ungrounded system. A grounding bank installed on the feeder prevents the overvoltage during backfeed conditions. Another similar application is found when applying distributed generators.

A grounded wye-delta transformer is often specified as the interconnection transformer to prevent overvoltages if the generator drives an island that is separated from the utility source.

Even if a grounding bank is not the only ground source, it must be sized to carry the voltage unbalance. The zero-sequence current drawn by a bank is the zero-sequence voltage divided by the zero-sequence impedance:

I0 = V0 / Z0

Severe voltage unbalance can result when one phase voltage is opened upstream (usually from a blown fuse or a tripped single-phase recloser). In this case, the zero-sequence voltage equals the line-to-neutral voltage. The grounding bank will try to hold up the voltage on the opened phase and supply all of the load on that phase, which could severely overload the transformer.

Reference // Electric Power Distribution Equipment and Systems By T.A. Short (Get hardcopy from Amazon)

About Author //

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Edvard Csanyi

Edvard - Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, buildings and industry fascilities. Designing of LV/MV switchgears.Professional in AutoCAD programming and web-design.Present on

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