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Home / Technical Articles / Designing of HV Power Substation and Layout
Designing of High Voltage Power Substation and Layout
Designing of High Voltage Power Substation and Layout (photo by Noritaka Tasho @ Flickr)


  1. Introduction
  2. Earthing and Bonding
  3. Substation Earthing Calculation Methodology (Earthing Materials)
  4. Layout of Substation
  5. Different Layouts for Substations (single busbar, mesh, 1 1/2 cb)
  6. Principle of Substation Layouts (spatial separation, maintenance zones)
  7. Components of a Substation (cbs, cts, isolators, insulation, transformers etc.)


Substations are the points in the power network where transmission lines and distribution feeders are connected together through circuit breakers or switches via busbars and transformers. This allows for the control of power flows in the network and general switching operations for maintenance purposes.

The first step in designing a power substation is to design an earthing and bonding system.

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Earthing and Bonding

The function of an earthing and bonding system is to provide an earthing system connection to which transformer neutrals or earthing impedances may be connected in order to pass the maximum fault current. The earthing system also ensures that no thermal or mechanical damage occurs on the equipment within the power substation, thereby resulting in safety too peration and maintenance personnel.

The earthing system also guarantees equipotential bonding such that there are no dangerous potential gradients developed in the substation.

In designing the substation, three voltage have to be considered:

  1. Touch Voltage: This is the difference in potential between the surf ace potential and the potential at an Earthed equipment whilst a man is standing and touching the earthed structure.
  2. Step Voltage: This is the potential difference developed when a man bridges a distance of 1m with his Feet while not touching any other earthed equipment.
  3. Mesh Voltage: This is the maximum touch voltage that is developed inthe mesh of the earthing grid.

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Substation Earthing Calculation Methodology

Calculations for earth impedances and touch and step potentials are based on site measurements of ground resistivity and system fault levels. A grid layout with particular conductors is then analyzed to determine the effective substation earthing resistance, from which the earthing voltage is calculated. In practice, it is normal to take the highest fault level for substation earth grid calculation purposes.

Additionally, it is necessary to ensure a sufficient margin such that expansion of the system is catered for.

To determine the earth resistivity, probe tests are carried out on the site. These tests are best performed in dry weather such that conservative resistivity readings are obtained.

Earthing Materials

1. Conductors

Bare copper conductor is usually used for the substation earthing grid. The copper bars Themselves usually have a cross-sectional area of 95 square millimeters, and they are laid at a shallow Depth of 0.25-0.5m, in 3-7m squares.

In addition to the buried potential earth grid, a separate above ground earthing ring is usually provided, to which all metallic substation plant is bonded.

2. Connections:

Connections to the grid and other earthing joints should not be soldered because the heat generated during fault conditions could cause a soldered joint to fail. Joints are usually bolted and in this case, the face of the joints should be tinned.

3. Earthing Rods

The earthing grid must be supplemented by earthing rods to assist in the dissipation of earth fault currents and further reduce the overall substation earthing resistance. These rods are usually made of solid copper, or copper clad steel.

4. Switchyard Fence

Earthing: The switchyard fence earthing practices are possibleand are used by different utilities.

These are:

  1. Extend the substation earth grid 0.5m-1.5m beyond the fence perimeter. The fence is then bonded to the grid at regular intervals.
  2. Place the fence beyond the perimeter of the switchyard earthing grid and bond the fence to its own earthing rod system. This earthing rod system is not coupled to the main substation earthing grid.

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Layout of Substation

The layout of the substation is very important since there should be a security of supply.

In an ideal substation all circuits and equipment would be duplicated such that following a fault, or during maintenance, a connection remains available. Practically this is not feasible since the cost of implementing such a design is very high.

Methods have been adopted to achieve a compromise between complete security of supply and capital investment.

There are four categories of substation that give varying securities of supply:

  • Category 1 – No outage is necessary within the substation for either maintenance or fault conditions.
  • Category 2 – Short outage is necessary to transfer the load to an alternative circuit for maintenance or fault conditions.
  • Category 3 – Loss of a circuit or section of the substation due to fault or maintenance.
  • Category 4 – Loss of the entire substation due to fault or maintenance.

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Different Layouts for Substations

Single Busbar

The general schematic for such a substation is shown in the figure below.

Single- busbar substation layout
Single- busbar substation layout

With this design, there is an ease of operation of the substation. This design also places minimum reliance on signalling for satisfactory operation of protection. Additionally there is the facility to support the economical operation of future feeder bays.

Such a substation has the following characteristics:

  1. Each circuit is protected by its own circuit breaker and hence plant outage does not necessarily result in loss of supply.
  2. A fault on the feeder or transformer circuit breaker causes loss of the transformer and feeder circuit, one of which may be restored after isolating the faulty circuit breaker.
  3. A fault on the bus section circuit breaker causes complete shutdown of the substation. All circuits may be restored after isolating the faulty circuit breaker. A busbar fault causes loss of one transformer and one feeder.
  4. Maintenance of one busbar section or isolator will cause the temporary outage of two circuits.
  5. Maintenance of a feeder or transformer circuit breaker involves loss of the circuit.
  6. Introduction of bypass isolators between busbar and circuit isolator allows circuit breaker maintenance facilities without loss of that circuit.

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Mesh Substation

The general layout for a full mesh substation is shown in the schematic below.

Full mesh substation layout
Full mesh substation layout

The characteristics of such a substation are as follows. Operation of two circuit breakers is required to connect or disconnect a circuit, and disconnection involves opening of a mesh. Circuit breakers may be maintained without loss of supply or protection, and no additional bypass facilities are required.

Busbar faults will only cause the loss of one circuit breaker. Breaker faults will involve the loss of a maximum of two circuits. generally, not more than twice as many outgoing circuits as in feeds are used in order to rationalize circuit equipment load capabilities and ratings.

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One and a half Circuit Breaker layout

The layout of a 1 1/2 circuit breaker substation is shown in the schematic below.

One and a half Circuit Breaker layout
One and a half Circuit Breaker layout

The reason that such a layout is known as a 1 1/2 circuit breaker is due to the fact that in the design, there are 9 circuit breakers that are used to protect the 6 feeders. Thus, 1 1/2 circuit breakers protect 1 feeder.

Some characteristics of this design are:

  1. There is the additional cost of the circuit breakers together with the complex arrangement.
  2. It is possible to operate any one pair of circuits, or groups of pairs of circuits.
  3. There is a very high security against the loss of supply.

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Principle of Substation Layouts

Substation layout consists essentially in arranging a number of switchgear components in an ordered pattern governed by their function and rules of spatial separation.

Spatial Separation

  1. Earth Clearance – this is the clearance between live parts and earthed structures, walls, screens and ground.
  2. Phase Clearanc – this is the clearance between live parts of different phases.
  3. Isolating Distance – this is the clearance between the terminals of an isolator and the connections There to.
  4. Section Clearance – this is the clearance between live parts and the terminals of a work section. The limits of this work section, or maintenance zone, may be the ground or a platform from which the man works.

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Separation of Maintenance Zones

Two methods are available for separating equipment in a maintenance zone that has been isolated and made dead:

  1. The provision of a section clearance
  2. Use of an intervening earthed barrier

The choice between the two methods depends on the voltage and whether horizontal or vertical clearances are involved. A section clearance is composed of a the reach of a man, taken as 8 feet, plus an earth clearance. For the voltage at which the earth clearance is 8 feet, the space required will be the same whether a section clearance or an earthed barrier is used.


Separation by earthed barrier = Earth Clearance + 50mm for barrier + Earth Clearance
Separation by section clearance = 2.44m + Earth clearance

For vertical clearances it is necessary to take into account the space occupied by the equipment and the need for an access platform at higher voltages. The height of the platform is taken as 1.37m below the highest point of work.

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Establishing Maintenance Zones

Some maintenance zones are easily defined and the need for them is self evident as is the case of a circuit breaker. There should be a means of isolation on each side of the circuit breaker, and to separate it from adjacent live parts, when isolated, either by section clearances or earth barriers.

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Electrical Separations

Together with maintenance zoning, the separation, by isolating distance and phase clearances, of the substation components and of the conductors interconnecting them constitute the main basis of substation layouts.

There are at least three such electrical separations per phase that are needed in a circuit:

  1. Between the terminals of the bus bar isolator and their connections.
  2. Between the terminals of the circuit breaker and their connections.
  3. Between the terminals of the feeder isolator and their connections.

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Components of a Substation

The substation components will only be considered to the extent where they influence substation layout.

Circuit Breakers

There are two forms of open circuit breakers:

  1. Dead Tank – circuit breaker compartment is at earth potential.
  2. Live Tank – circuit breaker compartment is at line potential.

The form of circuit breaker influences the way in which the circuit breaker is accommodated. This may be one of four ways.

1. Ground Mounting and Plinth Mounting

The main advantages of this type of mounting are its simplicity, ease of erection, ease of maintenance and elimination of support structures. An added advantage is that in indoor substations, there is the reduction in the height of the building. A disadvantage however is that to prevent danger to personnel, the circuit breaker has to be surrounded by an earthed barrier, which increases the area required.

Retractable Circuit Breakers

These have the advantage of being space saving due to the fact that isolators can be accommodated in the same area of clearance that has to be allowed between the retractable circuit breaker and the live fixed contacts. Another advantage is that there is the ease and safety of maintenance. Additionally such a mounting is economical since at least two insulators per phase are still needed to support the fixed circuit breaker plug contacts.

Suspended Circuit Breakers

At higher voltages tension insulators are cheaper than post or pedestal insulators. With this type of mounting the live tank circuit breaker is suspended by tension insulators from overhead structures, and held in a stable position by similar insulators tensioned to the ground. There is the claimed advantage of reduced costs and simplified foundations, and the structures used to suspend the circuit breakers may be used for other purposes.

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Current Transformers

CT’s may be accommodated in one of six manners:

  1. Over Circuit Breaker bushings or in pedestals.
  2. In separate post type housings.
  3. Over moving bushings of some types of insulators.
  4. Over power transformers of reactor bushings.
  5. Over wall or roof bushings.
  6. Over cables.

In all except the second of the list, the CT’s occupy incidental space and do not affect the size of the layout. The CT’s become more remote from the circuit breaker in the order listed above. Accommodation of CT’s over isolator bushings, or bushings through walls or roofs, is usually confined to indoor substations.

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These are essentially off load devices although they are capable of dealing with small charging currents of busbars and connections. The design of isolators is closely related to the design of substations.

Isolator design is considered in the following aspects:

  • Space Factor
  • Insulation Security
  • Standardisation
  • Ease of Maintenance
  • Cost

Some types of isolators include:

  • Horizontal Isolation types
  • Vertical Isolation types
  • Moving Bushing types

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Conductor Systems

An ideal conductor should fulfil the following requirements:

  • Should be capable of carrying the specified load currents and short time currents.
  • Should be able to withstand forces on it due to its situation. These forces comprise self weight, and
  • Weight of other conductors and equipment, short circuit forces and atmospheric forces such as wind and ice loading.
  • Should be corona free at rated voltage.
  • Should have the minimum number of joints.
  • Should need the minimum number of supporting insulators.
  • Should be economical.

The most suitable material for the conductor system is copper or aluminium. Steel may be used but has limitations of poor conductivity and high susceptibility to corrosion. In an effort to make the conductor ideal, three different types have been utilized, and these include:

  • Flat surfaced Conductors
  • Stranded Conductors
  • Tubular Conductors

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Insulation security has been rated very highly among the aims of good substation design.

Extensive research is done on improving flashover characteristics as well as combating pollution. Increased creepage length, resistance glazing, insulation greasing and line washing have been used with varying degrees of success.

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Power Transformers

EHV power transformers are usually oil immersed with all three phases in one tank. Auto transformers can offer advantage of smaller physical size and reduced losses.

The different classes of power transformers are:

  • o.n.: Oil immersed, natural cooling
  • o.b.: Oil immersed, air blast cooling
  • o.f.n.: Oil immersed, oil circulation forced
  • o.f.b.: Oil immersed, oil circulation forced, air blast cooling

Power transformers are usually the largest single item in a substation. For economy of service roads, transformers are located on one side of a substation, and the connection to switchgear is by bare conductors. Because of the large quantity of oil, it is essential to take precaution against the spread of fire.

Hence, the transformer is usually located around a sump used to collect the excess oil. Transformers that are located and a cell should be enclosed in a blast proof room.

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Overhead Line Terminations

Two methods are used to terminate overhead lines at a substation.

  1. Tensioning conductors to substation structures or buildings
  2. Tensioning conductors to ground winches.

The choice is influenced by the height of towers and the proximity to the substation. The following clearances should be observed:

Voltage LevelMinimum Ground Clearance
Less than 66kV6.1 m
66kV – 110kV6.4 m
110kV – 165kV6.7 m
Greater than 165kV7.0 m

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Resource: Mr Alvin Lutchman, Lecturer at University of West Indies

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More Information

Prabakaran S

Electrical Engineer - Design


  1. Rajendra jadhav
    Mar 20, 2020

    Very helpful technically

  2. Asayech
    Nov 29, 2019

    Great Resource!
    Would be awesome if you could label the diagrams(bus bar, transformer, breaker etc…) for clarity.


  3. Mrinmoy Dutta
    May 29, 2018

    Pl fwd me a layout plan for 33/11KV, 2×5 10 MVA substation, with provision for 33KV Incoming & Outgoing line(one each) clearly showing the minimum separating distances of the equipment’s such as Isolator, CT, VCB, LA & Transformer.

  4. Nelson Enriquez
    Jul 18, 2015

    please give a short circuit computation using the impedance equivalent of 1-1/2 circuit breaker scheme with with two the same rating of transformer step up 13.8 to 138 kv supplying the load with two tine line from other plant with 60 MW capacity each, supplying then two citiet bia the two step down transformer 138kV to 69 kV respectively to the total load of one is 60 MW and the other city has 20 MW load, and show short circuit computation when fault is one of supplying transformer, in one the load side of 69 kV , the other in the bus side.

  5. mana ram dangi
    Jun 07, 2015

    Dear sir, I urgent need the following.
    1. cross section Area and weight of all type of steel structure who has utilised in 132KV and 220KV Grid Sub station also latish tower

  6. Adeegbe Muyiwa
    Jun 03, 2015

    Well, I would like to know something about connection and positiong of CT and Line breakers. From the incoming feeder to a substation…i.e in the switchyard and before the Power Transformer…where does the CT come in….IS IT ALWAYS BEFORE THE LINE BREAKER OR ALWAYS AFTER THE LINE BREAKER? will be waiting for prompt assistance from anyone with cogent explanations. Thank You

  7. Huliraja
    Apr 29, 2015

    I needed the information about circuit breaker design

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