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Home / Technical Articles / Dimensioning of Power Distribution Systems (2)
Dimensioning of Power Distribution Systems (2)
Dimensioning of Power Distribution Systems (Part 2)

Continued from the first part: Dimensioning of Power Distribution Systems (1)

Circuit types

Distribution circuit

Dimensioning of cable routes and devices follows the maximum load currents to be expected at this distribution level.

As a rule:

Ib max = ∑ installed capacity x simultaneity factor

Switching/protective device and connecting line are to be matched with regard to overload and short-circuit protection.

In order to ensure overload protection, the standardized conventional (non-)tripping currents referring to the devices in application have to be observed. A verification based merely on the rated device current or the setting value Ir would be insufficient.

Basic rules for ensuring overload protection:

Rated current rule

Non-adjustable protective equipment

Ib ≤ In ≤ Iz

The rated current In of the selected device must be between the calculated maximum load current Ib and the maximum permissible load current Iz of the selected transmission medium (cable or busbar).

Adjustable protective equipment

Ib ≤ Ir ≤ Iz

The rated current Ir of the overload release must be between the calculated maximum load current Ib and the maximum permissible load current Iz of the selected transmission medium (cable or busbar).

Tripping current rule

I2 ≤ 1.45 x Iz

The maximum permissible load current Iz of the selected transmission medium (cable or busbar) must be above the conventional tripping current I2-/1.45 of the selected device.

The test value I2 is standardized and varies according to the type and characteristics of the protective equipment applied.

Basic rules for ensuring short-circuit protection:

Short-circuit energy

K2S2 ≥ I2t

(K = Material coefficient; S = Cross-section)

The amount of energy that is set free when a short-circuit occurs – and up to the moment it is cleared automatically – must be less than the energy that the transmission medium can carry as a maximum or there will be irreparable damage. As a standard, this basic rule applies in the time range up to max. 5 s.

Below 100 ms of short-circuit breaking time, the let-through energy of the protective device (according to the equipment manufacturer’s specification) must be taken into account.

When devices with a tripping unit are used, observance of this rule across the entire characteristic device curve must be verified. A mere verification in the range of the maximum short-circuit current applied (Ik max) is not always sufficient, in particular when time-delayed releases are used.

Short-circuit time

ta (Ik min) ≤ 5 s

The resulting current-breaking time of the selected protective equipment must ensure that the calculated minimum short-circuit current Ik min at the end of the transmission line or protected line is automatically cleared within 5 s at the most.

Overload and short-circuit protection need not necessarily be provided by one and the same device. If required, these two protection targets may be realized by a device combination. The use of separate switching protective devices could also be considered, i.e., at the start and end of a cable route. As a rule, devices applied at the end of a cable route can ensure overload protection for that line only.

Final circuits

The method for coordinating overload and short-circuit protection is practically identical for distribution and final circuits. Besides overload and short-circuit protection, the protection of human life is also important for all circuits.

Protection against electric shock

ta (Ik1 min) ≤ ta perm

If a 1-phase fault to earth (Ik1 min) occurs, the resulting current breaking time ta for the selected protective equipment must be shorter than the maximum permissible breaking time ta perm that is required for this circuit according to IEC 60364-4-41/DIN VDE 0100-410 to ensure the protection of persons.

Because the required maximum current breaking time varies according to the rated system voltage and the type of load connected (stationary and non-stationary loads), protection requirements regarding minimum breaking times ta perm may be transferred from one load circuit to other circuits. Alternatively, this protection target may also be achieved by observing a maximum touch voltage.

Because final circuits are often characterized by long supply lines, their dimensioning is often affected by the maximum permissible voltage drop.

As far as the choice of switching protective devices is concerned, it is important to bear in mind that long connecting lines are characterized by high impedances, and thus strong attenuation of the calculated short-circuit currents.

Depending on the system operating mode (coupling open, coupling closed) and the medium of supply (transformer or generator), the protective equipment and its settings must be configured for the worst-case scenario for short-circuit currents.

In contrast to supply or distribution circuits, where the choice of a high-quality tripping unit is considered very important, there are no special requirements on the protective equipment of final circuits regarding the degree of selectivity to be achieved.

The use of a tripping unit with LI characteristics is normally sufficient.


Basically, the dimensioning process itself is easy to understand and can be performed using simple means. Its complexity lies in the procurement of the technical data on products and systems required. This data can be found in various technical standards and regulations as well as in numerous product catalogs.

An important aspect in this context is the cross-circuit manipulation of dimensioned components owing to their technical data. One such aspect is the above mentioned inheritance of minimum current breaking times of the non-stationary load circuit to other stationary load or distribution circuits.

Another aspect is the mutual impact of dimensioning and network calculation (short-circuit), e.g., for the use of short-circuit current-limiting devices.

In addition, the complexity of the matter increases, when different national standards or installation practices are to be taken into account for dimensioning.

Reference: Siemens – Power Engineering Guide Edition 7.0 (chap. Switchgear and Substations)

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Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.

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