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Sag and tension of transmission and distribution lines
Sag and tension of transmission and distribution lines (photo by Matthew Devine)


The energized conductors of transmission and distribution lines must be placed to totally eliminate the possibility of injury to people.

Overhead conductors, however, elongate with time, temperature, and tension, thereby changing their original positions after installation.

Despite the effects of weather and loading on a line, the conductors must remain at safe distances from buildings, objects, and people or vehicles passing beneath the line at all times.

To ensure this safety, the shape of the terrain along the right-of-way, the height and lateral position of the conductor support points, and the position of the conductor between support points under all wind, ice, and temperature conditions must be known.

Bare overhead transmission or distribution conductors are typically quite flexible and uniform in weight along their length. Because of these characteristics, they take the form of a catenary (Ehrenberg, 1935; Winkelmann, 1959) between support points.

The shape of the catenary changes with conductor temperature, ice and wind loading, and time. To ensure adequate vertical and horizontal clearance under all weather and electrical loadings, and to ensure that the breaking strength of the conductor is not exceeded, the behavior of the conductor catenary under all conditions must be known before the line is designed.

The future behavior of the conductor is determined through calculations commonly referred to as sag-tension calculations.

Sag-tension calculations predict the behavior of conductors based on recommended tension limits under varying loading conditions. These tension limits specify certain percentages of the conductor’s rated breaking strength that are not to be exceeded upon installation or during the life of the line.

These conditions, along with the elastic and permanent elongation properties of the conductor, provide the basis for determinating the amount of resulting sag during installation and long-term operation of the line. Accurately determined initial sag limits are essential in the line design process. Final sags and tensions depend on initial installed sags and tensions and on proper handling during installation.

The final sag shape of conductors is used to select support point heights and span lengths so that the minimum clearances will be maintained over the life of the line. If the conductor is damaged or the initial sags are incorrect, the line clearances may be violated or the conductor may break during heavy ice or wind loadings.

Resource: Sag and Tension of Conductor by D.A. Douglass and Ridley Thrash

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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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