Shaun M. McCarthy
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Abstract
This work has been commissioned by Sinclair Knight
Merz to investigate the processes involved with rigid
busbar system (RBS) and strain busbar system (SBS)
design. This paper deals with the theory behind the
various forces exerted upon these busbar structures and
their corresponding electromechanical responses. A
novel method for calculating the final tension due to
temperature change in an aerial conductor and an outline
for modelling concentrated masses on RBS conductors
is presented. To illustrate the processes involved, a
design demonstration comparing RBS and SBS is
conducted. A cost analysis is performed, revealing that
the RBS is the more economical of the two designs.
1. Introduction
Busbar systems are structures within substations that
serve as connections between electric circuits of a power
system and consist of conductors, insulators, supports
and associated connections. These structures account for
a large percentage of the overall substation equipment
investment [1]. Proper design is essential for safe,
reliable and economic operation of the power system.
Of the existing substations today, air insulated
substations (AIS) account for the majority [2]. There are
two main busbar construction types used in AIS designs.
These are rigid busbar systems (RBS), utilising tubular
conductors (Figure 1.1) and strain busbar systems
(SBS), utilising hanging aerial conductors (Figure 1.2).
Regarding RBS, aluminium alloys are commonly used
for the tubular conductors [1][3], which are typically
Figure 1.1: Example of a rigid busbar system [4].
Figure 1.2: Example of a strain busbar system
(adapted from [5]).
connected to vertically arranged porcelain insulators and
steel supports [2]. Selection of the tube dimensions is
frequently governed by mechanical strength
considerations rather than electrical requirements [1].
With respect to SBS, the conductor is usually all
aluminium conductor (AAC) for short spans, and
aluminium conductor steel reinforced (ACSR) for
longer spans [2]. The aerial conductors are attached to
insulator strings (as opposed to vertical insulators for
RBS), which in turn are also connected to steel support
structures. The common case of three phases, arranged
in a horizontal plane, is considered in this paper.
A distinct advantage of RBS is their low and
compact physical profiles, which allow for less required
substation area and more pleasing aesthetics. The
disadvantages lie in the fact that the rigid conductors
and insulators are more susceptible to damage caused by
earthquakes, and more support structures are needed due
to span limitations. The advantages of SBS design are
increased ability to handle earthquake loads and greater
allowable spans, resulting in less number of support
structures required. A disadvantage is the need for large
clearances due to the ability of the conductors to move,
requiring a greater investment in substation ground area.
It is the goal of this paper to present an investigation
into the types of forces these busbar systems are
exposed to during their operational lives, describing the
very different electromechanical responses of RBS and
SBS separately. This work has been commissioned by
Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) to develop a better
understanding of the phenomena involved in the design
of RBS and SBS. Other objectives of this work have
included the development of calculation sheets for each
RBS and SBS, and the application of the sheets to a
theoretical scenario, with the purpose of demonstrating
the design process. It has been decided to base the
calculation sheets on the standards of the New Zealand
system operator, Transpower, particularly [3], which
closely follows IEEE standard 605 [1]. Many of the
results and figures presented in this paper have been
created using the developed calculation sheets.
This paper is structured in the following manner.
Section two describes the gravitational and climate
dependent loads that are incident upon the systems and a
novel method for calculating temperature induced sag
increase of a strain conductor is outlined. Section three
is dedicated entirely to shortcircuit forces, which is
considered the most critical factor in busbar design.
Section four describes the electromechanical response
of a rigid tubular conductor and section five discusses
other design issues including insulator selection,
vibration and topics for further development of this
work. Section six contains a design demonstration to
bring together the presented theory. A cost analysis
comparing RBS and SBS is performed. The paper
culminates in section seven with conclusions.
2. Gravitational and climatic loads
2.1. Dead weight and concentrated masses
A rigid conductor must be designed to withstand the
loads created by the conductors own weight, referred to
as dead weight, and any concentrated masses along the
span, due to, for example, connections down to other
pieces of equipment. In response to these gravitational
loads, the conductor vertically deforms. Vertical
deflection of the rigid conductor is treated in detail in
section four. Th e to the conductor
dead w ght, F
c
( /
e force per metre du
N m), is
F
c
= nw
c
(
o
t
c
) (2.1)
ei
t
c
where w
c
is the specific conductor weight, being 26,700
N/m for aluminium [6], t
c
is the conductor tube wall
thickness (m) and
o
is the conductor outer diameter
(m). The effect of concentrated masses on deflection
requires more complicated treatment and is also
discussed in section four.
In 1691, mathematicians J akob Bernoulli, Christiaan
Huygens and Gottfried Liebniz each proved separately
that the shape assumed by a string hung freely from two
points is the catenary (Figure 2.1), which is
mathematically described by the hyperbolic cosine
function [7]. A strain conductor hangs as a catenary
under dead weight [8][9]. The sag of the strain
conductor is defined as the vertical distance from the
lowest hanging point of the conductor to the imaginary
horizontal line connecting the two attachment points
(Figure 2.1).
Figure 2.1: The catenary curve (adapted from [8]).
In situations where the sag of the conductor is smaller
than one eighth of the span length, a parabolic
approximation of the catenary may be used for
calculating the sag [1][ or samelevelled attachment
points, this appears as
8]. F
=
mgL
2
8H
(2.2)
where is the conductor sag (m), m is the conductor
unit mass (kg/m), g is the gravitational constant (9.81
m/s), I is the span length (m) and E is the horizontal
component of the tension inside the conductor (N). It is
common practise to refer to conductor tensions as
percentages of calculated breaking strength (%CBL) [8].
Strain conductors are usually installed with an initial
tension of low value, less than 10%CBL [2].
An example provided in [8] shows that for a 300m
transmission line, the sag calculated by the catenary
equation and the parabolic approximation is 6.420m and
6.417m respectively, yielding a difference of only 3mm.
2.2. Wind loads
The strength of forces caused by wind is subject to the
location of the busbar system. The wind is assumed to
act on the structure in the horizontal direction, as this
causes the maximum force [1]. The New Zealand
loadings d ves t sp ed, I
z
(m/s),
from the r wing
co e [10] deri the si e wind e
egional w d speed, I (m/s), as follo
I
z
= IH
I (z,cut s
H
t
H
K
sh
K
u
(2.3)
in
s
H
)
H
where the various H and K factors account for the site
terrain and elevation, height of the structure, the
possible effect of wind reduction provided by
neighbouring buildings and so f h. ort
The wind force ,
w
(N/m), acting on the
nductor is given b
per metre F
y
F
w
= C
d
o
q
z
. (2.4)
co
C
d
is the dragforce coefficient, which describes how
wind flows around different shapes and is equal to 1.2
for a circular crosssection [10], as is the case for both
RBS and SBS conduct rs e conductor diameter
(m) and q
z
is the desig ure (Pa) given by
o .
o
is th
n wind press
q
z
= u.6I
z
2
. (2.5)
The 0.6 value comes from half times the density of air,
measured in kg/m.
2.3. Ice loads
Ice loading is clearly only applicable to regions
susceptible to ice formation. The ice buildup is
assumed to form around the conductor uniformly
[1][3][10]. The force by the weight of
ice around the cond ven by
per metre caused
uctor, F
(N/m), is gi
F
= nw
(
o
+ ) (2.6) r
where w
is the
uniform ice radial thickness (m) and
o
is the conductor
diameter (m). As an example, [3] specifies w
and r
to
be 3924 N/m and 3 cm respectively. Transpower
defines the complete load due to ice to be the vertical
force caused by the weight of the ice, coupled with the
horizontal force due to wind acting upon the augmented
section of ice [3]. In this case, the wind speed used in
(2.5) is equal to 0.9 times that of the wind speed used to
calculate the wind load when ice is absent [10].
The presence of ice on the strain conductor causes an
increase in tension [11] that can be conservatively
calculated using methods in [1].
2.4. Thermal considerations
A rigid tubular conductor responds to an increase in
temperature by elon t T ange in length, I
(m), is described by
gaing [1]. he ch
I = oI(I
]
I
) (2.7)
where o is the coefficient of thermal expansion of the
conductor (1/C), equal to 23.1E06 1/C for aluminium
[1], I is the length of the conductor (m), I
]
is the final
temperature (C) and I
) (2.8)
n th
where E
c
is the Youngs modulus (Pa) and describes the
stiffness of the conductor material. It is equal to 68.9
GPa for aluminium [1]. A
c
is the crosssectional area of
the conductor (m). Thermal expansion puts excessive
stress on the conductor and cantilever (bending) forces
on the insulators. One solution is to install a sliding joint
at one end of the RBS span to accommodate the
expansion [1][3]. The presence of a sliding joint affects
1) the vertical deflection of the conductor, 2) the
maximum stress occurring on the crosssection, 3) the
conductors natural frequency and 4) the transmittance
of loads to the insulators. These effects will be discussed
at relevant points in later sections of the paper.
The response of a strain busbar conductor to an
increase in temperature, is an increase in sag [1][8][11].
As temperature rises, the conductor elongates and the
tension within decreases [11]. The general changeof
state equation that describes this phenomenon is as
follows.
E
c
+ E
=
g
2
L
2
L
c
A
c
24
c
A oI E
]
 _
m
]
2
H
]
2

m
i
2
H
i
2
] (2.9)
where I = (I
]
I
) (C), E
]
is the final tension (N),
E
dx
2
= H(x) (4.1)
where E is the Youngs modulus of the conductor (Pa),
[ is the bending moment of inertia (m)andH(x)isthe
internal moment (Nm) as a function of distance along
the beam, x (m). [ measure of how the beam
deflects. For a circula , [ is given by
is a
r crosssection
[ = n
(
c
4

i
4
)
64
(4.2)
where
o
and
b
=
nK
2
2L
2
_
L]
m
(5.1)
where K is a constant accounting for the end conditions,
I is the conductor length (m), E is the Youngs modulus
(Pa), [ is the bending moment of inertia (m) and m is
the mass per metre of the conductor (kg/m). K is equal
to 1.25 when there is a sliding joint at one of the span
ends, and 1.51 for two fixed (bolted) ends [1], showing
that a sliding joint causes
b
to decrease. If
b
<2.75Hz,
the conductor may be susceptible to vibrations caused
by wind flowing around it [25]. This phenomenon is
known as aeolian vibration. A damping conductor
should be installed inside the tube to minimise this
effect [1][3]. The weight of the damping conductor must
be taken into account during the RBS design.
Shortcircuit forces cause rigid conductors to vibrate
[2]. The frequency of these forces is twice that of the
system frequency, (Hz) [16][19]. Natural frequencies
near and 2 should be avoided [1][3].
5.2. Insulator selection
Loads on the rigid conductor are transferred to the
vertical insulators as cantilever (bending) forces [1][2].
Cantilever forces also arise from loads directly on the
insulator, such as wind and windonice [1]. Commonly,
insulators are made of porcelain, which has high tension
and compression ratings in comparison to cantilever and
torsional (twisting) ratings [1]. For this reason it is usual
to provide the peak cantilever force at the top of the
insulator, to the manufacturer [14]. This force is usually
given in kN and is found by considering the different
load combinations (see section four). It is recommended
to multiply the cantilever rating by a safety factor [1][3].
Utilities have criteria regarding maximum horizontal
deflection of rigid insulators due to thermal expansion.
For example, Transpower specifies a heightto
deflection limit of 1/200 [3]. Horizontal deflection is
calculated by considering the rigid conductor elongation
(2.7).This is of course not an issue if a sliding joint is
installed. However, the sliding joint does affect how the
loads on the conductor are transferred to the insulators.
It causes 63% of the load to be transferred to the fixed
(bolted) connection as opposed to equal load division
when both connections are fixed [1].
The selection of insulators for SBS is much less
complicated. Since the insulators are connected to the
conductors in the same longitudinal direction (as
opposed to vertically), they need only to withstand the
maximum tensile force occurring in the conductor.
If not designed properly, insulators may be cracked,
causing a loss in mechanical strength, or completely
shattered [2][15].
5.3. Issues outside project scope
The following topics should be considered for further
development of this project.
Ampacity: Involves calculations that verify the
conductor current carrying ability for different thermal
and physical conditions.
Corona: Considers the minimising of effects due to
corona discharge (ionisation of air) at the conductor
surface, which causes electromagnetic interference.
Seismic loads: Design considerations for the
forces created by earthquakes.
Pinned end connections: Modelling of these types
of end connections for the RBS take into account
fixtures that allow some movement.
6. Design demonstration and comparison
It is the purpose of this section to apply the presented
theory, using the developed calculation sheets (see
section one), to a theoretical design scenario,
demonstrating the processes involved in RBS and SBS
design. A cost analysis is performed to identify which of
the two designs is the most economical. A
comprehensive list of the parameters used will be made
available to the reader upon request.
6.1. Scenario outline
The proposed scenario is based on a design provided by
SKM. The electrical requirements for the busbar
systems are 1) 220kV voltage rating, 2) 1600A current
rating and 3) 40kA (3sec) shortcircuit current. For the
purposes of deriving climatic loads, the design is
considered at a location similar to the lower North
Island. The aim of this demonstration is to compare a
fourspan RBS against a twospan SBS, each totalling a
length of 64m. The proposed designs are shown in
Figure 6.1. The phasetoground and phasetophase
spacings are in accordance with [30].
The calculation sheet for the RBS has been verified
against an SKM design in collaboration with an SKM
representative. The SBS version has been verified
against the strain design example provided in Annex I of
[1]. As previously mentioned, both sheets are based on
standards [1] and [3].
6.2. Design decisions and justifications
6.2.1. Rigid Busbar System
On each span of the design, a sliding joint is fitted at
one end to accommodate thermal expansion.
A 15kg spanconnection is located at the centre of
the span.
To meet the electrical criteria, an aluminium alloy
6063T5 tube with outside diameter 80mm and wall
thickness 4mm (written 80x4mm) was selected from [3].
This tube has a normal current and a shortcircuit rating
of 1670A and 52.4kA respectively. However, the stress
within the material exceeded the maximum allowable
stress of half the yield strength (90MPa) in all load
combinations and caused the vertical deflection of the
conductor to exceed the allowable limit of 53mm (span
length/300) by 406mm (Table 6.1). The dimensions
were increased to 140x8mm, but this was still
inadequate. A 200x6mm tube was the minimum size
that met the criteria.
The natural frequency of the conductor was
calculated to be 3.31 Hz, which is above the frequency
to require a damping conductor for aeolian vibration.
Table 6.1: Deflections and stresses associated with the
considered tubular conductors.
Vertical Deflection (mm)
Limit: 53
Tube Dimensions: 80x4mm 140x8mm 200x6mm
 459 96 47
Bending Stress (MPa)
Limit: 90
Tube Dimensions: 80x4mm 140x8mm 200x6mm
Load Combination:
Dead +Shortcircuit 662 114 69
Dead +Wind 109 40 29
Dead +Ice 125 44 31
(a)
(b)
Figure 6.1: Side elevation and plan views for (a) rigid busbar design and (b) strain busbar design. Dimensions in mm.
The maximum force at the top of the insulators is
5.7kN, provided by the load combination that includes
the shortcircuit force. Using a porcelain bending safety
factor of 0.6, in accordance with [3], the minimum
cantilever rating of the insulators used in the design
should be 9.5 kN.
6.2.2. Strain Busbar System
The effect of spanconnections on the SBS conductors is
considered negligible as is the case with the example
provided in [1].
To meet electrical requirements, a bundle consisting
of two 415mm AAC conductors was chosen from [3].
This has a normal current and shortcircuit rating of
3250A and 48.6kA respectively.
The initial conductor tension was set to 10%CBL,
producing an initial and maximum sag of 0.2m and
0.75m respectively. The height of structure was
increased until the maximum sag of the conductor was
above the required phasetoground clearance of 6.64m
[30] and rounded to the nearest half metre at 7.5m. The
sags and minimum clearance are shown in figure 2.2.
The developed QEM approximation (see section 2.4)
was used in the sag calculations and produced a sag
identical to the true result to four decimal places
(nearest tenth of a mm).
The minimum phase spacing due to displacement
during the shortcircuit was calculated as 2.93m and
2.17m for winter and summer respectively. The required
phasetophase clearance of 2.1m [30] is not violated.
This justifies the design decision to place the conductor
phases 4m apart.
The maximum tensile force acting on the conductor
is 63.5kN due to the drop force during summer. Using a
porcelain tension safety factor of 0.42, as recommended
in [3], the insulator selected requires a minimum tensile
force rating of 152kN.
6.2.3. Supports and foundations
The design of supports and foundations is a structural
task and is considered outside the scope of this work.
For the purpose of attaining a preliminary cost estimate,
supports and foundations have been scaled from similar
designs with guidance from an SKM structural engineer.
It is noted that ground conditions have not been taken
into account during this activity.
6.3. Cost analysis
Table 6.2 shows a breakdown of the estimated costs
associated with each design. The first three entries have
been attained from a local manufacturer and the final
entry is as discussed in section 6.2.3.
The cost analysis shows the aluminium alloy tubes
used in the RBS are more expensive than the aluminium
aerial conductors of the SBS. The costs for the
insulators and fittings associated with both designs are
approximately equal. The large support towers required
Table 6.2: Results of the cost analysis.
Component RBS ($NZD) SBS ($NZD)
Conductors 27,812 5,640
Insulators/fittings 3,040 2,798
Supports/foundations 93,861 408,330
Total 124,713 416,768
for the SBS make up 98% of the total cost as opposed to
75% for the RBS supports. Overall, the strain design is
3.3 times more expensive than the rigid equivalent.
7. Conclusion
Busbar systems require proper design to withstand the
forces in which they are subject to during their
operational lives. The forces considered in this paper
are due to gravity, ice and wind, temperature change
and shortcircuits. Relevant theory behind these
loadings is outlined and the electromechanical
response of RBS and SBS is discussed. In addition,
vibration and insulator selection is investigated.
Original work includes a novel method for
calculating the final tension in an aerial conductor due
to temperature change and an outline for modelling
concentrated masses on rigid busbar spans.
Based on IEEE and Transpower standards,
calculation sheets have been developed and used in a
design demonstration, with the aim of outlining the
processes involved with each RBS and SBS design. The
demonstration included comparing a four span RBS
against a two span SBS. A cost analysis revealed that
the SBS was 3.3 times more expensive than the RBS.
Topics that should be considered for further
development of this work include ampacity and corona
calculations, consideration of seismic forces and pinned
end modelling for RBS.
Acknowledgements
The author would like to thank Alistair Williams, from
the industry sponsor SKM, for his valuable technical
advice and Dr. Nirmal Nair for his guidance as the
project supervisor. Thanks go to fellow student,
mechanical engineer Elliott Powell, for his derivation of
the deflection calculations and to Kritesh Kumar and
J oan Rey Lawag, also from SKM, for their assistance
with the creation of the CAD drawings in figure 6.1.
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ate equatio for cond
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A
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(H
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(A.4)
E
)
=
3H
]A
2
+H
]A
_4u
2
+8uH
]A
3H
]A
2
](uud
6H
]A
+2u
. (A.5)
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](Ln)
is the linear error method (LEM)
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is the
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2006.
For more detail, refer to [13], which includes
relevant background material, mathematical derivations,
validity investigations and case studies.
[29] R.C Hibbeler, Mechanics of Materials, 7th ed., Prentice Hall,
2008.
[30] Clearance and Conductor Spacings, TP.DS 62.012009.