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Distance Protection Relay


Distance relays respond to the voltage and current, i.e., the impedance, at the relay location. The impedance per mile is fairly constant so these relays respond to the distance between the relay location and the fault location.

As the power systems become more complex and the fault current varies with changes in generation and system configuration, directional over current relays become difficult to apply and to set for all contingencies, whereas the distance relay setting is constant for a wide variety of changes external to the protected line.

There are three general distance relay types as shown in Fig. 2. Each is distinguished by its application and its operating characteristic.

Impedance Relay

The impedance relay has a circular characteristic centered at the origin of the R-X diagram. It is nondirectional and is used primarily as a fault detector.

Admittance Relay

The admittance relay is the most commonly used distance relay. It is the tripping relay in pilot schemes and as the backup relay in step distance schemes. Its characteristic passes through the origin of the R-X diagram and is therefore directional. In the electromechanical design it is circular, and in the solid state design, it can be shaped to correspond to the transmission line impedance.

Reactance Relay

The reactance relay is a straight-line characteristic that responds only to the reactance of the protected line. It is nondirectional and is used to supplement the admittance relay as a tripping relay to make the overall protection independent of resistance. It is particularly useful on short lines where the fault arc resistance is the same order of magnitude as the line length.

Figure 2 shows a three-zone step distance relaying scheme that provides instantaneous protection over 80–90% of the protected line section (Zone 1) and time-delayed protection over the remainder of the line (Zone 2) plus backup protection over the adjacent line section. Zone 3 also provides backup protection for adjacent lines sections. In a three-phase power system, 10 types of faults are possible: three single phase-to-ground, three phase-to-phase, three double phase-to-ground, and one three-phase fault.

It is essential that the relays provided have the same setting regardless of the type of fault. This is possible if the relays are connected to respond to delta voltages and currents. The delta quantities are defined as the difference between any two phase quantities, for example, Ea – Eb is the delta quantity between phases a and b. In general, for a multiphase fault between phases x and y,



where x and y can be a, b, or c and Z1 is the positive sequence impedance between the relay location and the fault. For ground distance relays, the faulted phase voltage, and a compensated faulted phase current must be used.


where m is a constant depending on the line impedances, and I0 is the zero sequence current in the transmission line. A full complement of relays consists of three phase distance relays and three ground distance relays. This is the preferred protective scheme for high voltage and extra high voltage systems.

Types of Distance or Impedance Relay

There are mainly two types of distance relay

  1. Definite distance relay.
  2. Time distance relay.

Let us discuss one by one.

Definite Distance Relay

This is simply a variety of balance beam relay. Here one beam is placed horizontally and supported by hinge on the middle. One end of the beam is pulled downward by the magnetic force of voltage coil, fed from potential transformer attached to the line. Other end of the beam is pulled downward by the magnetic force of current coil fed from current transformer connected in series with line. Due to torque produced by these two downward forces, the beam stays at an equilibrium position. The torque due to voltage coil, serves as restraining torque and torque due to current coil, serves as deflecting torque.

Under normal operating condition restraining torque is greater than deflecting torque. Hence contacts of this distance relay remain open. When any fault is occurred in the feeder, under protected zone, voltage of feeder decreases and at the same time current increases. The ratio of voltage to current i.e. impedance falls below the pre-determined value. In this situation, current coil pulls the beam more strongly than voltage coil, hence beam tilts to close the relay contacts and consequently the circuit breaker associated with this impedance relay will trip.

Time Distance Impedance Relay

This delay automatically adjusts its operating time according to the distance of the relay from the fault point. The time distance impedance relay not only be operated depending upon voltage to current ratio, its operating time also depends upon the value of this ratio. That means,


Construction of Time Distance Impedance Relay

time-distance-impedance-rel The relay mainly consists of a current driven element like double winding type induction over current relay. The spindle carrying the disc of this element is connected by means of a spiral spring coupling to a second spindle which carries the bridging piece of the relay contacts. The bridge is normally held in the open position by an armature held against the pole face of an electromagnet excited by the voltage of the circuit to be protected.

Operating Principle of Time Distance Impedance Relay

During normal operating condition the attraction force of armature fed from PT is more than force generated by induction element, hence relay contacts remain in open position when a short circuit fault occurs in the transmission line, the current in the induction element increases. Then the induction in the induction element increases. Then the induction element starts rotating. The speed of rotation of induction elements depends upon the level of fault i.e. quantity of current in the induction element. As the rotation of the disc proceeds, the spiral spring coupling is wound up till the tension of the spring is sufficient to pull the armature away from the pole face of the voltage excited magnet.

The angle through which the disc travels the disc travel before relay operate depends upon the pull of the voltageexcited magnet. The greater the pull, the greater will be the travel of the disc. The pull of this magnet depends upon the line voltage. The greater the line voltage the greater the pull hence longer will be the travel of the disc i.e. operating time is proportional to V.

Again, speed of rotation of induction element approximately proportional to current in this element. Hence, time of operation is inversely proportional to current.



Distance Relay Characteristics

Some numerical relays measure the absolute fault impedance and then determine whether operation is required according to impedance boundaries defined on the R/X diagram.

Traditional distance relays and numerical relays that emulate the impedance elements of traditional relays do not measure absolute impedance. They compare the measured fault voltage with a replica voltage derived from the fault current and the zone impedance setting to determine whether the fault is within zone or out-of-zone. Distance relay impedance comparators or algorithms which emulate traditional comparators are classified according to their polar characteristics, the number of signal inputs they have, and the method by which signal comparisons are made.

The common types compare either the relative amplitude or phase of two input quantities to obtain operating characteristics that are either straight lines or circles when plotted on an R/X diagram. At each stage of distance relay design evolution, the development of impedance operating characteristic shapes and sophistication has been governed by the technology available and the acceptable cost.

Since many traditional relays are still in service and since some numerical relays emulate the techniques of the traditional relays, a brief review of impedance comparators is justified.

Example of Modern Distance Protection Relay


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