While designing any transmission line, economy is one of the most important factors the engineer must consider. An electrical power transmission line must be designed in such a way that the maximum economy is achieved. Economics of electric power transmission is influenced by various factors such as the right of way, supporting structures, conductor size, transmission voltage etc. Transmission voltage closely influences the economics of power transmission. Generally, electric power is transmitted using 3-phase AC system at high voltages. Before studying how to choose economic transmission voltages, one should know the advantages and limitations of high voltage transmission.
Advantages of high voltage transmission
- Efficient transmission of larger amounts of power:
In a 3 phase AC system, power is calculated as P=√3*VIcosɸ. It is clear that, for a large amount of power to be transmitted at a lower voltage, the amount of current will be very large. Let's take an example, 200 MW of power is to be transmitted at 11kV and consider cosɸ = 0.8 lagging. In this case, the amount of current that will flow through the line would be 200,000,000 / (√3 * 11,000 * 0.8) ≈ 13,122 A. For safely carrying this much large current, a conductor with very large diameter or much more number of conductors in bundled form may be required. And if the same power is transmitted at 220kV, the current would be 200,000,000 / (√3 * 220,000 * 0.8 ) ≈ 656 A. As the power lost in a conductor is given as I2R, you can see large saving in losses can be achieved by transmitting electricity at higher voltages. From this example, it is clearly not feasible and practical to transmit larger power at lower voltages. Also, transmission of electricity at higher voltages is more efficient.
- Saving in conductor material: As shown above, for the same amount of power transmitted at a higher voltage the current will be relatively lower. Current carrying capacity of a conductor depends on the diameter of the conductor (conductor size) along with few other factors. That means, for larger currents to be transmitted, the conductor size must be larger. Hence, transmitting power at higher voltages will reduce the amount of current to be carried and consequently the required conductor size would also be lesser.
- Improved voltage regulation:
Decreased current will also result in decreased voltage drop across the line. Voltage regulation is defined as (VS - VR)/VS. As voltage drop is decreased, the difference between sending end voltage and receiving end voltage is also decreased. Thus, voltage regulation is improved.
Limitations of high transmission voltageWith increase in the transmission voltage
- cost of insulators increases
- cost of transformers increases
- cost of switchgear increases
- cost of lightning arrestor increases
- cost of support towers increases (as taller towers with longer cross arms are required)
Economic choice of transmission voltageFrom the above advantages and limitations of high voltage transmission, we can say that with increase in transmission voltage the cost of conductor material can be reduced and the efficiency can be increased. But the cost of transformers, insulators, switchgear etc. is increased at the same time. Thus, for overall economy, there is an optimum transmission voltage. The limit to use of higher transmission voltage is reached when the saving in cost of conductor material is offset by the increased cost of transformers, switchgear, insulators etc. The economical transmission voltage is one for which the sum of cost of conductor material, transformers, switchgear, insulators and other equipment is minimum.
P = maximum power per phase (in kW) to be delivered over single circuit
L = distance of transmission in km
[Also read: Power generating stations]