Conductors Used in Transmission Line

Conductor material

The conductor is one of the important materials in the transmission and distribution of electric power. so the proper choice of conductor material and size of the conductor is important. The cost of the conductor material accounts for a major part of the total cost.

Conductors Used in Transmission Line
Conductors Used in Transmission Line

Requirements of conductor

 To transmit power over the required distance economically

 Have enough capacity to maintain continuous supply without failure.

 Low cost of installation and maintenance

 High life span

Conductor selection

  1. Electrical requirements
  2. Mechanical
  3. Economical Aspects

In the design of conductor selection minimum technical criteria must be satisfied but it doesn’t mean the significantly lower or higher is better. The most economical conductor is selected after meeting technical criteria.

  1. Electrical Requirements
  • High electric conductivity i.e low specific resistance (current carrying capacity high).
  • Suitable Line parameters

Efficiency > 94%

Voltage regulation < 12%

  • High Corona Inception Voltage

2. Mechanical

  • Have high tensile strength to withstand mechanical stresses.

o to span between towers as long as possible

o Sag as small as possible

o Avoiding/ reducing the number and height of towers and insulation.

  • Withstand weather conditions of the locality in which they are laid (wind pressure, temperature variation, mechanical loading, etc.)

3. Economical Aspects

  • The weight of the conductor should be as less as possible

Sag decreases ↓ as

𝑆𝑎𝑔 = [𝑤 (𝑙 /2) ^2]/2𝑇

  • Less stress on towers decreases the cost of installation and less stress on insulators decreases the cost of maintenance

Selection between copper and aluminum

  1. Low cost Because of its relative abundance.
  2. Conductance of Al per weight > Conductance of Cu per weight
  3. Larger diameter than copper for the same resistance so the same voltage leads to a Lower voltage gradient at the conductor surface and Reduces the ionization level of air and corona loss
  4. Tensile Strength of Al > Tensile Strength of Cu i. e1% of Cd in Al increases the tensile strength of Al to almost the same as that of Cu.
  5. Copper is preferred where space is limited and aluminum is preferred where cost is the constraint.

For the small-size transformer, Aluminum winding is used

For the large-size transformer, the Copper winding is used 

Application of copper

  1. High tension string
  2. Less skin effect
  3. Space limitation
  4. High wind
  5. Need of low thermal expansion.
  6. Transformer
  7. Motor
  8. Generator
  9. Large-size underground cables

Stranded conductor

All the conductors used for overhead lines are stranded, conductors. stranded conductors usually have a central wire around which there are successive layers of 6,12,18,24 wires. For n layers, the total number of individual wires is 3n(n+1) +1. If the diameter of each strand is d then the diameter of the stranded conductor will be (2n+10d.

Advantages of stranded conductor

  • Increase flexibility i.e brittleness decreases.
  • Reduces the skin effects.
  • GMR increases (corona inception voltage increases).

The most commonly used conductor materials for overhead lines are copper, aluminum, steel-cored aluminum, galvanized steel, and cadmium copper.

Al conductor       

pic sources: IndiaMART       

  • Cheaper, lighter, and gives less mechanical stress to the tower and insulator.
  • The conductivity of Al is 60% that of copper and its density is 0.303 times that of copper.
  • Corona inception voltage is large for Al conductor. so less corona effect is seen since GMR is more for Al, and corona inspection voltage is large.
  • All aluminum conductor(AAC) has lower tensile strength. The tensile strength can be improved by reinforcing it with high tensile strength material like steel.
  • All aluminum stranded conductors (AASC) are mainly used for low voltage distribution overhead lines having short spans of up to 65m.

Steel-cored Aluminum

It consists of a core of galvanized steel strands surrounded by a number of other aluminum strands. The steel conductors used are galvanized in order to prevent rusting and electrolytic corrosion. The steel core takes a greater percentage of mechanical stress while aluminum carries the bulk of the current.

ACSR (aluminum conductor steel reinforced)


  • It has high tensile strength and is lighter in weight.
  • It produces a small sag and therefore can be used for longer spans. Because of the use of a larger span, the number of line supports may be reduced by about 25%. Thus the overall costs of supports, foundations, insulators, and erection are considerably reduced. In addition, there is a substantial saving in maintenance costs.
  • Corona losses are reduced as it has the largest diameter than another type of conductor of the same resistance.
  • The skin effect is predominating in ACSR conductors.
  • The critical voltage limit of the ACSR conductor can be raised by 30% to 50% as compared to copper conductors.

Galvanized steel

It is used for long spans or for short line selections exposed to normally high stresses due to climatic conditions. These conductors are found most suitable for lines supplying rural areas and operating at a voltage of about 11KV. Iron or steel wire used is most advantageous for the transmission of small power over a short distance. This conductor is not suitable for EHT lines for the purpose of transmitting large power over a long distance due to the following properties:

  • Poor conductivity is 13% that of copper.
  • High internal reactance.
  • Subjected to eddy current and hysteresis.

Galvanized steel wire is used in telecommunication lines, stay wires, earth wires, and guard wires. Stranded galvanized steel wires are used as guy wires and earth/ground wires.

Cadmium copper

  • The addition of 1% of cadmium in copper increases the tensile strength by about 40% and reduces the conductivity only by 17% below that of pure copper.
  • Cadmium copper is costlier than pure copper.
  • Cadmium copper is economical for a line with long spans and small cross-sections.
  • It is used in telephone and telegraph lines where the currents involved are quite small.
  • Cadmium copper conductors on communication lines are being replaced by ACSR conductors.

Conductor choices

The current carrying capacity of a cable

conductor must be able to carry designated current safely without melting and insulation failure.

Factors affecting the current carrying capacity of cable:

1) Ambient temperature

2) Conductor temperature

3) Material

4) Conductor size

5) Conductor Number spacing

With 1% decrease in ambient temperature there is 1% increase in current carrying capacity

current carrying capacity depends on atmospheric temperature. Also current carrying capacity depends on ambient temperature.

Choosing a conductor according to the electrical requirement

  1. Calculate Line current 𝐼 =𝑃/ 𝑁𝑐√3𝑉𝐿−𝐿 cos𝜑
  2. Determine the nearest current carrying capacity conductor higher than the given line currently at 40⁰𝐶
  3. Check Efficiency criteria > 94%

Note from the table: resistance per unit length of the conductor at 20⁰C

  •    Determine total resistance at 20⁰C
  •   Determine total resistance at 65⁰C
  •   Determine power loss per conductor at 65⁰C
  • Determine total power loss at 65⁰
  • Determine efficiency

If < 94% repeat step 3 for the next higher current capacity conductor

  1. Check voltage regulation criteria:

Note from the table: Conductor diameter mm   Compute 𝐺𝑀𝑅𝐿

  •   Compute 𝐺𝑀𝑅𝑐
  •   Compute GMD
  •   Compute line parameters:
  •   Compute ABCD parameters:
  • Compute V.R
  • If > 10% repeat step 4 for the next higher current capacity conductor
  1. Compare corona Inception voltage with Max system voltage

𝐼𝑓 𝑉𝑐𝑖 > max𝑠𝑦𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑚 𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑡𝑎𝑔𝑒 Select the conductor


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