Arc-flash analysis of utility power systems

Kevin A. Demeny



The electric utility business is an inherently dangerous area to work in with employees exposed to many potential hazards daily. One such hazard is an arc flash. An arc flash is a rapid release of energy, referred to as incident energy, caused by an electric arc. Due to the random nature and occurrence of an arc flash, one can only prepare and minimize the extent of harm to themself, other employees and damage to equipment due to such a violent event.

Effective January 1, 2009 the National Electric Safety Code (NESC) requires that an arc-flash assessment be performed by companies whose employees work on or near energized equipment to determine the potential exposure to an electric arc.

To comply with the NESC requirement, Minnesota Power’s (MP’s) current short circuit and relay coordination software package, ASPEN OneLinerTM and one of the first software packages to implement an arc-flash module, is used to conduct an arc-flash hazard analysis. At the same time, the package is benchmarked against equations provided in the IEEE Std. 1584-2002 and ultimately used to determine the incident energy levels on the MP transmission system.

This report goes into the depth of the history of arc-flash hazards, analysis methods, both software and empirical derived equations, issues of concern with calculation methods and the work conducted at MP. This work also produced two offline software products to conduct and verify an offline arc-flash hazard analysis.