Interpretation and Configuration of Single-Line Diagram in the Power Exam

If you have not covered the fundamentals of single-line diagrams in the PE Power exam, visit Fundamentals of Single-Line Diagrams to develop a fundamental knowledge base. In this blog, we’ll unravel the critical case studies of single-line diagrams in the PE Power exam as per NCEES® guidelines. 

Let’s start with practical examples and solutions before discussing schematics of single-line diagrams in the PE Power exam.

Single-Line Diagrams in the PE Power Exam – Case-Study 1

single-line diagram

For the given single-line diagram, let’s dive into its technical marvel and uncover the secrets behind the intricate symbols and circuit paths. To simplify things, we’ll break down the entire diagram into three segments, each with exciting details.

Segment A- Power Transformation and Distribution

At the top of the diagram, we have a high-voltage transformer doing something interesting: it’s converting the electricity from a super high 35kV to a still impressive 15kV.

The numbers next to the transformer symbol tell us this magic transformation is happening. Once the voltage has been lowered, we encounter a draw-out circuit breaker labeled “a1.”

Imagine the draw-out circuit breaker like a gatekeeper—it’s responsible for handling the 15kV electricity from the transformer. Next, you’ll spot a beefy, horizontal line. The electrical bus is a magical pathway that carries electricity to various areas and circuits like a powerful energy highway.

Segment B – Voltage Transformation and Equipment Control

Moving on to segment B, we notice two more draw-out circuit breakers, “b1” and “b2,” hanging out on the electrical bus. They’re responsible for feeding power to other circuits, which also stay at the 15kV level since there’s no indication of voltage change. 

Here comes another interesting part – connected to the draw-out circuit breaker “b1,” a step-down transformer brings the voltage down from 15kV to 5kV. It’s like taking a big energy step down, represented by a disconnect switch on the 5kV side.

Below the disconnect switch, we have two medium-voltage motor starters, those trusty machines that kickstart motors. Depending on the system’s needs, more starters could be connected here. Then, we spot another draw-out circuit breaker, “b2,” connected to a fused disconnect switch and a step-down transformer. 

From here on, everything is considered low-voltage equipment because the voltage has been stepped down to a level of 600 volts or lower.

Hint: The last piece of electrical equipment in the middle portion is another circuit breaker, “b3.” However, it’s a fixed low-voltage circuit breaker this time, clearly indicated by its symbol.

Segment C – Ensuring Uninterrupted Power

We’ve reached the bottom of the single-line diagram, where some more interesting things are happening. Another fixed circuit breaker on the bottom left connected to the bus. Look closely, and you’ll spot the automatic transfer switch symbol. This is a real game-changer.

The automatic transfer switch ensures that even if the power from the bus is lost, the equipment connected below it will continue running. To make things even smarter, a circle symbol represents an emergency generator attached to the automatic transfer switch. So, in times of crisis, the automatic transfer switch would swiftly connect the emergency generator to keep things powered up.

A low-voltage motor control circuit is also connected to the automatic transfer switch via a low-voltage bus. This important control circuit keeps the equipment running smoothly, although its exact function isn’t specified here. For more details, a written specification would have all the complex information.

Moving to the right side of segment C, we find another fixed circuit breaker connected to the bus. This one is special because it’s connected to a meter center, easily recognizable by the symbol formed by three circles. These meters are essential for the electric company to monitor the power consumed by the equipment below the meter center.

And finally, at the bottommost level, we have a load center or panelboard that feeds power to numerous smaller circuits. Imagine this like the heart of a building, supplying electricity to lights, air conditioning, heating, and any other electrical equipment that keeps the building humming with activity.

Simply, each segment holds crucial information about how power is transformed, distributed, and safeguarded to keep everything running smoothly. Remember, the single-line diagram is like a secret map of complex electrical and power systems, guiding power and electrical engineers through the complexities of an industrial electrical system.

Single-Line Diagram in the PE Power Exam – Case-Study 2

single-line diagram

Consider a scenario illustrated in the above single-line diagram where we have a three-phase, 480-volt AC motor control circuit with overload protection. The circuit includes a contactor, overload heater assembly, and protective devices to ensure the safe operation of the electric motor. 

Single-line Diagram to Illustrate Motor Control Mechanism

Before moving further, look at the following motor control aspects for further clarity.

Motor Control Circuit

motor control circuit

In our motor control circuit, we have two pushbuttons: “Forward” and “Reverse,” which are used to start the motor in the respective directions. When either pushbutton is pressed, a contactor (M1 for “Forward” and M2 for “Reverse”) is energized, and the motor starts running in the corresponding direction. 

However, in the current setup, the motor stops as soon as we release the pushbutton. We want to change this and make the motor keep running even after we let go of the push button. Let’s see how we achieve this with a “latching” mechanism using relay logic.

Implementing Latching with Relay Logic

implementing latching with relay logic

To enable the motor to keep running, we add auxiliary contacts (also known as “seal-in” contacts) in parallel with the push buttons. When we press the “Forward” pushbutton, the M1 contactor energizes, and its auxiliary contact in parallel maintains the current flow to the M1 coil, latching the “Forward” circuit in the “on” state. The same happens for the “Reverse” pushbutton and the M2 contactor.

Introducing the “Stop” Switch

stop switch

Now, we need a way to stop the motor once it’s latched in the “Forward” or “Reverse” state. We introduce a new switch called “Stop.” When we momentarily press the “Stop” pushbutton, it opens the “Forward” or “Reverse” circuit, de-energizing the respective contactor and returning the latching relay’s auxiliary contact to its normal (open) state.

Preventing Premature Startup with Time-Delay Relays

preventing premature startup with time-delay relays

To avoid potential issues with the motor coasting after the “Stop” button is pressed, we introduce time-delay relay coils (TD1 and TD2) in parallel with each motor contactor coil. These relays provide a “memory” of the last direction the motor was powered to turn.

Implementing Time-Delay Function

When the motor runs in the “Forward” direction, both M1 and TD1 relays are energized. The timed-closed contact of TD1 will immediately open when TD1 is energized. So, when we press the “Stop” button, TD1 will wait for a specified time before returning to its normal state, keeping the “Reverse” circuit open during this time so M2 cannot be energized.

Similarly, TD2 will prevent the “Forward” pushbutton from energizing M1 until M2 (and TD2) are de-energized.

Simplifying the Circuit

The time-delay relays TD1 and TD2 provide interlocking functions, making the auxiliary contacts M1 and M2 redundant. So, we can eliminate the auxiliary contacts and rely solely on the contacts of TD1 and TD2, making the circuit simpler and more efficient.

By incorporating these relay logic components and interlocking features, we’ve created a reliable and efficient motor control system that ensures smooth motor operation and prevents any potential issues with the motor’s momentum when stopping and changing directions.

To understand the given example of a single-line diagram in the PE Power exam, let’s detail the operation and purpose of each component.

Components Used for Three-Phase Motor Control Circuit Illustration

  • Contactor – The contactor is an electromagnetic switch that controls the power supply to the motor. It has three normally-open contacts (NO) labeled as “L1,” “L2,” and “L3.” When the contactor coil is energized, the armature pulls in, closing these contacts and allowing power to flow to the motor.
  • Overload Heater Assembly – The overload heater assembly protects the motor against excessive temperature and overcurrent conditions. It consists of black, square-shaped heater units labeled “W34,” designed for the electric motor’s specific horsepower and temperature rating.
  • Thermal Response – The “W34” heater units have a particular thermal response suited for the present motor’s power and temperature ratings. If a different motor is used, the appropriate heater units must be installed to provide the correct thermal protection.
  • Normally Closed (NC) Switch Contact – The overload heater assembly includes a normally-closed switch contact. If the heater temperature exceeds the safe limit, this contact opens, interrupting power to the contactor coil and de-energizing the contactor.
  • Push Button – A white push button between the “T1” and “T2” line heaters is a manual reset for the normally-closed switch contact. When tripped by excessive heater temperature, pressing the button resets the contact to its normal state, allowing the motor to be re-energized.
  • Tripped Indicator – The overload heater assembly has a small “window” labeled “Tripped” and a colored flag. When the normally-closed switch contact is open (tripped), the indicator shows a colored flag, visualizing a tripped condition.

Functionality of Components

Motor Starting – When the motor control circuit is energized, the contactor’s coil is energized, causing the armature to pull in. The normally-open contacts (L1, L2, and L3) close, allowing power to flow from the 480V AC power source to the motor’s terminals (T1, T2, and T3). The motor starts running.

Overload Protection – During motor operation, the overload heater assembly continuously monitors the motor’s temperature and current. If the motor experiences an overload due to excessive current or elevated temperature, the “W34” heater units respond accordingly. When the heater temperature reaches the predetermined threshold, the normally-closed switch contact opens, de-energizing the contactor and stopping the motor to prevent damage.

Manual Reset – If the overload heater assembly trips due to an overload condition, an operator can press the white push button to reset the normally-closed switch contact. This allows the motor to be re-energized once the cause of the overload has been addressed.

Single-Phasing Protection – The “W34” heater elements can also be used as current shunt resistors for troubleshooting. An engineer or technician can determine if all three motor phases are drawing current by measuring the millivoltage across each heater. A zero millivoltage reading across one heater indicates that the corresponding phase is open, leading to a destructive condition known as “single-phasing.” This troubleshooting method helps identify problems with open or disconnected motor windings.

By utilizing the contactor, overload heater assembly, and protective devices in this three-phase motor control circuit, engineers and technicians ensure the safe and reliable operation of the electric motor while also providing valuable diagnostic capabilities for troubleshooting potential issues.

System Configurations and Schematics in Single-Line Diagrams

SLDs provide a bird’s-eye view of the electrical distribution network, illustrating the arrangement of components and connections. Let’s delve into the technical details and complexities of four common system configuration systems used to illustrate Single-Line Diagrams:

1. Radial Distribution System Configuration

A radial distribution system is a simple and commonly used configuration where power flows from the source to loads in a unidirectional manner, resembling the branches of a tree. It is characterized by a single main feeder supplying power to multiple downstream substations or loads.

Configuration

  • The Single-Line Diagram of a radial distribution system begins with the power source, such as a substation or a distribution transformer.
  • The main feeder is depicted as a single line extending from the power source to the first downstream substation or load.
  • From the first substation, secondary feeders extend to subsequent substations or loads.
  • Power flow is unidirectional, meaning loads are sequentially connected and have no closed loops.

Consider a scenario where a radial distribution system is used to supply power to various residential homes and farms. The radial distribution system features a single main feeder originating from a substation. Power flows unidirectionally along the feeder to reach individual residential homes and farms, which act as the loads.

Configuration Overview

  • Power Source – The power source is a medium-voltage substation that steps down the voltage from the transmission level to a suitable distribution voltage, such as 11 kV.
  • Main Feeder – The main feeder extends from the substation, delivering power to the distribution transformers at different points along the feeder’s path.
  • Distribution Transformers – Distribution transformers are installed at various locations to step down the voltage from 11 kV to the utilization voltage, typically 240/120V or 400/230V, depending on the region’s standard.
  • Residential Homes and Farms – The radial distribution system supplies power to individual residential homes and farms along the main feeder’s path. Each home or farm represents a load connected to the distribution transformers.

Operational Overview

In a radial distribution system, the power flows unidirectionally from the substation to the loads. Here’s how the system operates:

  • Unidirectional Power Flow – Power is supplied from the substation through the main feeder, reaching the distribution transformers one after another. From there, power continues to flow toward the residential homes and farms sequentially.
  • Voltage Step-Down – The distribution transformers step down the voltage from the medium voltage (11 kV) to the lower utilization voltage (240/120V or 400/230V), suitable for household consumption.
  • Load Distribution – The distribution transformers distribute power to the residential loads along the feeder’s path. As the distance from the substation increases, the load on the feeder decreases, leading to voltage drop considerations.
  • Limited Redundancy – The radial distribution system offers limited redundancy. If a fault occurs in the main feeder, the residential homes and farms downstream will experience a power outage until the fault is cleared.

Precautions

The radial distribution system configuration offers simplicity and cost-effectiveness for supplying power to residential areas with scattered loads. However, it also comes with some considerations:

  • Limited Fault Tolerance – The radial configuration lacks built-in redundancy, making it vulnerable to power outages if a fault occurs along the main feeder. Fault localization and quick restoration become crucial for minimizing downtime.
  • Voltage Drop – Due to the unidirectional flow and load distribution, the voltage drop can be a concern for loads farther from the substation. Proper voltage regulation ensures that voltage levels remain within acceptable limits.
  • Feeder Sizing – Engineers must carefully size the main feeder to accommodate the combined loads of residential homes and farms. Accurate load calculations and future growth projections are crucial for proper feeder sizing.
  • Feeder Protection – Protection devices, such as circuit breakers and fuses, are strategically installed to detect and isolate faults promptly. Fault coordination and selectivity are critical to minimize the impact of faults on the system.

Simply, the radial distribution system configuration is a common and straightforward approach to supply power to residential areas and farms. While it offers simplicity and cost-effectiveness, power engineers must critically design and plan the system to address fault tolerance, voltage drop, and proper feeder protection.

2. Ring Main Unit (RMU) Configuration

A Ring Main Unit (RMU) configuration is commonly used in urban or industrial settings. It features a ring-like arrangement of feeders, enabling power to be delivered from multiple directions, providing redundancy and improved reliability.

Configuration

  • The Single-Line Diagram of an RMU configuration includes a ring-shaped arrangement of feeders, forming a loop.
  • Power can flow in both directions along the loop, allowing multiple paths for power to reach loads.
  • In the event of a fault or outage in one section of the loop, power can still be supplied from the opposite direction, ensuring continuity.

Now, consider an urban setting where a Ring Main Unit (RMU) configuration is implemented to supply power to a network of buildings and commercial establishments.

Configuration Overview

The RMU configuration involves a ring-like arrangement of feeders, creating a closed-loop system. Power can flow in both directions along the loop, providing redundancy and alternate paths for power transfer.

  • Power Source – The power source is a high-voltage substation that supplies power at a medium voltage, typically 11 kV.
  • Ring Main Unit (RMU) – The RMU serves as the central distribution point and has multiple incoming and outgoing feeders. It is a compact and versatile unit designed for urban applications.
  • Ring Configuration – The outgoing feeders form a closed loop, connecting back to the RMU, creating a ring-like configuration.
  • Distribution Transformers – Distribution transformers are placed strategically along the ring to step down the voltage from 11 kV to the utilization voltage required by the loads.
  • Buildings and Establishments – The ring configuration supplies power to various buildings and establishments along the ring. Each building represents a load connected to the outgoing feeders.

Operational Overview

In an RMU configuration, power flows bidirectionally along the ring. Here’s how the system operates:

  • Ring Configuration – The RMU serves as the central point for power distribution. The substation supplies Power to the RMU, and the outgoing feeders form a closed ring.
  • Bidirectional Power Flow – Power can flow in both directions along the ring, providing alternate paths for power transfer. This bidirectional flow enhances the system’s reliability and flexibility.
  • Redundancy and Fault Tolerance – In case of a fault in one section of the ring, power can be supplied from the opposite direction, ensuring continuity of supply to the loads. This redundancy enhances the system’s fault tolerance.
  • Load Distribution – The ring configuration distributes power to the buildings and establishments located along the outgoing feeders. Each feeder carries a proportionate load based on the electrical demand of the connected loads.

Advantages

The RMU configuration offers several advantages for urban power distribution:

  • Reliability and Fault Tolerance – The ring configuration provides redundancy, minimizing the impact of faults and enhancing the system’s reliability. Power can flow in either direction, ensuring continuous supply to loads.
  • Flexibility and Expansion – The RMU configuration is highly adaptable to changes in load demand and network expansion. Additional feeders can easily connect to the ring, accommodating new buildings and establishments.
  • Load Balancing – The ring’s bidirectional power flow allows for efficient load balancing. Load distribution across the ring ensures that each feeder operates within its capacity, preventing overloading and reducing voltage drop.
  • Space-Saving Design – RMUs are compact and space-saving, making them ideal for urban settings with limited space availability. They consolidate distribution points and reduce the need for multiple individual substations.

The Ring Main Unit (RMU) configuration is a robust and versatile solution for urban power distribution. Its bidirectional power flow, redundancy, and flexibility make it suitable for ensuring reliable and efficient supply to a network of buildings and establishments.

3. Parallel Feeder System Configuration

The parallel feeder system is used when a high power demand necessitates multiple feeders to supply power to the loads in parallel. This configuration ensures adequate power supply and load sharing.

Configuration

  • The Single-Line Diagram of a parallel feeder system includes two or more feeders running in parallel from the power source to the loads.
  • Parallel feeders are connected to common buses or bus bars, allowing them to share the load.
  • In case of increased demand, the parallel feeders distribute power proportionally, preventing the overloading of any single feeder.

Consider a large industrial facility that requires significant electrical power to operate its machinery and processes. The facility employs a parallel feeder system configuration to ensure a stable and reliable power supply.

Configuration Overview

The parallel feeder system consists of two parallel feeders (Feeder A and Feeder B) that run from the main distribution panel to different facility sections. Each feeder supplies power to multiple loads, such as motors, pumps, and lighting systems, within their respective sections.

  • Power Source – The power source for the facility is a high-voltage transformer connected to the utility grid. It steps down the voltage to 480V AC, suitable for industrial use.
  • Main Distribution Panel – The main distribution panel receives power from the transformer and serves as the starting point for the parallel feeders.
  • Feeders A and B – Two parallel feeders extend from the main distribution panel, each supplying power to different facility sections.
  • Load Section A – Feeder A provides power to Load Section A, which includes motors for heavy machinery and pumps for fluid systems.
  • Load Section B – Feeder B supplies power to Load Section B, which includes lighting systems and other utility loads.

Operational Overview

The parallel feeder system is designed to ensure that both Feeder A and Feeder B share the electrical load proportionally, preventing the overloading of any one feeder. Here’s how the system operates:

  • Load Sharing – During regular operation, Feeders A and B carry a balanced load. The load is divided based on the electrical demand from Load Section A and Load Section B. This balance ensures neither feeder is excessively loaded, reducing the risk of overheating or tripping.
  • Redundancy and Reliability – The parallel feeder system offers redundancy, as both feeders can supply power to the entire facility if one of the feeders experiences a fault or requires maintenance. This redundancy enhances the system’s reliability, minimizing downtime due to feeder failures.
  • Load Changes – If changes in the facility’s electrical load, such as increased production demands or seasonal variations, the parallel feeder system automatically adjusts the load-sharing between Feeder A and Feeder B. This dynamic load-sharing capability ensures the facility operates efficiently under varying load conditions.

Advantages

The parallel feeder system configuration provides several advantages for the industrial facility:

  • Enhanced Power Capacity – By distributing the electrical load between two parallel feeders, the facility can handle a higher overall power demand without overloading any single feeder. This capability accommodates future expansions and equipment additions.
  • Load Balancing – The system’s load-sharing feature ensures that each feeder operates within its designed capacity. This prevents imbalances and excessive stress on individual components, prolonging the equipment’s lifespan.
  • Improved System Resilience – The redundancy in the parallel feeder system enhances the facility’s resilience against feeder failures or maintenance activities. It reduces the risk of complete power loss and allows smooth operation even during maintenance downtime.
  • Flexibility in Maintenance – The parallel feeder configuration provides the facility with flexibility in conducting maintenance activities. If one feeder requires maintenance, the other can continue supplying power to the loads without interruptions.

Simply, the parallel feeder system configuration in a Single-Line Diagram is a valuable solution for large industrial facilities that require a reliable and robust power supply.

It optimizes load sharing, enhances system resilience, and ensures efficient operation, making it a vital component in designing and maintaining electrical distribution systems.

4. Grid and Network Distribution System Configuration

The grid and network distribution system is a highly interconnected and complex configuration used in large-scale power distribution networks. It offers high reliability, redundancy, and flexibility for power transfer.

Configuration

  • The Single-Line Diagram of a grid and network distribution system shows a vast network of interconnected feeders and substations.
  • Power can be transferred in multiple directions, creating redundant paths for power flow.
  • Grid and network systems are designed to handle large-scale power distribution, ensuring reliable power supply to a wide area.

Consider a large metropolitan area where a Grid and Network Distribution System Configuration is utilized to supply power to a vast network of consumers.

Configuration Overview

The Grid and Network Distribution System is an extensive and complex configuration designed for large-scale power distribution. It features a highly interconnected network of substations, feeders, and loads, allowing power to flow in multiple directions.

  • Power Source – The power source for the grid and network system is a high-voltage transmission network that supplies power at high voltages, such as 132 kV or 220 kV.
  • Substations – Numerous substations are strategically located throughout the metropolitan area to step down the voltage from the transmission to distribution levels, typically 11 kV or 33 kV.
  • Grid and Network – The distribution network forms a complex grid and network system, allowing power to flow between substations and loads in multiple directions.
  • Feeder Interconnections – Feeders are interconnected between various substations, enabling power transfer and load sharing across the entire network.
  • Diverse Loads – The distribution system caters to diverse consumers, including residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional loads.

Operational Overview

The Grid and Network Distribution System is designed to provide a highly reliable and resilient power supply to a large urban area. Here’s how the system operates:

  • Redundant Paths – The grid and network system offer multiple redundant paths for power transfer. If a fault occurs in one network section, power can be rerouted through alternate paths, minimizing consumer disruptions.
  • Load Sharing – The interconnected nature of the distribution network allows for load sharing between different substations. During peak demand periods, power can be diverted from less-loaded substations to heavily-loaded ones, maintaining voltage stability.
  • Dynamic Load Management – The distribution system employs sophisticated load management strategies to balance power generation and consumption across the network. Demand response programs and advanced control systems ensure efficient power utilization.
  • Distributed Generation – The grid and network configuration accommodate distributed generation, such as rooftop solar panels or small-scale wind turbines. These distributed energy resources can contribute to the overall power supply and reduce dependency on centralized generation.

Advantages

The Grid and Network Distribution System Configuration offer numerous benefits for large metropolitan areas:

  • High Reliability – The interconnected nature of the network enhances system reliability, reducing the risk of widespread power outages due to localized faults. Consumers experience a more stable and continuous power supply.
  • Flexibility and Scalability – The grid and network system can accommodate the growing power demands of a large urban area. As the city expands, additional substations and feeders can seamlessly integrate into the existing network.
  • Resilience to Disruptions – The network’s redundant paths and load-sharing capabilities improve its resilience to disruptions, such as extreme weather events or equipment failures.
  • Integration of Renewable Energy – The grid and network system can readily integrate renewable energy sources, supporting sustainable energy initiatives and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Centralized Control – Advanced control and monitoring systems provide centralized distribution network management, allowing operators to optimize power flow, manage load, and respond to contingencies effectively.

Conclusion

You now have a rich knowledge of single-line diagrams in the PE Power exam. Understanding how to interpret single-line diagrams and the critical circuit components of the single-line diagrams is vital for your PE Power exam preparation per the NCEES® power exam guidelines.

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wasim-smal

Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.