Volcanic Ash Contamination of High Voltage Insulators
Recent work in the University of Canterbury high voltage laboratory uncovered an interesting phenomenon. While studying the effect of volcanic ash contamination on high voltage insulator flashover levels, ash was seen ‘blowing’ off the insulator surface before flashover occurred. The goal of this project was to investigate and explain the observed phenomenon to provide a basis for potential development of self-cleaning insulators. Four different types of insulator and three different ash grain sizes were tested. The insulator electric fields were modelled; corona discharge waveforms and visual observations were obtained. Areas of ash removal coincided with areas of corona discharge. It was initially proposed that the ash was removed by an alternating current corona wind however the results do not support this theory. Instead, the observed results suggest that the ash acquires a negative charge and is removed by an electrostatic force. The electrostatic force is strongest during the negative half cycle of the applied voltage due to space charge and hence the ash pulses off the insulator at 50Hz. The amount of ash removed increased with the applied voltage however this led to a trade off between ash removal and flashover. The maximum amount of ash removed during this project was approximately 90% from the top weather shed and 30% from the middle and bottom weather sheds. This study focused on the removal of dry ash. It is unlikely that wet ash can be removed in this fashion, without flashover, due to the conductive and adhesive nature of wet ash.