ControlPower SystemProtectionTroubleshooting

Primary and Secondary or Backup protection in a Power System

Primary Protection 
Below is the power system protection scheme which is designed to protect the power system parts and components. As shown in below fig, each line associated with over current relay that protect the lines from faults. So, if a fault happens on any line, it will be cleared by its relay and circuit breaker. This is called primary or main protection and acts as a first line defender. The service record of primary relaying is very high with well over 90% of all operations being correct. But this is not always the case, sometimes faults are not illuminated by the primary or main protection system i.e. circuit breaker and relay system because of trouble within the relays, circuit breakers or wiring system in different conditions. In those conditions, Secondary or backup protection system does the required job.

Click image to enlarge
power system protection

Primary protection may fail due to the following reasons
  • Failure of DC supply to the tripping Circuit
  • Failure in relay operating current or voltage
  • Failure in circuit breaker tripping mechanism
  • Failure of main protective relay operation
  • Failure in the wiring of relaying system
  • Failure of CTs or PTs operation
Secondary Protection
Back-up protection is very important for stable and reliable power system
As we know that, it is not possible to design a 100% secure and efficient system because there are possibilities of failure in the connected CTs, PTs, circuit breaker etc. in the system. If it happens, then it will destroy our whole switching system.
If the primary protection operation falls into trouble, then secondary protection disconnects the faulty part from the system. Moreover, when we disconnect primary protection for testing or maintenance purpose, then secondary or back-up protection will act as primary protection. In the above fig, relay “X” (1 Sec time setting) provides backup protection for each of the four connected lines to the main bus.
In addition, a larger part is disconnected then when primary relaying functions correctly. Therefore, greater emphasis should be placed on the better maintenance of primary relaying which is economical.

Types of Secondary or backup protection

  • Relay Backup Protection
  • Breaker Backup Protection
  • Remote Backup Protection
  • Centrally Co-ordinate Backup Protection

Electrical Technology

All about Electrical and Electronic Engineering & Technology. Join us on WhatsApp at Electrical Technology Official Channel, to receive the latest content, articles, and updates. You can also like and follow our social media networks below, or subscribe with your email to receive premium engineering articles in your mailbox.


  1. Great article, very informative. Protection of power systems is very important, great to have a good understanding of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button