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Zone 3 of a step-distance protection scheme has been identified as one of the contributing causes of cascading failures in power systems. The National Electric Reliability Council (NERC) has issued rules, and the IEEE Power System Relaying Committee (PSRC) has discussed recommendations to reduce the undesirable operation of this component of the protection chain. It is the purpose of this paper to reexamine the application of zone 3, to describe situations where it can be properly utilized, where it can be removed without reducing the reliability of the system protection and, if used, how it can be modified or set. A table is presented for a variety of station designs and protection schemes including two common local backup relay systems and the associated application of a remote third zone. Finally, the concept of critical locations is introduced which can assist the relay engineer in determining if potential zone 3 undesirable operations are a serious threat to the system and help determine if the expense and difficulty of removing zone 3 or modifying the relay or its associated station is justified.
Date of Publication: Jan. 2006