Facts About Lightning Damage To Wind Towers
Most people do not fully understand the challenges regarding the production of power using wind turbines and wind towers. For most people, they believe that the wind turning the blades produces power that is transferred to the power company for sale to customers, but few understand why green energy production methods in general have not been able to overtake fossil fuel production as of this point. When a production method uses a free fuel source, it should be cheaper to produce, but a lack of understanding of the issues is why this is misunderstood. In reality, the physical structure of the wind towers themselves are very costly to build and transport, as well as making them targets for weather including lightning strikes. This means that there is a significant amount of damage that can occur as a result of natural weather events, both creating repair costs as well as downtime. When the wind is around, downtime for a wind tower costs the company that owns it because no power is being produced until it is repaired. Lightning typically strikes the tower top or blades as these structures are generally the tallest in a region, as well as in isolated areas so as not to obstruct the wind flow. The lightning strike produces significant damage to the blades if that is the point of the strike, generally causing the need for expensive replacement. These are not the only costs associated with a lightning strike, however. Those costs are also found in damages to the control systems and electronics. These systems are easily damaged by the power surge that follows the strike, as computerized equipment necessary to the process that cannot withstand this level of surge can also be affected and require replacement. This equipment is densely packed into the small spaces inside the turbine tower and is connected through control wires and copper power lines. When a lightning strike to the body of the tower or blades happens, a massive power surge moves through all connected equipment if it is not protected. Insurance companies estimate that more than 85% of downtime in the first year of a wind tower’s life is a result of lightning strike damage, and the costs associated with those strikes are seen in the range of more than $250,000 on average. For these reasons, insurance companies have hesitated in providing coverage for natural events like lightning strikes to wind farm operators, creating operational challenges for the companies that own them. The only methods of maintaining productivity as well as profitability is through the integration of surge protection devices throughout the structure, essentially protecting every cable that passes through junction boxes and electrical panels. Any pathway that can conduct electricity from component to component must be protected by lighting surge devices, cutting off the route that the lightning is trying to follow and divert it in another path to earth. Only by using these methods can the equipment inside the towers be salvaged on a regular basis, thus allowing the wind power generation method to become more stable and reliable as a legitimate source for power to the masses.