Lightning Protection For Wind Turbines

Continually changing climate conditions, combined with the increasing dependence of developed countries on fossil fuels, has pushed interest in renewable energy sources to the forefront globally.  While all green energy technologies are being developed and refined, wind power is one of the most promising.  As governments put forth aggressive programs designed to increase their wind power production, these increases to the amount of wind turbines bring forth an additional increased statistic.  With more wind turbines comes more damage as a result of lightning strikes.  Surge protection has become a critical component when viewed by the majority of people interested in these developing technologies.

Wind power generation is based upon a unique structural Achilles’ heel that does not exist in most other industries.  To get the most out of the functionality of a wind turbine, the structure must be made mostly of metal and taller than existing structures surrounding it.  These physical characteristics are necessary in order to harness the full potential of the wind without it being blocked or deluded by existing structures in the area.  The face of the wind turbine must be able to accept the majority share of available wind unimpeded.  The structures are difficult to protect through the standard, conventional technologies associated with surge protection, which will be rendered inoperable after a single surge incident.  Wind turbines can be as much as 150 meters in height and are located in areas which are considered remote.  The majority of exposed components of a wind turbines setup are the nacelle and blades, which are usually made of some sort of composite material unable to survive a direct strike of lightning.  The usual direct strike happens at the point of the blades, facilitating a surge travels through the turbine’s components within the windmill, and possibly all areas of the wind farm that are connected electrically.  Most areas that are preferred for wind farms present Earthing conditions which can be considered poor at best.  The computer equipment and processing electronics that are utilized in commercial wind power setups are sensitive and will be damaged by lightning strikes if not properly protected.  The maintenance costs associated with wind power setups are incredibly high due to the difficulties in replacing the internal components.  Only through surge protection can the reduction of damage to components can the costs associated with wind power production be brought online with that of fossil fuel production.  In order for wind power to be considered as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, these costs must be driven down.  Development of more technologically advanced surge protection products provides a unique opportunity within this space to drive costs lower.  Integrating better, more advanced surge protection devices which can not only prevent surge incidents but also remain online after the surge represents the best opportunity.  By preventing damage to low voltage and controls circuits, it has been shown that upwards of 50% of turbine failures could be avoided.  Lightning protection for wind turbines using the most advanced systems and components might be the difference that can create a new power landscape, and a cleaner world.

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