Lightning Surge Protection For Industrial Installations Of All Kinds

While installations and facilities used for industrial business differ with a wide variety of designs and facility layouts, generally there are a few characteristics that can be found virtually across all industrial applications. In general these characteristics involve the physical locations of the installations. Many are located in relatively remote locations and involve a variety of structures, some that are taller than surrounding ones. These locations are used for a number of reasons ranging from less expensive land, cheaper labor, a centralized location or by the need to have tall and unobstructed structures as part of the industrial process.  But the issues that can arise as a result of all these characteristics can present themselves as similar scenarios.  Remote and unobstructed structures will attract lightning strikes during inclement weather, simply because lightning will generally take the path of least resistance to the ground.  If lightning can find a structure which is directly connected to the earth and is taller than everything else in the area, it will strike that structure more often than striking structures which force it to travel further distances.  This simple fact of psychics presents a significant threat to businesses that rely upon those types of industrial installations will very tall structures located in remote regions.

The lightning that strikes these structures creates two types of damage.  The most obvious type is created by the lightning strike is at the point where the structure is hit, and is characterized by explosions and fire.  It may come as a surprise to many people that this strike point may not be the most significant threat of damage to the installation. Instead, the more damaging result is seen instead as the effects of the subsequent power surge.  Lightning houses a tremendous amount of electrical energy, and when lightning strikes this electricity is transferred to a structure, coupling into power and data transfer cables  and traveling in straight paths along conductive metal framing elements, ultimately seeking grounding to earth. Lightning surge is one of the most destructive natural events and is especially damaging to electronic circuitry and sensitive electrical equipment.

After the lightning strike a pulse of excess electricity known as an electrical transient, is often able to get to other structures or equipment nearby the strike. These surges travel along and through the connected power cables and can also negatively affect the circuitry of attached equipment.  When the electrical flow level either increases or drops outside of a specified range, it is a “transient.”  Large-scale transients can cause far greater levels of monetary damage to industrial installations, as the flow from component to connected component essentially creates a chain for the transient to travel through and damage.  So, the damage is not isolated to the strike point, but instead creates a surge that flows through to each component connected to the structure, damaging anything that is unprotected.  These surges can affect components that are large distances away, as long as they are connected through cables that provide a path for the surge to travel along.  The potential for damages to not only the strike point but also to any component adjacent and attached to that strike point can prove disastrous to businesses.  A single instance of lightning strike can potentially cause thousands of dollars in damage.  This loss is in combination with the fact that “downtime” of the system that is compromised by the lightning strike will also impact the business through cost of lost revenue or loss of customer satisfaction, and plainly shows that lightning strikes cost money.

There is no way for industrial installations to completely avoid lightning strikes.  The physical makeup and locations of the facilities mean that no technical solution that can be employed will fully divert the risk of lightning strikes.  Until such technology is developed, we must rely upon a relatively simple defense process, one that stops or diverts the electrical flow when a surge is detected.  This concept has been around for many years, and uses a device that is installed along the connection pathways that will be triggered if the electrical flow exceeds a specified point.  A simple circuit breaker is a version of these devices, which are positioned in between equipment and the power source via power lines.  The circuit breaker sits in between the two, its only function is to trip and prevent the flow from passing if that flow goes over a safe amount.  Circuit breakers do their job, but are just one piece in a surge or lightning protection system. Alone they do not provide adequate levels of safety for circuit boards and sensitive computer equipment.  While a circuit breaker may be able to cut power to a facility enough to prevent a fire, they are typically not adequate to protect the internal components of computers which are degraded by even slight power fluctuations.  The protection of these types of components must be higher grade, and capable of preventing surges that are outside the capabilities of circuit breakers.  These devices were once known as TVSS (transient voltage surge suppressors) but have since been renamed as SPDs (surge protective devices.) These devices are technologically superior and far more sensitive than a simple circuit breaker, and will provide a far higher degree of protection to an industrial application.  With advanced protection systems involving avoidance devices like lightning rods as well as overhead shielding and grounding, all being combined with circuit breakers and SPDs installed in redundant methods at critical points like junction boxes and along power and communications lines, a level of protection against the inevitable lightning strike can be brought to a range that is economically tolerable.

What kinds of industries can benefit the most from surge protection and lightning protection systems? This question can be most easily answered by noticing if the industry involves tall or isolated components that are directly connected to computer equipment.  If this is the case, then lightning and surge protection systems are in order and should be utilized.  The most obvious examples of these industries are the telecommunications and wind power production industries, due to the fact that both utilize tall structures that are positioned to be unobstructed and isolated.  In the case of wind power, the most common cause of damage is lightning strikes to the blades of the turbines, generally being the case because the blades during rotation will be positioned even higher than the tower top itself.  A strike to the blades of a wind turbine will almost certainly destroy it, however if the damage could be isolated to only replacement of the blade then the industry would be far more profitable than it currently is.  A strike to the blade will provide a direct linear path to the top of the tower, and through the connection points that join them together.  From there the surge can either travel directly in a straight line along any conductive surface or material, or couple into the power and data lines that join equipment at the tower top and bottom.  The surge uses the cables that are designed to allow power flow in a regulated amount to overwhelm any component attached before moving on to the next attached component.  This “chain effect” of damage represents the majority of monetary shrinkage that plagues the industry, which can only be minimized through the integration of the most advanced lightning and surge protection devices.  In terms of the telecom industry, the physics of the problem are the same, with cellular towers purposely being located in remote and unobstructed areas so as to provide a clear signal that can reach users cell phones.  These towers are magnets for lightning strikes due to this simple characteristic, and the issue is compounded by the onboard inclusion of high tech equipment necessary to provide the modern 3G, 4G and 5G services that customers demand.  As the necessity of higher capacities and speeds increases, the equipment that is housed in cell towers becomes more expensive and more prone to damage in the field.  The tower itself houses two main components, the RRH (remote radio head) and the BSU (base station unit.) These components essentially allow for signal receiving at the tower top and communication with equipment at the tower bottom through power and communications lines.  From the point of the BSU there is additional equipment and systems in the chain that can also be affected.  In the instance of a strike to the tower top, the overwhelming amount of electricity can travel in straight lines along and through conductive surfaces, or couple into the power and data lines that join the equipment together.  Once again, a strike to the top of a tower is rarely isolated damage, and surge related damage follows effecting all equipment connected.  In the telecommunication industry, the added issues of customer dissatisfaction come into play as well.  While the green energy production facility may only suffer downtime that results in less power being produced during a peak time, the telecommunications industry suffers from customers receiving no signal and therefore service.  When customers are unhappy that they were unable to connect due to a tower being rendered inoperable, they may begin looking for alternative providers.  The dollars lost to customers not being satisfied is not as easily quantified as equipment damage, but is significant none the less.

Raycap is a world leader in technologically advanced surge and lightning protection systems and components.  We have been servicing these industries as well as any industry that is impacted by damage created by lightning strikes, developing and selling products that will not only prevent damage, but give your business the edge it needs to compete in today’s landscape.  As in the above examples where the damage to equipment is only half of the potential losses, with the downtime representing significant losses as well, Raycap has you covered.  Other SPDs will need replacement or resetting after they have been triggered, and most will be destroyed by the surge itself and need replacement before the system can be returned to functionality and protected against further strikes.  Raycap’s Strikesorb products never need replacement, and are not affected by power surges in most cases.  Instead, they remain maintenance-free and continually functional to perform  their duties of protection, even against multiple strikes to the same system within a short period.  Systems have the ability to return to functionality after the instance, or will need only minimal restoration to be returned.  This will provide longer uptimes for industries that rely on it.  It will provide more consistent connectivity for cell customers.  It will provide the ability to generate power when the wind is blowing, even during inclement weather.  Raycap products are the most technologically superior SPDs in the world, isn’t it time you benefit from them?

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