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The Overwhelming Importance Of Lightning Protection For Equipment Reliant Industries

The modern industrial business landscape is one that relies heavily on technologically advanced, mission-specific equipment in order to perform critical tasks.  While these components are crucial to the processes of any number of industries, they are also alarmingly sensitive and easily damaged.  They are required to provide reliable service within environments that many times can be considered far less than ideal, and do so with only minimal levels of protection against the elements leaving them open to potential damage from both natural and manmade sources.  Industry-specific practices allow for equipment to be protected from things like vandalism and rodent encroachment by way of robust cabinetry solutions in some cases, or by positioning the components out of the way where they cannot be reached easily.  However, the implementation of physical structures or positioning can really only provide the most basic levels of protection from the most obvious causes of damage.  Physical enclosures can keep the weather out and allow for climate controlled spaces that will reduce instances of overheating or malfunctions due to moisture penetration.  These physical barriers against damaging natural elements are nearly always designed for the systems before they ever are switched on, but they can provide nearly no protection against violent electrical storms and lightning strikes, nor the resulting power surges which account for a large percentage of damage to critical components in the field.

Most businesses will factor in ongoing damage and replacement costs to equipment when planning their operating expenses, allowing for a predictable amount of expense every year to compensate for this damage.  This plan of action can serve to ultimately raise the prices that must be charged for the product being manufactured or the services provided, and within the modern business climate of high competition and shrinking margins, this plan is more and more risky.  Simply accepting that a certain amount of equipment will be destroyed or damaged in the field, and passing that cost off to customers, could ultimately threaten the health of the business itself.  In the modern age, all industrial applications must employ the most technologically advanced protection systems available in order to maximize the life spans and efficiency of their equipment and systems. Businesses and industries that do not face the potential of being eliminated by those that do.

A common thread seen across nearly all industrial sites is the inclusion of sensitive computer-based components. Oftentimes this equipment is located in relatively exposed settings.  These components must be connected to power lines and data transfer lines which allow for them to function and effectively perform the duties they are tasked with.  While these components are isolated from each other as much as possible, and are also placed into the most shielded positions as possible, they are still connected by copper power cables and housed within the same structures.  This opens up the structure and the entire system of interconnected components to catastrophic failure if a lightning strike were to affect any component in the chain.  Lighting strikes to industrial facilities are commonplace due to their natural placement in more remote areas, many times utilizing towers or other tall structures which are magnets for these lightning strikes.  The weather around an industrial facility is one of the few aspects that cannot be controlled, and as a result the only steps that can be taken are to prepare a defense against the inevitable inclement weather and lightning strikes.  These defensive systems are installed in and around the facilities themselves in an attempt to either draw the strike itself to another area where it can be controlled, or to prevent the incidents of transient electrical flow that follows the strike.  The obvious damage to components and structures at the strike point itself is difficult to prevent and nearly impossible to control, but the effect of the massive power surges that are produced by such events can be.  This is the area where the integration of technologically advanced and industrial grade surge protection equipment can provide the edge that businesses seek.

“Lightning protectors” and “lightning surge protection” are terms used to describe specific aspects of the overall protection that can be used to guard against lighting damage.  In the field, the diversion of a lighting strike away from equipment using lighting rod technologies and grounding systems will prevent a number of strikes to structures themselves, or within range to do damage.  When lightning strikes a structure that houses computer components there will be damage to the strike point itself, followed by a surge of power that couples onto connected electrical cables.  The strike does not have to be direct to a connected component for this to happen, and in reality the majority of strike related surges move this way.  A strike to a structure or an area close enough to it for electricity to couple onto the connectivity lines is hard to prevent, but the actual movement of that power surge along those connectivity lines can be effectively stopped from harming equipment entirely using modern SPDs (surge protection devices.) The surge protection concept is relatively simple, using a variety of methods that either divert or completely cut off the flow of electricity if it reaches or exceeds a specified voltage level.  Electrical flow within a safe range proceeds unimpeded, but is stopped if it goes above that level.  This “safety range” allows the computerized equipment to perform as expected without damage or degradation to the integrated circuits or boards, and in a best of all possible worlds this range would never be deviated from. The sad truth is that surges happen all the time for any number of reasons over and above lighting strikes.  Common switching errors can cause minor fluctuations beyond the range which might not completely destroy, but will degrade the performance of circuits over time.  These minor surges will significantly reduce the functioning life span of equipment, and force its eventual replacement before its time.  Through the integration of surge protection devices both the large surge damage that occurs in an instant and the small surge damage that occurs over time can be mitigated.  Surge protection devices placed at crucial flow junctures like junction boxes and along lines can catch the transient and prevent the damage.  Redundant installations of additional surge protection devices can act as a failsafe in the event of system failure.  The integration of the technologically advanced surge protection devices manufactured by Raycap under the Strikesorb, Rayvoss, ACData and SafeTec or ProTec product lines can provide a layer of protection not found elsewhere.  These product lines use only the most robust designs and components, the most advanced technology and the easiest system integration so as to present lighting protection solutions to any industry.

Two of the most obvious examples of the need for adequate integration of lightning surge protection are the telecommunications and wind power generation industries.  While any business that uses equipment in the field is susceptible to lightning strikes, the necessity for tall and unobstructed towers used in these industries adds yet another issue.  Lightning is attracted to the tallest structure in an area, and when that tallest structure is also isolated in order to allow for unobstructed flow of cell signals or wind, you have a natural target for strikes.  These applications also require sensitive control and data processing equipment be integrated within these tall structures, resulting in the recognition that attention must be paid to lightning protection in order to extend the life span of their critical and expensive tower equipment.  Basically, depending upon where they are located, how high they are and the type of equipment they hold, these towers and wind turbines are at risk of being struck by lightning. The only question really is how likely and how frequent the strikes will be.  The additional question is: How effectively can a device prevent the flow of electricity created by the strike from coming into contact with the integrated equipment inside the tower? In the case of the telecommunications industry, with has turned to distributed base station architectures to take advantage of 3G, 4G communications, the “remote radio head” or RRH is located at the tower top. This is the exact position with the most strike threat.  The RRHs are directly connected via power and data transfer lines to the equipment at the “Base station unit” at the tower bottom.  The ability to prevent damage to the remote radio head might be difficult, but integration of Raycap’s Strikesorb products at junction boxes along the connected power cables at various parts of the structure can prevent damage to the equipment and reduce the repair and replacement costs over time.  In the case of wind turbines, the scenario is similar with blades being commonly struck and the resulting surge affecting the closest components and attached lines, and then moving through the chain to the ground.  The installation of Strikesorb devices along the lines in between each component and in front of the equipment can reduce internal damage, and save damage from spreading further down the chain.  An additional layer of protection is presented in Raycap’s unique technology that keeps the devices functioning even after a strike instance.  Where other devices must be replaced after they prevent a surge, Strikesorb devices can take multiple surge events without ever needing replacement.  This keeps the protection system functioning and in place in the cases of multiple strikes to the same tower.  It is often said that lighting never strikes twice, but companies in these two industries don’t want to bet on that, which is why industrial surge protection is installed on cell towers and wind turbines.

Another factor that must be considered with regard to industrial surge protection and the value that it creates is the amount of time that systems are taken offline by lightning strikes and power surges.  Using the examples outlined above, one can see that the losses absorbed by a company as a result of the strikes are not limited to the actual damage to the equipment.  In an industry like telecommunications the attractiveness of one provider to consumers over another will have to do with many factors, one of which being the actual connectivity they find when using their devices.  Customers are not tolerant of the reasons behind an outage, and instead judge a company by whether they get a signal or not.  Every time a cell tower that is within range of the customer is taken offline by a lightning strike, customer relations suffer.  The potential for damage to the brand is lessened the faster a tower can be restored to functionality.  In the case of wind power producers, the only times that the product is able to be produced is when the fuel source is available.  This means that for every second the wind is blowing and a turbine is not functional due to damage by a lightning strike, the company is losing money.  Once again, the faster that these systems can be restored to functionality, the better the bottom line of the company itself.  Preventing damage to the components and keeping systems online is all that a Raycap device does.  They are created to keep the inevitable strike and surge from producing inevitable damage, and the more damage can be avoided the better the situation is for both companies and customers.

Lightning protection systems have been available for many years, and surge protection has been employed by both the residential community and industrial community to keep sensitive components safe from surges for as long as many people can remember.  The original surge protection systems comprised of circuit breakers and power control strips provided a shield against electrical transients, however this type of technology, while useful when attached directly to a piece of equipment inside a home or office, cannot be trusted solely as the line of defense against the levels of losses that can be found within modern industrial sites.  The costs of today’s computer equipment used in routine functionality can be in the millions or tens of millions of dollars, all of which can be lost in an instant if left unprotected from the power surges that can happen any time.  Figuring enough profit margin into your business plan to compensate for the damage that will ultimately happen is not a viable option any more, and only the technologically strong will survive as the markets grow more competitive.  Simply put, you must protect your investment against the elements as well as other factors, and you must never let your guard down or you could face that situation from which you cannot recover.  Raycap is your partner for industrial grade electrical surge protection devices and systems, and we are your best line of defense against lightning produced surges.  We also can help with any low voltage industrial power application spanning nearly any industry.  Call us for wind, solar, telecommunications and transportation systems, and we will show you how the addition of transient voltage surge protection to your new or existing operations can be accomplished simply and affordably.