Effective Lightning Protection For Wind Turbine Generators

Bruce Glushakow, Member, IEEE
Abstract—A wind turbine generator is the most exposed of all types of generators connected to electric utility systems. Wind turbines are most often erected in hostile lightning environments. Lightning damage to wind turbines is costly in terms of repair and replacement of equipment. Lightning damage is the single largest cause of unplanned downtime in wind turbines, and that downtime is responsible for the loss of countless megawatts of power generation. There is currently no international standard governing wind turbine lightning protection. This paper offers guidelines for effective protection. Index Terms—Lightning, risk analysis, surge protection, wind energy, wind power generation, wind turbine generators.
Fig. 1. First process in the generation of lightning.

I. INTRODUCTION INDMILLS have been in use for over 2000 years, the earliest uses of which were grain grinding and water pumping. In today’s energy-hungry world, the skyrocketing prices of fossil fuel, its negative impact on the environment, and reluctance to depend on an uncertain source of supply have prompted many nations to invest in alternative, renewable sources of energy. Wind energy tops the list of such alternative energy sources. Areas of favorable locations for wind turbines coincide with areas of thunderstorm activity. Maps prepared by NASA show that in most areas where wind density is high, there are 30 or more thunderstorm days per year [1]. In a study completed in 2002, the National Renewable Energy Association statistics showed that up to 8 out of 100 wind turbines could be expected to receive one direct lightning strike every year [2, p. 18]. Between 1992 and 1995, Germany alone reported 393 incidents of lightning damage to wind turbines (124 direct strikes to the turbine, and the remainder through the electrical distribution network) [3]. From an electrical point of view the earth’s surface is negatively charged and the upper atmosphere is positively charged. Most of the time, the atmosphere is a good enough insulator to keep these two charges apart. However, when storms build up close to the earth’s surface, electrical charges in those clouds (either positive or negative) can be transferred to earth. This is called lightning. The most common lightning and the one we are interested in with regard to wind turbine lightning protection, is cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning and currents as great as 300 000 A have been recorded from CG flashes. (Turbines over 100 m high can also be subject to upward lightning, but this is relatively rare.)


Manuscript received July 12, 2006; revised October 19, 2006. Paper no. TEC00336-2006. The author is with MCG Electronics Inc., NY 11729 USA (e-mail: bglushakow@ieee.org). Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TEC.2006.889622

Fig. 1 shows the first process in the generation of lightning: the separation of positive and negative charges in the thunder cloud over a wind turbine. Positive charge accumulates at the top of the cloud; negative charge at the bottom. Large quantities of accumulated negative charge will have two effects on the ground directly below the cloud: it will repel negative charges and attract positive charges. When the atmosphere’s insulative effect breaks down, charge will be transferred to the ground in the form of a lightning stroke. The earth is normally negatively charged with respect to the atmosphere. However, as the thunderstorm passes over the ground, the negative charges at the bottom of the cloud cause the positive charges on the ground to gather along the surface for several miles around the storm. This positive charge becomes concentrated in vertical objects such as trees and tall buildings and these objects emit streams of positive energy that shoot up to try and meet the down-rushing negative charge from the cloud. Lightning occurs when the negative charge from the cloud joins the positive charge from an object on the earth. Whenever a lightning charge propagates to earth, it must have an “attachment point,” which is the origin of the upward stream of charge. Wind turbines are excellent attachment points because they are often in exposed locations and significantly taller than adjacent objects. It is the blades that are by far the wind turbine’s most likely attachment points. However, almost any spot on the turbine is susceptible to direct lightning strikes including: air terminals (lightning rods), the nacelle (cab housing the generator and controller on the top of the tower), protuberances near the top of the structure, and the tower itself. When any part of the turbine is hit by lightning, it becomes a part of the lightning discharge path. From the attachment point to the ground, the lightning current will flow predominantly through the lowest-impedance paths available to it. Lightning protection mitigates lightning damage by providing a low-impedance path to the ground, which will shunt the lightning current away from the components susceptible to lightning damage.

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Authorized licensed use limited to: King Mongkuts Institute of Technology Thornburi. Downloaded on October 16, 2008 at 00:24 from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.

This improved blade design has significantly reduced the amount of blade damage [2]. Danish Electric Utilities Research Institute (DEFU) [5]. II. (Chart reproduced from the Danish database consulted by IEC/TR 611400-24. p.0 en:2002 entitled “Wind turbine generator systems—Part 24: Lightning protection. 2008 at 00:24 from IEEE Xplore. International Energy Agency (IEA) experts [6]. This is important because the rotor accounts for 15%–20% of the cost of a wind turbine and thus. r the comprehensive analysis of lightning protection of the rotor blades. CRIEPI reports the figure as 36% [7]. r agreement with other international standards and studies that a lightning protection system should be capable of diverting a peak current of 200 kA without damage (Paragraph 5. Data from a US source suggests that this ratio is closer to 2% damage from direct lighting strikes and 98% from strikes to the nearby ac power and signal lines [8]. EXISTING STANDARDS FOR LIGHTNING PROTECTION Several international lightning protection standards exist. and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) [2. Its strengths include: r the presentation of wind turbine lightning damage statistics (Section 4).3). which is purely informative. Downloaded on October 16. . Attention must also be paid to the wiring configuration of conductors adjacent to the lightning down-conductor(s). r IEC 61312 1-5 Protection Against Lightning Electromagnetic Impulses. Relative incidence of lightning strikes. Its weaknesses are covered in Section VII of this paper and it is hoped that these issues will be rectified in the 2007 revision of the document. The document further reports that in its northern Europe study 7%–10% of the wind turbine damage was to the rotor blades. It addresses the major issues relating to lightning protection of wind turbines. 2 illustrates the relative incidence [9]. and surge protection for every subsystem. in areas of greater lightning density. If this is not done. These include: r IEC 61024 Protection of Structures Against Lightning. damage to rotor blades is the most expensive type of lightning damage. and gearbox (Sections 6 and 7). 20]. r the emphasis placed on the need for proper grounding and bonding procedures. However.lm. Almost all modern turbine blades are constructed with built-in lightning protection in the form of conducting elements. A low-impedance grounding system is a prerequisite for any lightning protection plan. is not to be regarded as an international standard. systems. One European manufacturer puts it at 14% in southern Germany. this figure is reported to be considerably higher. There is no standard specifically written anywhere in the world for protecting wind turbines against lightning damage. This includes bonding all metal elements. Fig. Sweden. and potential attachment points together.dk Authorized licensed use limited to: King Mongkuts Institute of Technology Thornburi. r IEC 61662 The Assessment of Risk Due to Lightning. have still experienced significant lightning damage.” IEC/TR 61400-24 should be credited with opening a very important door. Fig. Therefore. 1 LM Glasfiber A/S Denmark www. and Denmark) where lightning is comparatively infrequent.A lightning protection system consists of lightning receptor points. Documentation of this damage has been produced by researchers at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology [4]. surge protection devices (SPDs) are required to protect these elements. the current paper will propose some workable guidelines for protecting wind turbines from lightning damage. which have been applied to wind turbines. III. in addition to good grounding. 2. to avoid inducing large voltages (and the resulting surge currents) in the loops formed by these power and control circuits within the tower and nacelle. Another observation from the report’s northern European data is that only one-third of the lightning faults were caused by direct strikes to the turbine. 4%–8% of all wind turbines will suffer lightning-caused damage every year. bearings. It should be noted that most of the rotor damage reported was to older style blades manufactured out of nonconducting fiber composite materials.1 In Japan. The closest document is IEC/TR 61400-24 Ed. conductors. a voltage potential of millions of volts can build up between the discrete turbine elements.1. Wind turbines that have been protected using the principles from these three standards. Restrictions apply. Generators and control system elements are susceptible from both direct strikes to the turbine and from currents induced on the connected power distribution lines beyond the tower itself. The document notes that in northern Europe (Germany. One of the most significant statistics in the IEC/TR 61400-24 document is that 50%–70% of lightning faults are to the control and electrical systems and this damage accounts for at least twice as many days of “downtime” as damage to rotors. The other two-thirds were attributed to lightning strikes to the power and telecommunication networks connected to the turbines.) In the meantime. grounding system. LIGHTNING DAMAGE STATISTICS The statistics quoted in IEC/TR 61400-24 are highly informative.” The “TR” in the title stands for “Technical Report” and in its own words on page 25: “This document.

3) Damage caused by voltages: This damage can be caused by voltages induced in circuits (power as well as control) adjacent to the necessary down-conductors that carry the lightning current to “earth. Authorized licensed use limited to: King Mongkuts Institute of Technology Thornburi. Two types of structures that share all the problems implicit in protecting a wind turbine from lightning except for lightning attachment to a rotating blade. and maritime coastal installations. Downloaded on October 16. the protection against direct effects” [10].). Radomes can be constructed over 150 m off the ground. . Such successful field experience can and should be consulted in protecting wind turbines. IV. RECOMMENDED LIGHTNING PROTECTION GUIDELINES A. the ground systems of all turbines will interconnect. B. After years of studying the problem. Rotor Blades 1) Conducting elements: Rotor blades should be constructed with conducting elements capable of conducting lightning current to the hub in such a way so as to avoid a lightning arc inside the blade.5 suggests that “lightning protection of wind turbines presents problems that are not normally seen with other structures. D/GPS stations. pipes.” In fact. at the end of 2005. after years of studying successful and unsuccessful lightning protection applications at hundreds of its lighthouses. Section 8. 3) A ring ground around the periphery of the wind turbine should be constructed to which the tower is connected. These two guidelines have both found it necessary to mandate minimum surge protector current handling ratings for protecting their facilities. Both radome antenna towers and lighthouses are geometrically similar to wind turbines. Successful Protection Models of Kindred Applications IEC/TR 61400-24 Section 3. and/or changes to the ground impedances. 11. 1]. Yearly inspections should be scheduled where the system can be examined for any broken or loose connections. This approach is called out in IEC 60364-5-53 (see Section V-H-2). and have sensitive electronics embedded in their towers. 1) Damage to blades caused by direct strikes: This damage can be caused by strikes to the tips of the blades and also to strikes along the length of the blades. 2) Damage caused by surge currents: This damage can be caused by surge currents originating from either direct strikes to the blades or coming from (indirect) strikes to connected power and data lines. 5) The grounding system must be compact. 3). This conducting material can be either the frame of the blade or on the surface of the blade. are most often sited in highlightning remote and exposed locations. Both these guidelines promote the grounding and bonding practices outlined in IEC/TR 61400-24. 3. the Chinese Ministry of Transportation. Restrictions apply. Tab. The steel reinforcement in the turbine tower should be exothermally integrated into the turbine grounding system. if not greater than. Bonding and Shielding All systems and metal components must be bonded together into one low-impedance path to the ground as per IEC/TR 61400-24. except for lightning attachment to a rotating blade (see Fig. corrosion.” V. 2008 at 00:24 from IEEE Xplore. Surge protectors specified by the FAA are required to protect against a minimum of 1500 surges (10 kA 8/20 µs) and against one surge (between 180 and 240 kA). any underground metal objects (storage tanks. Any part of the grounding system further than 30 m from the point where lightning current is injected will not help decrease the magnitude of the peak lightning overvoltage [13]. An extensive NREL study in USA showed that blades with built-in blade conductors were far less likely to suffer catastrophic damage than blades without these conductors [2]. if existing. p. The three risk factors to be mitigated then are as follows. This would include the ac power lines as well as the telephone or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) lines used to remotely control the turbines. Almost all direct strikes to a wind turbine will hit the rotor blades. [13]. and the grounding system of an operations building. LIGHTNING RISK FACTORS TO BE ADDRESSED The above statistics give credence to the main conclusion of a study commissioned by the European Union and conducted by the University of Manchester: “the protection of wind turbine electronic systems from indirect effects is of equal importance to.Fig. C. In a wind farm. issued guidelines for protecting hundreds of its maritime installations [12]. 6) The design goal is set for the grounding system of 10 Ω or less [1]. 7) The ground system must be kept in good condition at all times. Similarly. etc. D.5. 4) The ground system should interconnect with all driven electrodes. The Chinese maritime guidelines concur with that assessment and added the requirement of individually-fused back-up protection paths on every phase to assure continuity of protection. the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) analyzed successful principles of protecting its radome antenna towers from lightning and made them mandatory in all FAA’s hundreds of installations [11. there are at least two types of structures that share all the problems implicit in protecting a wind turbine from lightning. Grounding Practices 1) Wind turbine grounding systems should follow the recommendations of IEC/TR 61400-24 Section 9. 2) Minimum dimensions of down-conductors are given in IEC 61024-1 and in Table II of IEC/TR 61400-24.

Downloaded on October 16. And these are more likely to sustain damage if lightning strikes when the rotor is turning [13]. G. Restrictions apply. a good grounding system will help mitigate high transient overvoltages. Control System Recorded incidents of lightning damage from 3000 wind turbines of over 14 000 turbine years worth of information suggest that the wind turbine control system is the most vulnerable component contained in a wind turbine [13]. Bearings Next to blade damage. The bearings in the main shaft and those in the drive train are subject to damage because they are smaller and rotate rapidly. To avoid this.) 3) Bond the sheaths of any power cables running between wind turbines solidly to the turbine ground system. A lightning “flash” to an object consists of more than one “stroke. Specifying Surge Protectors (SPDs) 1) I-peak: A wind turbine’s main surge protectors must be capable of handling a minimum of 180 kA of surge current and have multiple individually fused back up protection paths on every phase. For that reason the 400/690-V power line that connects the generator to the transformer must have a surge protector installed. 1) Transformer: Lightning surge problems of wind power generation take place in the primary (a low-voltage side) not in the secondary (high-voltage side) of a transformer. bearings are most subjected to damage from direct lightning strikes to the turbine. For blades greater than 30 m. Two microprocessors are often installed. Turbines also have SCADA connections to permit remote data monitoring and control. it is not uncommon for there to be ten or more strokes in a single lightning flash. E. Single lightning flash to a turbine. and also between the nacelle controller and the base controller. one in the nacelle and the other at the tower base. The use of multiple receptors is required to provide better protection for a blade than would otherwise be provided by a single receptor located at the blade tip [14]. one could stop the turbines briefly during times of lightning risk. protect all I/O ports with a heavy duty (20 kA 8/20 µs I-peak) data line protector wired in series and grounded directly to the metal chassis of the equipment that is being protected with a ground wire no longer than 15 cm. An SPD needs individually fused redundant (back-up) protection paths so that protection to the wind turbine will be Authorized licensed use limited to: King Mongkuts Institute of Technology Thornburi. and with a minimum I-peak handling capacity of 180 kA (8/20 µs) should be used to protect the turbine’s electrical system. It is clear that lightning striking a single wind turbine can produce damage in wind turbines connected with metallic data cable [13]. (Be sure not to use fiber optic cable that has a metallic wire incorporated only for mechanical strength purposes. unlike conventional power distribution transformers. 5) Bond the shield of any SCADA cable solidly to earth at both ends. Fig. 4) Install grounded bare copper cables in the trenches carrying SCADA cables between wind turbines. In addition. (This includes the junction of the SCADA system and the controller interface. so they could also be stopped briefly when lightning threatens in order to protect the bearings. Just as turbines are taken offline during high winds to protect them from damage. F. Electrical System Generally. Fig. Use fiber optics in both the external SCADA network. multiple receptors are required. Surge protectors specifically designed for a 400/690-V system. 1) Use fiber optic lines wherever possible for telephone or SCADA connections because they are not electrical conductors. 4. The mix of electronic equipment in a wind turbine includes control and measurement sensors distributed throughout the turbine. .” Although the flash shown in the diagram is composed of four distinct strokes.) 2) Where twisted copper wire must be employed for telephone or SCADA systems.2) Multiple Receptors: Studies have now shown that long wind turbine blades fitted with an internal type lightning protection system are vulnerable to lightning strike attachment away from the receptor at the tip. 2008 at 00:24 from IEEE Xplore. Statistics suggest that pitch bearings are not likely to suffer any lightning damage while in service. These must be linked by some sort of cabling. Rotor blades shorter than 30 m shall have at least one receptor at each shell. 2) Back-up protection paths: IEC/TR 61400-24 includes a dozen graphics like this one (from page 16). output voltage from a wind turbine generator is not more than 690 V. H. so that the wind turbine is never left without protection (see Section V-A above). 2) Generator: Lightning strikes that hit the high voltage electrical grid will appear on (couple into) the low voltage (400/690-V) side of the transformer. This output voltage is stepped up to 66 kV or more by a transformer and supplied to a transmission line. which show the configuration of lightning strikes that are likely to hit wind turbines. 4 represents a single lightning flash to a turbine.

All wiring used in a wind turbine should be adequately rated to carry safely the transient current produced by a lightning flash.” Lightning warning signs should be conspicuously posted at wind turbine sites. and personnel drilled on what to do in the event of lightning. . and ejection of blade material. K. I. FURTHER RESEARCH NEEDED There are a number of areas that could bear further research. If they did work. This is a hazard to people walking around the windfarm in the form of touch and step voltages that result from the potential gradient that will exist on the soil surface. L. Predicting lightning events in advance is key to implementing such a policy. One commonly overlooked area is the meteorological instrument support at the rear of the turbine nacelle. B. 2008 at 00:24 from IEEE Xplore. applies to personnel in a wind turbine and anyone in the vicinity of the windfarm grounding system. In situations where inverters are used. Downloaded on October 16. a controversy has raged between proponents and critics of the unconventional ion-emitting lightning rods. Blade Protection All major turbine manufacturers now include lightning protection as part of blade design. Individually fused redundant (back-up) protection paths for protection of the wind turbine. After a thorough review of available data in 2003. J. However. 1) The first of these issues. Finally. Personnel Safety An in-depth study of danger to wind turbine personnel during a lightning storm found three main risk categories: electric shock. If an emergency requires personnel to be present while there is a threat of lightning. 5) maintained even if one path sacrifices itself on the first stroke. or if lightning is observed in the direction of prevailing weather. Restrictions apply. Fig. There are instruments available that can give 2-h warning of an approaching lightning storm. Wind farms should construct shelters where personnel can safely wait out lighting storms. We should not rely on the “rolling sphere method” since it has never been evaluated or tested on a wind turbine (see more on this point in Section VI below). As manufactured blades become longer and longer. they would need surge protection. which allow direct connection to the power grid. This improvement has significantly lessened the incidence of catastrophic damage from direct strikes. it can be dangerous in other ways such as causing people to lose grip when climbing down a ladder. This approach is called out in IEC 60364-5-53 and is particularly relevant to wind turbine surge protection. Thick rubber mats installed on the floors of working areas can also be beneficial. A. exploding wire effects. Lightning Attachment Points Attention must be paid to all points that are vulnerable to lightning attachment. 5 is reproduced from IEC 60364-5-53 to show the required design. Nacelle External Attachments The anemometer and wind vane mounted on the rear top of the nacelle feed information to the controller and need a surge protector to prevent overvoltages from destroying controller components. When lightning current flows into a windfarm grounding system the potential of that grounding system will rise. ensure that they are wearing special shoes and gloves. which are capable of insulating them from lightning current and high step voltage. but it has not totally solved the problem. Uman and Rakov concluded that there are no data to support the claim that “lightning elimination and early streamer emission” techniques are superior to conventional lightning protection systems [15]. VI. The outside obstruction lights that warn aircrafts also need to be protected with a surge protector. 6) The risk from exploding wires is only relevant to windfarm personnel. a more effective and more easily manufactured method of blade receptors must be developed [10]. Inverter Most large wind turbines use asynchronous generators. 5. electric shock. wind turbines would be an ideal application Authorized licensed use limited to: King Mongkuts Institute of Technology Thornburi. or could be made to do so. Lightning can strike almost any place on a wind turbine. Standing Order 1 for wind turbine personnel around wind turbines should be: “All operatives to be evacuated immediately if lightning has been forecast for the wind farm location. Air Terminals For some time now.2) 3) 4) Fig. Although an electric shock may not kill. the hazard from ejected blade material can be prevented by the use of blade lightning protection systems [13]. This in turn will raise the potential on the soil surface. proponents continue to claim the contrary. These generators do not use inverters.

Some imagination from the spark gap engineers and designers as well as engineers and designers of bearings. A reality-based lightning protection system must be founded on a lightning model comprised of accurate lightning parameters. C. They are slower acting and characteristically have large let-through voltages (4 kV or above). As there is evidence that such incidents may badly stress any rapidly moving bearings. and a good ground connection to allow dissipation of the surge energy. See Section VIII-B for more information on rolling sphere method. Because the path to the ground through the bearings is a very low-impedance path.” Authorized licensed use limited to: King Mongkuts Institute of Technology Thornburi. A. In consequence. it would be a design goal to reduce the amount of this charge that flows through the bearings. They should be willing to submit to such tests because any products that can demonstrate superiority in this application would have a large upside market potential. Attachment Points In the absence of any other method. C. might provide a useful solution to this problem. He unveiled the history of those “positive cloud-to-ground” data reported by Berger. lightning finds it very attractive. it is hoped that these issues are addressed when the document comes up for review in 2007. D. Any type of lightning protection device must be composed of two functional parts: a switch or some type of switching circuitry triggered by overvoltages. The spark gap arrestor is one such switch based on a 75-year-old patent. In the interests of reducing serious damage and death resulting from lightning strikes to wind turbines. in fact. Bouquegneau. Lightning Parameters IEC/TR 61400-24 places special importance on the parameters of positive CG lightning drawn from two studies conducted in the 1970s. IEC/TR 61400-24 resorted to the “rolling sphere method” in predicting where lightning may attach to a wind turbine. there is a unique opportunity here for spark gap manufacturers to employ their technology in its correct role as an equipotential bonding device. have been unsuccessful. (Electra 41) in 1975—but on the assumption that these were downward flashes. a more precise technique should be developed. calls the rolling sphere method “a crude method which hides our insufficient understanding of the lightning attachment process” [20]. the data on positive CG lightning cited in Table I of the IEC/TR 61400-24 document were extracted directly from that first Electra article [16]. These lightning parameters have no basis in scientific facts and have been and continue to be criticized all over the world [18]. It has never been tested or evaluated on tall buildings and rarely on wind turbines. Dr. IEC/TR 61400-24 did not realize that its second reference (Electra 69) disavowed the positive CG lightning findings presented in Electra 41. he has extended the positive flash data sample and classified all these records as upward.3. the results of which appeared in Electra Magazine (issues 41 and 69. [26]. Anderson) was also the author of the Electra 69 article. VII. which is more than enough to destroy electronic equipment. Reference to it should be struck off from IEC 2 The only data on positive CG lightning at the time these two articles were written had been assembled by K. At least 80% of the lightning current from a direct hit to a blade flows from the blade conductor into the nacelle bed plate through the main bearing closest to the rotor [12]. the original and best use of which was to withstand direct lightning strikes to structures. Manufacturers who chose to participate should guarantee the safety of the wind turbines on which they are being tested. Downloaded on October 16. Rolling Sphere Method Paragraph 8. In his new analysis. In fact. Since this method has never been tested on either high buildings or on wind turbines. working in concert. he amplified this as follows: “Note: the parameters of positive flashes were originally analyzed by Berger et al. Main Bearing Protection—Need for an Equipotential Bonding Device Protecting the wind turbine bearings from direct hits to the rotor blades is an unsolved problem. 2008 at 00:24 from IEEE Xplore. efforts to develop a switching circuitry. Chinese scientists have calculated that if Class I test parameters actually exist in nature. it uses a fixed striking distance (typically 45 m) irrespective of the height or geometry of the structure. but cannot be relied upon to guarantee where lightning may attach to a wind turbine and where it will not. be classified as upward discharges. Spark gaps were never designed to protect electronic equipment and they do not do a very good job of it. Page 81 of Elektra 69 explains: “Berger has recently pointed out that all positive records from this station should. One of the co-authors of that original article (R. The “rolling sphere method” may be of some use in the placement and height of air terminals.” And on page 84.2 This is important because this is the only reference ever used to support the IEC’s “Class I Tests” [17]. Restrictions apply. Any reference to Berger’s positive CG lightning parameters should be struck off from the standard and a more substantive set of parameters embraced.B. which would shunt much of this charge around the bearings. Chairman of the IEC committee which authored the recently released IEC 62305 Lightning Standards. there is apparently no comprehensive source of data available on the impulse characteristics of positive downward flashes. So far. Berger (a Swiss researcher) who had published his results in Electra 41. B. IEC/TR 61400-24 SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS Following are five suggested improvements to IEC/TR 61400-24 [25]..for these products. . Although they are not recommended to protect the wind turbine control and electrical systems. It is required to create a path to the ground that can bypass the low impedances of the main bearings. However. they would appear no more than once every two million years [19].1 of IEC/TR 61400-24 introduces the “rolling sphere method” for determining potential lightning attachment points. The rolling sphere method is often used as a guide for the placement of air terminals on structures. Interested national bodies should request manufacturers of these “lightning eliminators” and “ESE rods” to participate in controlled tests to verify the effectiveness of these products on wind turbines.

When lightning hits an unprotected blade. the Section 5. Analysis of Lightning Protection System Costs Sections 5. A much more realistic and responsible instruction is given in the British Wind Energy Association’s Guidelines for Health and Safety: “All operatives to be evacuated immediately if lightning has been forecast for the wind farm location. 6. . The following computations are suggested as a reasonable way to determine a justifiable budget for the installation of a lightning surge protection system Authorized licensed use limited to: King Mongkuts Institute of Technology Thornburi. Although the section begins with the observation that “work should not be performed on wind turbines during thunderstorms. Since blades on all new turbines will include built-in lightning protection.6 of the IEC/TR 61400-24 document deal with an analysis of the viability of lightning protection costs.7% of the cost of a turbine on a direct strike lightning protection system is excessive at this point in time and should be reanalyzed.61400-24 until it has been successfully tested on wind turbines (see Section V-L). As for systems to protect against the far more frequent damage caused to the controller and electrical systems. IEC TR 61000-5-2 offers useful guidance on how a grounding network should be structured and how power and control cables should be positioned (routed) with respect to the grounding network [24]. or from NASA: “Personnel around a wind turbine can be in serious trouble during a lighting storm.3.5 and 5. 22 of the document is reproduced above as Fig. The safest procedure is for personnel to vacate the site” [1]. It is those strikes to which IEC/TR 61400-24 gave its predominant attention. Downloaded on October 16. or if lightning is observed in the direction of prevailing weather” [23].2 flashes per km2 per year). explicit and clear-cut instructions must be given tothem which are not open to interpretation or misunderstandings. reputable blade manufactures now include surge protection in the design of their wind turbine blades.1 advises: “It is highly recommended that provision is made to shelter any personnel in minimum LPZ OB”—the document’s reference to this is Clause 8. The cost of lightning-related repairs to electrical and controller systems will still be less than minor repairs to a blade ($1900) but one must not forget that replacing a generator is more expensive than replacing a blade ($50 000). Fig. the document writers expressed their inability to use the IEC 61662 model to come up with a workable estimate. Fig. (Reproduced from Fig.) To the unwary reader. it is based on the old IEC 61312-1. Personnel Protection Because lightning is a deadly hazard to all personnel on a wind farm. However.1 which states: “. An LPZ “zone of protection” is an area considered “statistically safe” from the direct attachment of a lightning strike as defined by the “rolling sphere zone of protection model” that is covered in Section VII-B. “Personnel Protection. While direct strikes to a turbine still pose problems.3 of IEC/TR 61400-24 seeks to apply the “Lightning protection zone” (LPZ) system to wind turbines. However. An attendant’s hazard of using this system can be seen in the next section. These damages account for more than twice the downtime caused by direct strikes to the blades. The areas marked in gray are LPZ OB. [22].1. It is risky to adopt such a system as the basic approach to protect installations as important as wind turbines.5 conclusion that it would be feasible to spend up to an additional 1. . 22 of the abovementioned document makes it appear quite safe for personnel to wait out a lightning storm in the tower under the nacelle or even hanging on to the anemometer on the top rear of the nacelle. the results are often catastrophic and very expensive to repair. as mentioned above. this protection can now be considered to be covered in the basic cost of the turbine. LPZ OB is determined by means of the rolling sphere model as shown in Figure 22. it would not be safe at all. . The 10/350-µs test waveform has received and continues to receive much criticism around the world [16]. Section 10. Two separate scientific studies directly measuring the duration of lightning strikes to wind turbines in Japan found durations to be 25–30 µs (nowhere near the 350 µs of IEC 61312-1) [7]. which used the 10/350-µs waveform as its lightning model. in reality. 22 of Section 10 of the IEC/TR 61400-24 document. Blade protection gives no relief to that statistic. 1) Direct Strike Protection Costs: Almost all direct strikes to a wind turbine will hit the blades. . Rolling sphere method for determining potential lightning attachment points.” (Fig.” it then endeavors to rate the relative safety of personnel caught in various parts of a wind turbine during a lightning storm. C. . 6 of this paper. [21].7% of the cost of the wind turbine could be justified in a lightning protection system against direct strikes to the blades in an area of low annual lightning flashes (0. Lightning Protection Zone System Paragraph 8. This section should be rewritten to provide more useable data to wind turbine owners. Additionally.” lacks such instruction. D. 2008 at 00:24 from IEEE Xplore. The LPZ system is difficult to justify for wind turbines because it has never been evaluated on them. E. Section 10 of the IEC/TR 61400-24 document entitled. Several pages of formulas end in the suggestion that 1. 2) Cost Calculation Model for Indirect Strike Protection: A wind turbine is three times more likely to be damaged by indirect lightning than direct lightning. “Personnel Protection”). Restrictions apply.

Recommendation No. Milano. 2004. “The observation of direct lightning stroke current to the wind turbine generator system. Conf. Ramakers. p. “Grounding for surgeprotective devices. Restrictions apply. For a new technology that depends on public acceptance of other nonmonetary aspects. annual cost of a lightning protection system (arrived at by taking the cost of installation divided by the number of years the manufacturer warrants the system). 1983.” Nat. Denmark: Res. Y. B. 26th Meeting Experts. [15] M. Jul. U. 10. Canada.” Am. [26] IEEE.” presented at the Eur. and H. Danish Elect. Avignon. a conspicuous interruption of service caused by extensive lightning damage can make the technology an easy target for detractors. FLEN frequency (in hours) of lost production occasioned by non-damaging lightning incidents3 . and H. Matsuura.. p. Mag. and K. the intangible but real-world aspects of lightning-related damage must be taken into consideration in a risk assessment. Conf..: UMIST. [23] British Wind Energy Association. CLE can be computed as CLE = (FLED + FLEN )CE (2) where FLED frequency (in hours) of lost production occasioned by damaging lightning incidents. Cam < (Ftotal × Closses ) + CLE where Cam (1) generating capacity of a power system. Granted that as long as wind turbines are only a small fraction of the 3 The NREL 2002 report documents the phenomena of frequent reports of faults where there was no hardware damage.. TR 610005-2. Manchester.” China Transportation Ministry. Pandiaraj. Apr. lighthouses and AIS stations. Rakov. [18] “Data sheet no. Lightning Protect. Nevertheless. Mar. Muljadi. Closses average cost of a damaging incident to controller or electrical system. VTS centers. No damage was done but the turbine went offline and the controller had to be reset in the morning. 23–37. A..” presented at the 27th Int.. Avignon. Anderson. 2000. 2004.” 2005. 1999. Authorized licensed use limited to: King Mongkuts Institute of Technology Thornburi. [16] K. [10] I. Neri. Yokoyama. M. an owner would be economically justified in spending $32 080. p.to protect against 99% of damage caused to the controller and electrical systems. Hu Changxin.. Meeting. A. Glushakow and D. Otsuka. Lightning Protect.K.. “Reality check initiative on the equivalency of 8/20 versus 10/350 waveforms for testing surge-protective devices. Cotton et al. [22] Task Force. This was attributed to indirect lightning causing controller problems at night. Berger. [9] I. [2] B. J. France. Lightning Protect. Contract JOR3-CT98-0241. Hirose. Montreal. Uman and V. Commission. “Lightning protection for wind turbines. and J.” Eur. pp. W. S.” in Proc. Rohrig. XI. Cotton. [14] N. 1. “Recommended practice on characterization of surges in lowvoltage (1000 V and less) ac power circuits.” presented at the Int. “Lightning protection of wind turbines: Further work. “Wind turbine generator systems—Part 24: Lightning protection. “A critical view on the lightning protection international standard . 18 2006. Bouquegneau. P. 1809.” TR61400-24. F. Ftotal frequency of lightning event damage to controller and electrical systems. 2004. Assoc. Wind Turbine Lightning Protection Project 1999-2001. “Wind in the Silos. to be published. Rousseau. [21] Y. Hoppe-Kilpper. cost of one hour’s actual energy production by the CE turbine (the amount of money for which one hour’s worth of the turbine’s production can be sold. Document 411.. 2004. Renewable Energy Lab. [20] C. 52 [24] IEC. Oct. M. CO. Union Wind Energy Conf. Petterson. Dept. 9.” presented at the Int. 1999. NASA-CR-168229. Sep. Nat. Ensslin. and T. FAA Standard FAA-STD-019d. McCalla.) These proposed computations only consider the monetary costs. Kr¨ oninger. Zischank. Cotton. This resulted in hundreds of lost turbine hours. and Zhang Jianping. [25] IEC. Jun. missing that contribution during an outage is probably not a major public-relations factor. Lightning Protect. [8] D. Jenkins and I. McNiff.996 per hour adjusted actual energy output of a 1-MW wind turbine we get Cam × 10 < (3 × $1000) + (266 + 71) × $0. Utilities. Conf. McNiff. Soc. B. Best Practice Guidelines For Wind Energy Health and Safety. “External conditions for wind turbine operation—Results from the German “250 MW wind programme”. Energy.” presented at the PES 2006 Gen. Using US dollar figures and inputing an average $1000 repair cost per damaging incident. Smith. Inst. Italy. 1975. Cotton.41. 2006. T. Shiraishi. CommissionContract JOR3-CT95-0052. “Lightning protection of wind turbine generator systems and EMC problems in the associated control systems. Aeronautics Space Admin.32.” 1997. “Lightning damages of wind turbine blades in winter in Japan. D. N. Wada. Durstewitz. Liu Yuanyuan.S. Golden. Y. such as landscape “spoiled” by wind farms or public’s perception of its reliability. 2002.” Electra No. R. [7] A.. and K. Ma Hongda.. Meeting.” Dec. REFERENCES [1] C. Martzloff. 2000. G. no. “Technology: Lightning protection research of high speed trains. “A critical review of non-conventional approaches to lightning protection. 2005. “A call to standardize the waveforms used to test SPDs. “Lightning protection for wind turbine blades and bearings.0 en: 2002. [12] “Lightning protection guideline for RBN-DGPS stations. 1.” Eur. Chairman IEC Technical Committee TC 81. p. C. “Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC)—Part 5: Installation and mitigation guidelines—Section 2: Earthing and cabling. 2008 at 00:24 from IEEE Xplore. and a CE value of 0. Soerenson. adjusted to take into account expected percentage production losses due to mechanical and other nonlightning associated factors). Surtees. 4. “How to protect a wind turbine from lightning. J. Transportation. 2002. 16. T. and A. Christiansen.” presented at the Int. Aug. [17] B. 25. Numata.. 6. [6] IEA. T. Montr´ eal. The annual cost of any lightning protection system Cam should not exceed the annual cost of lightning damage (the frequency of lightning damage Ftotal . Jenkins. 20 2005. [3] M. cost in lost energy production while the turbine is CLE offline. Dodd.” New Farm Mag. French Lightning Protect. and E. Meteorol. Ed.. Jun. . 2005. S. Sullivan. Hoppe-Kilpper. P. multiplied by its cost Closses ) plus the loss in energy production CLE that results from lightning events and repairs.” presented at the IEEE PES Gen. Dec. [5] DEFU. U. May 1996. “Parameters of lightning flashes.78 Cam × 10 < 3000 + 208 Cam × 10 < 3208 Cam < $3208 for a lightning protection system with a oneyear warranty. Ishibashi. Lyngby. T. Wang Yili.” C62. [11] Dept. Lightning Protection of Wind Turbines— A Designers Guide to Best Practices. DOE/NASA 0007-1. Downloaded on October 16. France. 1994. [19] Kiu Ji. Conf. [4] I.2TM-2002. [13] A.” China Lightning Protect. (For a lightning protection system with a ten-year warranty. Lightning Protection of Wind Turbines. Annex.

FL. France. Downloaded on October 16. Avignon. 2005”. .” presented at ICLP 2004. 10/350 under the microscope. Restrictions apply.Bruce Glushakow (M’05) was born in the United States but has spent half his life living and working in Europe and Asia. “A Call to Standardize the Waveforms Used to Test SPDs. Authorized licensed use limited to: King Mongkuts Institute of Technology Thornburi. 2008 at 00:24 from IEEE Xplore. His main research interests include standard technology. EC&M Magazine (online version). Multiple-source lightning transients:The cause of microwave and telecommunications equipment damage. After establishing an electrical contracting company in New York he joined MCG Electronics Inc. in 2006. He has authored a number of articles and books including: “Lightning and Surge Protection Guideline for Electronic Equipment. “The IEC 63205 Lightning Protection Standards: Can they be fixed or is cancellation the only recourse?” presented to IEEE SPDC in Clearwater. “Lightning protection for telecommunications substations in 2004. 2004. published in Chinese in 2003”.