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Wind turbine lightning strike protection: this article describes common steps to avoid lightning strike damage to controls, batteries, and other wind turbine electrical generator system components. We provide information about lightning strikes, lightning hazards, related equipment, sources of lightning protection system installers, and lightning strike risk assessment.
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Our page to photo shows a wind generator installed by Aero-Solar in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico where by 2010 many local solar & wind power companies offered wind turbine and solar power generation installation services. Also see WIND ENERGY SYSTEMS, and also see ENERGY SAVINGS in buildings and SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS.
In January 2010 the New York Times reported that the U.S. is close to producing 2 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, and that wind power production grew in the United States during 2008 and 2009 by a total of 57%. [2008 (18%) and 2009 (39%)]., adding 9,900 megawatts of electrical energy in 2009 alone (according to the American Wind Energy Association).
Use of wind power and its increased growth may help reduce emissions of gases that cause the increasingly rapid worldwide problem of global warming. In January and February 2010 the New York Times reported that most of the wind turbines and wind energy being installed in the U.S. as well as most of the solar panels being used in the U.S. are being produced in China, and that G.E. (General Electric) makes nearly half the wind turbines used in the United States. U.S.
Most of this wind power growth was in large wind turbines delivered to wind farms primarily in Texas, Iowa, California, Washington, and Minnesota, and aided by President Obama's economic stimulus package. Put in context, this was about the same amount of energy production increase in the U.S. as was provided from growth in production of natural gas, and the combination of those two energy sources accounted for 80% of all new electricity generation capacity in the country. By 2020, experts report, energy derived from wind power could be about 180,000 megawatts. -- NY Times 1/26/2010.
Below we discuss how lightning protection is provided for electrical power generating wind turbines. Text below is reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.
Question: We have installed a 1935-vintage Jacobs wind generator (1500 watts; 35 volts DC) on an island in Wisconsin. Since the 55-foot tower is on a hill in the middle of a lake, it gets hit with lightning all the time. We have a standard electrical panel box but an electronic charging control. The wind generator tower has a lightning arrestor and a ground rod. Each time lightning hits, the lightning strike destroys an integrated circuit and a couple of transistors.
- Richard Armhein, North Oaks, MN
Answer: You should probably have surge suppressors on every wire entering your electrical panel box. The surge arrestors should be grounded to the existing ground rod. Never use separate ground rods for different parts of the same installation. The ground rod or stake should make better contact with moisture in the earth than do the wind turbine generator tower footings.
But in some locations, such as on hilltops where wind generators perform best, the risk of lightning strike is greater. Since your wind generator system is on a hill, you might want to check this (on a sunny day with no risk of a lightning strike while you are working).
Installing a lightning rod at the top of your wind generator tower isn't likely to protect your electronic equipment further and may not be cost-effective because the lightning rod may interfere with the wind's flow around the wind generator's turbine blades.
Lightning strike current passing through your storage batteries could be expected to destroy them by means of a powerful (and dangerous) explosion. But the lightning may also be inducing transient surges in the batteries. It is doubtful that they cause any harm.
Watch out: Engineers we spoke with stressed that generic answers are not universally right. Since lightning has a deadly potential, show your installation or an accurate diagram of it to a qualified electrical engineer who specializes in lightning arrestor system design.
See LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEMS for details; also, at Lightning Protection Systems Defined the UL illustration caption recommends a secondary surge arrestor on electrical service conductors or at the electrical service panel
While some details about electrical ground rods are shown just below, readers should also see ELECTRICAL GROUND SYSTEM INSPECTION.
Lightning protection systems are examined and certified by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
Be sure your installer is listed by UL and that a Master Label application is submitted to UL for your installation. There are other listing and certifying agencies as well, including the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
To verify that an installer is Listed or to obtain further information call the Follow-Up Services Department at UL, 1285 Walt Whitman Road, Melville, NY 11747 516/271-6200. UL has other offices in Northbrook, IL, Santa Clara, CA, and Research Triangle Park, NC.
Where do Electrical Ground Wires Go?
As Carson Dunlop's sketch shows here, from the main electrical panel a grounding conductor connects to:
Readers should also see Definitions of Electrical Ground, Grounding Electrode, Grounding Conductor, Grounded Conductor, Ground Wire, Neutral Wire, Ground Rod, for definitions of these confusing electrical terms.
Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.
Examples of Wind Generators & Windmills for Power Generation or Water Pumping
Please see WIND ENERGY SYSTEMS for our full article on this topic. Excerpts follow.
Windmills and Wind Powered Water Pumps
Even antique or small home-made wind energy systems should have lightning protection. Our photos show two systems that lack that safety feature: the old windmill on the city rampart at Montfoort, Holland (above-left), and a home-built vertical-axis barrel rotor wind energy system in El Charco, above San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
The vertical axis windmill has the advantage that it does not have to be oriented towards wind-direction.
But the slow axis speed and the 20% efficiency of the split barrel design means that like the Dutch windmill above, these two wind energy systems are most suitable for water pumping applications.
The question-and-answer article about wind turbines and lightning damage protection appears in expanded text above and quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about wind turbines & wind energy systems
Questions & answers or comments about lightning strike protection for wind generators and wind turbines
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Technical Reviewers & References
Lightning protection references & products for wind generators
Master List of Wind Turbine Generator & Solar Energy Companies, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico Guanajuato
Ace Lab (52) (47) 7740055 Blvd Hidalgo 2006 Col Sn Jos Consuelo Cp 371 Len, GT
Wind turbine electrical generators & Wind Generator Controllers, also packaged solar generators
Books on Wind Generators and Wind Energy System Designs