2 Ways Wind Farm Operators Use Lightning Data


Believe it or not, the wind energy industry can do a lot with lightning data. Here are two important ways they use historical peak lightning currents and real-time total lightning data to optimize efficiency.

wind turbines and lightning strikes during a thunderstorm

Lightning is a serious concern for wind power operations, and it’s not difficult to see why. Often placed out in wide open spaces, wind turbines are basically giant lightning rods. Their height and material essentially turn them into lightning magnets when a thunderstorm rolls through. This puts both employees and the expensive wind turbines themselves at risk.

While there is no way to control the weather, wind farm operators can and do use professional weather data to optimize their operations. There are two main ways the wind energy industry uses lightning data:

  1. Real-time lightning data to protect employees
  2. Historical lightning data to gauge potential lightning damage to their towers historical

 

1. Lightning Safety At Wind Farms

The first way wind farm operators use lightning data is for employee safety. Any employees outdoors while a thunderstorm is approaching, while it’s happening, or as it’s leaving, are at risk of being struck by lightning.

Evening thunderstorms and a wind farm with large wind turbines with red lights in the distance

With real-time data from a total lightning network like the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network, wind farm operators and their personnel can receive automatic alerts.

These automatic, custom alerts let key stakeholders know when a thunderstorm is coming, how severe it is, and when it’s safe to resume operations.

Custom Lightning Alerts for Wind Farms

The great thing about these alerts is that administrators can customize them to fit their wind operation’s needs. Some areas wind farm operators often like to edit include:

  • Alert Location, or the area in which lightning alerts are active for
  • Lightning Alert Radius, or how far away the lightning has to be to trigger an alert
  • Alert Delivery via horn, strobe, text, or email

 

Not sure what type of lightning alerts you should use? You can learn all about the different types by reading our quick Lightning Alert Guide.

Learn more  →

2. Estimating Damage from Peak Lightning Estimates

The second and more important way the wind industry uses advanced lightning data is to estimate peak lightning currents. This is a lot less obvious than safety, but knowing the peak lightning currents is critical for all wind farm operations.

Lightning is a major concern for wind farm operators. Beyond injuring crews and others nearby, it can cause costly damage to wind turbines including:

  • Blades
  • Control systems
  • Electronics
  • Batteries
#Lightning can cause costly damage to #windenergy operations, including blades, control systems, electronics, and batteries Click To Tweet

Since it is impossible to stop lightning from damaging wind turbines, the best thing wind energy operations can do is know what expensive equipment is damaged as quickly as possible. That way they can fix or replace it while minimizing downtime. This helps them get back up and running faster and therefore saves them money.

How do they do this? With peak lightning current estimates, of course!

What Are Peak Currents?

Peak lightning current plays a critical role in estimating potential damage to wind turbines, so it’s important you understand it.

While the average energy released in a lightning strike is 55kWh, some strikes can be 20 times more powerful. It’s these powerful strikes that can do the most damage to wind turbines and other expensive equipment at wind farm operations.

The peak current is the approximate highest amplitude of a lightning strike.

A graphic showing the development of lightning

While all lightning strikes have different energy outputs, positive lightning discharges often have a higher peak amplitude than negative lightning discharges.

Peak Currents in Action

  1. When a wind farm operation gets a real-time lightning alert that a thunderstorm is threatening their operations, they can take steps to protect their crews.
  2. Once the threat passes, they can go back and look at historical in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning data to see if any strikes hit their equipment or came close.
  3. Then – with detailed data from Earth Networks – they can see what the peak current estimate was and other important information, such as polarity. While lightning can cause wind turbines to explode, the damage is not always as obvious.

Weather Intelligence & Wind Farms

Both onshore and offshore wind farms take advantage of lightning data to protect their employees in real-time and to estimate damage to their critical infrastructure after a storm has passed.

Ready to use data to improve your wind farm operations? We’ll put together a custom technology solution to help you achieve all your goals, like:

  • Reducing crew injuries
  • Improving operational continuity
  • Identifying damaged control systems and electronics
  • Minimizing false alarms

 

See what we can do for you! Contact the experts at Earth Networks for a personalized weather safety and continuity plan.

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