The Difference Between Lightning Detection and Prediction Can Have Shocking Implications for Utility Companies

  • Apr 28, 2017

Utility Companies and Lightning Data

The difference between lightning detection and prediction can have a big impact on utility companies. Severe weather is a huge problem for utility providers. In fact, weather-related power outages are the leading power disrupter in the U.S. To make matters worse, this type of power outage is continually on the rise. Weather-related power outages are often more difficult for utility companies to deal with considering severe weather can shut down roads and injure line workers.

In an effort to combat these outages and improve business continuity, more and more utilities are turning towards lightning data providers. By monitoring lightning data, some networks can follow storms, send out detailed warnings and give the “all-clear.” These tools are helpful for utility companies who know time is everything. However, other tools are just giving these companies a false sense of security and are dangerous to employees. So, which tool is the better one: Lightning prediction or lightning detection? Take a guess and read through the rest of the article to find out.

Lightning Prediction

Lightning detection and prediction are two very different methods of extracting lightning data. On the one hand, lightning prediction is a system that works by measuring electrostatic forces in the atmosphere. While lightning is an electrostatic force in the atmosphere, it’s oftentimes not the only electrostatic trigger. For example, ambient charges by nearby equipment can cause a lightning prediction system to falsely recognize lightning.

Another downside to lightning prediction systems is that they do not offer any other weather data. While lightning is present for approximately half of all weather-related power outages, there are other forms of severe weather that can threaten utility operations. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, cold weather and ice storms cause 19% of all weather-related outages.

Lightning Detection

We said lightning detection and prediction are different, but how? Lightning detection, on the other hand, doesn’t measure electrostatic forces. Instead, lightning detection systems measure actual lightning strikes. Total lightning systems even measure in-cloud lightning, which makes up nearly 80% of all lightning discharges and is often a precursor to other forms of severe weather that can impact power lines.

Another useful feature of lightning detection systems compared to lightning prediction systems is that detection systems oftentimes have long-range capabilities. While a prediction system is normally just one piece, detection systems normally rely on networks of weather data. Some networks span your entire state, country or even the world. Having real-time lightning detection data throughout all of your operational areas is the best way to ensure safety and continuity across the board.

The Best for Utility Optimization Is…

Lightning detection systems make up the majority of the market. This is because these are the devices backed by science that offer utility companies with the most useful decision-making information.

The only science-based choice for utility companies is lightning detection. Knowing without a doubt is critical when it comes to weather-related outages. Our partner, National Grid, is one of the leaders in the utility field that recognizes the importance of this difference. Not only do they rely on our weather and lightning networks for storm monitoring and power restoration purposes, but they work together with our energy monitoring platform ConnectSavings as well.

When it’s time to prioritize safety at your utility company, don’t forget to research lightning detection (not prediction!) systems. To learn more about weather-related outages, read our blog post: “Weather-related Outages: What Utility Companies Need to Know.”