This year’s lightning season in the northern hemisphere is thankfully ending. Early reports from the field indicate that a significant proportion of lightning strikes caused blade damage. One disturbing fact is becoming clear: there is a tremendous lack of knowledge about which types of lightning strikes are creating damage. Nor is there a significant amount of data on the relative success or failure of OEM blade lightning protection systems. Owners and operators are left to fend for themselves in a scrum of specifications, manuals, and industry standards.
Technology has not penetrated this problem with enough force or rigor. Lightning researchers have conducted valuable, but limited, scope assessments of lightning strikes to turbines. These research efforts have provided useful insights. We now know that upward lightning strikes are prevalent, particularly as wind turbine heights grow. We also have incredible video of lightning following blades through more than 180 degrees in rotation, and we can see the resulting damage.