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  • Writer's pictureJaime Ventura Energy Consultant



The catastrophic effects of lightning

Transient overvoltages, historically among the first disturbances to be recorded by users, have two major causes: lightning and load switching. Depending of local conditions one can be more important than the other, but both needing to be duly recognized.

Until now most of the users use to talk about power quality disturbances that cause mostly operation disruption and slow degradation to the critical loads and related mainly to load switching, but we want now to take this opportunity to show you the most dangerous kind of power disturbances, that causes, mostly, complete destruction and faster degradation to the critical systems connected to the net electrical utility. This is reason of the title of this post: The catastrophic effects of lightning.

If high energy surges or transients in the electrical wiring of any system that can be produced by external lightning may cause the kind of disasters as showed in this post to cars, cement walls, air-crafts, home roofs, roads, big trees, even on animals and humans, can you figure out the severe damages that these disturbances would cause to sensitive and critical electronic power loads?

Voltage surges are the result of direct bolt hits to the power system conductors as well as the results of indirect effects, when the lightning bolt strikes an object close to the conductors but not to the conductors themselves.

The three most prevalent types of system failure caused by direct lightning strikes are:

  • Catastrophic failure, usually caused by explosions.

  • Arcing components or destroyed printed circuits.

  • System degradation (mainly from indirect magnetic induction) of the sensitive electronic components and chip sets, continuously weakening until the component fails (normally this damage is not visible).

  • And system disruption, like system lock-ups, data errors, communication errors and slow system operation faults.

In a study of 100 computer system failures attributable to power supply disturbances, weather was cited as the major cause of disruptive sags and outages; voltage sags were found to disrupt computer operations four times as often as outages. But, frequently, random transient problems arise from the power source feeding the circuit. These transients create the most concern because it is difficult to define their amplitude, duration and energy content. The catastrophic failures from random transients are generally caused by lightning but although they also can be caused by switching parallel loads on the distribution system.

Fortunately solutions are available. The most important thing is that a complete protection against surges will be achieved only by “combining” or “coordinating” the installation of a proper surge protection device for every part (categories, according to IEEE and IEC standards) of the building.

With the advantage of our Integration Coefficient IC we can provide the most suitable, adapted and high benefit/cost ratio solution for this kind of destructive events. Please ask us how by subscribing.

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