Lightning Protection of Wind Turbines

Student thesis: Phd


Wind turbines are the largest contributor to renewable energy both in Britain and the rest of Europe. With a rise in the installed capacity and an increase in offshore wind energy due to governments green targets by 2020, there has been a large development in new wind turbines for optimized performance. The present thesis deals with the uncertainties in regards to the lightning phenomenon on wind turbines with emphasis on the rotor blades. Rotor blades are the most expensive part to replace in the event of lightning related damage. The research presents results based on lightning data analysis on wind turbines, backed up by finite element analysis testing of wind turbine systems. The final chapters include the testing and improving of lightning protection systems installed on modern day rotor blades. The first part of the thesis deals with the theoretical understanding of the lightning phenomenon and its effect on wind turbine systems. The core work of the research begins with the analysis of lightning data collected over Nysted wind farm and different wind turbines installed over the world. The data analysis helps in identifying the parts of the wind turbine that are at high risk to lightning attachment and related damage. The peak current levels of the lightning strikes seen on the wind turbine are compared with those in modern day lightning standards, and show that historic data in the standards are not an exact match to the real case scenarios. The lightning data analysis also sheds light into the importance of upward initiated lightning, which will become important for large wind turbines, especially in their new offshore environment. A full scale 3D FEA model of a wind turbine, with lightning protection systems installed in its rotor blades, is subjected to electrical stresses to find likely attachment points in regards to upward initiated lightning, and these results are later compared to those found in the data analysis. The second half of the thesis deals with the testing of new materials and prototype blades, to be introduced to reduce their radar cross section. The new materials include a large amount of carbon content which affects the efficiency of the lightning protection system. High voltage and high current tests backed up with finite element analysis have been performed to find how these new materials affect the performance of the lightning protection system. The results indicate that further work needs to be done before these new materials can be integrated into the blade, as they increase the risk of lightning related damage to the blade.
Date of Award31 Dec 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorIan Cotton (Supervisor)


  • Blades
  • Wind Turbines
  • Lightning

Cite this