The photo on the right shows lightning striking a wind turbine in Mid-North
South Australia, the
|lightning-strike on a wind turbine at Hallett, South Australia
|Photo credit Helen Simpson,
Sarah Zhang published a high-speed recording of ground-to-cloud lightning
from wind turbines in Spain:
|Grass fire stopped at wind farm access road
|Photo credit; REpower service technicians, The Bluff Wind
As a member of the
Waterloo Wind Farm
Community Liaison Committee (also Mid-North SA) I have been informed that
there have been a number of lightning strikes on this moderately-sized
seven-year-old wind farm.
The great majority of the approximately 340 wind turbines in the region,
including Waterloo and Hallett, are on ridge-tops.
Mid-North SA suffers from frequent bushfires, many of them caused by
As of the time of writing there have been
three wind turbine fires in Australia;
none of these were started by lightning.
It seems that the built-in protection from lightning-strike given to wind
turbines stops them catching fire as a result of those lighting-strikes.
So, it is logical that wind turbines would give some protection to a
ridge from lightning-started bush fires, but it does not seem that anyone
has seriously researched the degree of this protection.
Mid-North SA seems an ideal region for such reasearch.
How would the research be carried out?
Following the literature review:
- All the wind farm operators in the research area should be asked for their records of lightning strikes.
I believe that wind turbines detect lightning strikes because some repair,
usually minor, is normally required to the area on the turbine blade where
the strike occurred.
- Emergency Fire Service records would need to be examined for fires that
had been started by lightning and for the number of these that were on
These records would be evaluated in relation to the ridges that might be
'protected' by wind farms.
- It may be workth fitting surveillance cameras to sellected turbines to
record lightning strikes over the period of the research.
As the turbines are mostly along ridge-lines one camera could cover a number
The cameras would also show whether lightning started any fires in the
Who might fund the research?
Considering the great cost of bushfires to the community, insurance industry
and, ultimately to government, I would think that the latter two might be
willing to fund the research.
The Emergency Fire Service organisation should be willing to support the
research, but would probably lack the financial resources to fund it.
Wind farm operators may be willing to help fund the research because it would
potentially improve the image of wind farms.
Opponents of wind farms have falsely claimed that wind farms make
fire-fighting more difficult because, they claim, water-bombing aircraft
cannot fly near turbines.
This has been denied by the EFS and was shown to be false when
water-bombing aircraft flew near and between turbines at Waterloo Wind Farm
in January 2017.
Wind farm operators would be very please to be able to show that the
presence of wind farms actually protected local people from fires to some
Where could the research be done?
As mentioned above, the numerous lightning-strike fires and wind turbines
along ridges in Mid-North South Australia would make it an ideal place for