NIAR engineer creates way to protect wind turbines against lightning strikes


Friday, July 21, 2017
By Jessa Ragan

Damage to wind turbines can easily cost hundreds of thousands in repairs, but a prototype developed at Wichita State’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) will help protect them from multiple lightning strikes.

Billy Martin, director and research scientist at the NIAR Environmental Test Lab, invented the prototype, which is currently patent pending.

Prior devices for protecting wind turbine blades have issues with reliability, are generally single use and have significant down time when there is a needed repair.

Martin’s design involves layers that allow turbine blades to withstand multiple lightning strikes without sustaining damage. A recent test showed no damage after up to eight lightning strikes.

The biggest advantage to this design is the time it allows for repairs and the ease with which the repairs can be completed. The protective layering can be applied to turbine blades prior to installation and is repairable after taking multiple lightning strikes.

The damage to the protective layering can be repaired in approximately 20 minutes, not counting the time it takes to reach a blade that is already installed.

Martin continues to improve his prototype with additional tests, making it lighter, more marketable and convenient for repairs high in the sky.

NIAR’s Environmental Test Lab conducts direct effects of lighting, aircraft lighting transient analysis and lightning induced transient susceptibility.

For more information, go to www.niar.wichita.edu or contact Mariah Smith by email or at 316-978-8284.