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Surge protection for energy systems

Very large surge voltages are caused mainly by lightning strikes on or close to energy systems. Even from several hundred metres away, lightning currents can also cause impermissible surge voltages in conductor loops, through either capacitive, inductive or galvanic coupling.

Design tips for lightning and surge protection systems
Design tips for lightning and surge protection systems

Large surge voltages are coupled over a radius of up to 2 km. Switching operations involving inductive loads create dangerous surge voltages in the medium and low-voltage power networks.


1. Lightning discharges

(LEMP: Lightning Electro Magnetic Impulse)

The international lightning protection standard IEC 62305 describes how direct lightning strikes of up to 200 kA are safely arrested. The current is coupled into the earthing system and, due to the voltage drop at the earthing resistor, half of the lightning current is coupled into the internal installation.

The partial lightning current then divides itself among the power lines entering the building (number of cores of power line entering building), while around 5% enters data cables.

The voltage drop at the earthing resistor is calculated from the product of the partial lightning current (i) and the earthing resistance (R). This is then the potential difference between the local earth (equipotential bonding) and the live cables, which are earthed some distance away.

Example split between earth/installation:

50% – 50%
i = 50 kA; R = 1 Ohm
U = i × R = 50,000 A × 1 Ohm = 50,000 V

  • U – Surge voltage
  • i – Surge current
  • R – Earthing resistance

The voltage resistance of the components is exceeded and uncontrolled arcing occurs. Only surge arresters can safely arrest these dangerous voltages.

The biggest surge voltages are caused by lightning strikes. According to IEC 62305 (VDE 0185-305), lightning strikes are simulated with lightning surge currents of up to 200 kA (10/350 μs).

The biggest surge voltages are caused by lightning strikes.
The biggest surge voltages are caused by lightning strikes.

Table 1 – Typical distribution of lightning current

1 Lightning strike 100% Iimp = max 200 kA (IEC 62305)
2 Earthing system ~ 50% I = 100 kA (50%)
3 Electrical installation ~ 50% I = 100 kA (50%)
4 Data cable ~ 50% I = 5 kA (5%)

1.1 Switching operations

(SEMP: Switching electromagnetic pulse)

Switching operations occur due to the switching of large inductive and capacitive loads, short circuits, and interruptions to the power system. They are the most common cause of surge voltages.

These surge voltages simulate surge currents of up to 40 kA (8/20 μs). Sources include e.g. motors, ballasts and industrial loads.

2. Electrostatic discharge (ESD)

Electrostatic discharges are caused by friction. When a person walks on a carpet, charge separation occurs – in this instance it is however harmless to humans. However, it can interfere with and destroy electronic components.

Equipotential bonding is necessary here to avoid this charge separation.

Title: Design tips for lightning and surge protection systems – OBO Betetrmann
Format: PDF
Size: 5.60 MB
Pages: 222
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Design tips for lightning and surge protection systems
Design tips for lightning and surge protection systems

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3 Comments


  1. Sam Weaver
    May 02, 2019

    It’s really good to know that the most common cause of surge voltages is the switching operation that occurs due to the switching of large inductive and capacitive loads, short circuits, and power interruptions. If I were to own a building, I will make sure that these switching operations are properly handled. And in order for them to be safely functioning, I will make sure to get the service of a good industrial contractor that will make a quality electrical design for my building.


  2. hossam
    Sep 01, 2018

    very very good book thank you verymuch


  3. OSHORO OLUGBENGA MICHAEL
    Aug 31, 2018

    From generator house and factory is 1200metres do we need to run earthing cable separately we used XLPE 240mm2 single core11KV

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