Premium Membership ♕

CYBER MONDAY OFFER 💥 Save 20% on PRO Membership Plan and Video Courses with the coupon CYM23 and learn from experienced engineers.

Home / Technical Articles / Overvoltages Caused by Lightning
Overvoltages Caused by Lightning
Overvoltages Caused by Lightning (on photo: Lightning over Bangkok, taken from State Tower on the 57th floor.)

The Impacts of Lightning

Overvoltages of atmospheric origin arise from uncontrollable sources and their severity for the load depends on many parameters that are determined according to where the lightning strikes and the structure of the electrical network.

The impact of lightning on a structure produces spectacular results, but nevertheless is very localised. Protection against the effects of a direct lightning strike is provided by lightning conductors.

A lightning strike creates overvoltages that propagate along any type of electrical cabling (electrical distribution mains, telephone connections, communication bus, etc.), metallic wiring systems or conducting elements of significant length.

The consequences of lightning, i.e. the overvoltages created on the installations and equipment, can be appreciable over a radius of 10km.

Lightning impacts
Lightning impacts

Such overvoltages can be classified according to their point of impact:

  1. Direct,
  2. Near (indirect) or
  3. Distant lightning strikes.

For direct lightning strikes, the overvoltages are caused by the flow of lightning current in the structure concerned and its earth connections. For near lightning strikes, overvoltages are created in the loops and are in part linked to rises in earth potential due to the flow of lightning current.

For distant lightning strikes, the overvoltages are limited to those created in the loops. The occurrence of overvoltages due to lightning and their characteristics are statistical in nature and much data remains uncertain.

All regions are not equally exposed and for each country there generally exists a map that indicates the density of lightning strikes.

Ng = Annual number of lightning strikes on earth per km2
NK = Isokeraunic level

Ng = Nk/10

In France, the number of lightning strikes on earth is between 1 and 2 million. Half of these lightning strikes that reach earth have amplitude of under 30 kA, and less than 5% exceed 100 kA.

Lightning density Ng in France
Lightning density Ng in France

Protection against the effects of direct lightning strikes

Direct and indirect lightning strike on overhead line
Left: Direct lightning strike on overhead line; Right: Indirect lightning strike on ground

Lightning strike on lightning rod
Lightning strike on lightning rod

The protective principle is to attempt control of the point of impact by attracting the lightning on to one or several specified points (the lightning conductors) that are placed away from the places to be protected and by letting the pulse current flow to earth.

Several lightning conductor technologies exist and can be of the following types: stem, meshed cage, taut wire or even priming device. The presence of lightning conductors on a facility increases the risk and amplitude of pulse currents in the earthing network.

The use of SPD‘S is therefore necessary to avoid increasing damage to the installation and equipment.

Protection against indirect effects by SPD

Socomec SPD - Type SURGYS
Socomec SPD - Type SURGYS

SPD provides protection against transient overvoltages as well as protection against the effects of indirect lightning strikes.


Irrespective of statistical considerations for lightning and the corresponding recommendations set out in ever-changing installation standards, protection against overvoltages by SPD is today systematically demanded for any type of industrial or service activity.

For the latter, the electrical and electronic equipment is strategic and expensive, and not ponderable as certain domestic appliances might be.

Resource: Industrial switching & protection systems 2011 – SOCOMEC

Premium Membership

Get access to premium HV/MV/LV technical articles, electrical engineering guides, research studies and much more! It helps you to shape up your technical skills in your everyday life as an electrical engineer.
More Information

Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. yallaling s j
    Jul 15, 2014

    Good stuff

  2. Ehkenny
    Apr 26, 2013

    This is really great. I will be having a presentation on the effect of lightning in 2weeks time. This is so helpful

  3. punit1033
    Apr 26, 2013

    Hii..very nice article
    though one thing I am not able to understand is in the case of the distance lightening..u have mentioned about the loops

Leave a Comment

Tell us what you're thinking. We care about your opinion! Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and rel="nofollow" is in use. So, please do not use a spammy keyword or a domain as your name, or it will be deleted. Let's have a professional and meaningful conversation instead. Thanks for dropping by!

  ×  two  =  sixteen

Learn How to Design Power Systems

Learn to design LV/MV/HV power systems through professional video courses. Lifetime access. Enjoy learning!

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter

Subscribe to our Weekly Digest newsletter and receive free updates on new technical articles, video courses and guides (PDF).
EEP Academy Courses - A hand crafted cutting-edge electrical engineering knowledge