Lightning Protection Even More Critical in Smart Grid Applications


The Smart Grid represents an evolution from a 100-plus-year-old electrical system to what some describe as a modern technological wonder. Proponents say that once in place, the Smart Grid will provide unprecedented communication, flexibility, efficiency and security for electrical power.

Yet it still only takes a lightning strike to negatively impact the reliability of the grid.

Experts estimate that the rolling blackouts in the Northeastern United States and Canada in 2003 caused $6 billion in regional economic loss. The cost is just too significant, and with the even greater financial and technological investment in the Smart Grid, limited lightning protection simply is not an option.

Surge protective devices (SPDs) play an integral part in improving the operability and reliability of the Smart Grid and its components. The deployment of intelligent equipment throughout the grid means that protection from transients and overvoltages must be prioritized anywhere critical data is sent and received.

“Data collection and supervision takes place throughout the network, so in effect you’re physically protecting the data ports,” said Mark Hendricks, global product manager for PolyPhaser | Transtector. “Surge protection devices are literally protecting the I/O ports from lightning strikes on the pole.”

Functionally, basic suppression is the same in the Smart Grid as in legacy systems. However, the vast expansion of sensitive equipment in the Smart Grid contributes to the need for innovative surge protection technology.

“Equipment may be even more susceptible to transient voltage issues,” said Travis Coffey, Energy Account Director for PolyPhaser | Transtector Systems.

Smart Grid SPD applications include basic connection to power equipment, along with data and signaling circuits for control, monitoring and communication. SPDs may be installed in a broad range of applications and environments, such as outdoors, mounted high on poles or within equipment cabinets, or even embedded in a standalone electrical apparatus.

“Not all equipment is in a building – crucial components can be more exposed,” Hendricks said.

The most effective and reliable SPD solutions feature silicon avalanche protection technology for better, longer-lasting protection. Coffey noted three key factors for protection solutions: low let-through voltage protection, quick reaction time, and non-degrading reliability for long-term protection.