External lightning protection system for wind turbine blades - aerodynamics

A. S. Ayub, W.H. Siew, M. Stickland

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Many wind turbine blade manufacturers have installed lightning protection systems (particularly the down conductor) internally. Having the down conductor internally within the blades would indeed preserve their aerodynamic performance. However, the blades are, as a consequence, vulnerable to damage and burn resulting from lightning strikes. Owing to this, the authors believe that by having the down conductor on the external surface of the blade, the incidence of blade damage would be reduced. The authors have not found any literature in the public domain that quantifies the effect of having an external down conductor on the aerodynamic performance. Hence, in this paper, a study of the effects of an externally mounted lightning conductor has been undertaken. Simulation studies were carried out using the computational fluid dynamics numerical method available in the COMSOL Multiphysics software package. The results of studies on single conductor arrangement have shown that the degradation on aerodynamic performance is least at the trailing edges of the blade. However, it may not be adequate for lightning protection. Therefore, using a similar numerical modelling methodology, simulations were extended and investigated on multiple conductor arrangements where conductors’ locations were varied on an aerofoil surfaces. The results of the aerodynamic modelling suggested that a four conductor arrangement may be the best option as it gives more coverage for lightning protection of the wind turbine blades while still having the least reduction (of around 25%) on lift to drag ratio.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalCIGRE Science and Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2017


  • aerodynamic performance
  • computational fluid dynamics
  • lightening down conductor
  • wind turbine blades


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