Grounding Lightning Protection

Windy Dankoff

Lightning and related static discharge is the number one cause of sudden, unexpected failures in PV systems. Lightning does not have to strike directly to cause damage to sensitive electronic equipment, such as inverters, controls and radios. It can be miles away or not even visible, and still induce high voltage surges in wiring, especially, long lines. Fortunately, almost all cases of lightning damage can be prevented by proper system grounding. Our own customers have reported damage to inverters, charging controls, refrigerator compressor controllers, fluorescent ballasts, TV sets (rarely), motors and rarely PV modules. These damages have cost thousands of $, and ALL reports were from systems NOT GROUNDED.

GROUNDING means connecting part of your system structure and/or wiring electrically to the earth. During lightning storms, the clouds build up a strong static electric charge. This causes an accumulation of the opposite charge in objects on the ground. Objects that are INSULATED from the earth tend to ACCUMULATE charge more strongly than the surrounding earth. If the potential difference (voltage) between sky and the object is great enough, lightning will jump the gap.

Grounding your system does four things.

1) It drains off accumulated charge so that lightning is NOT HIGHLY ATTRACTED to your system.

2) If lightning does strike, or if high charge does build up, your ground connection provides a safe path for discharge directly to the earth rather than through your wiring or semiconductors.

3) It reduces shock hazard from the higher voltage (ac) parts of your system. ,

4) reduces electrical hum and radio noise . caused by inverters, motors, fluorescent / lights and other devices. To achieve effective grounding FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES:

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