Design and Analysis of Earthing System for Wind Turbine Generators from Lightning Discharge Currents
Currently, wind power production is undergoing rapid growth due to the escalating interest in green energy generation. As a result, generators are now choosing to locate wind turbine generators (WTGs) in areas where there is more lightning activity, and earthing problems can be exacerbated further by the soil resistivity being higher than where turbines are usually located. In addition, the desire to capture more energy from the wind has given way to larger WTGs, further increasing the probability of lightning strikes to the structure. This heightened regularity has emphasized the need for an effective grounding system, capable of dissipating the large currents discharged by the lightning into the lightning protection system. This “effective grounding system” must offer a low impedance by limiting the ground potential rise, which is critical due to the wider frequency content of the lightning discharge currents (ranging from DC to several MHz). The design of an effective grounding system for WTGs depends on the calculation of the minimum length of the earth electrodes, soil resistivity and its frequency-dependency, and the impact of WTG foundation. The calculation of the length of earth electrodes needs an accurate measurement of soil resistivity and modeling of the measured resistivity. Hence, this research considers the measured soil resistivity values of an Australian wind farm and presents an analysis of the soil stratification to identify the optimum soil models. The influence of the soil layers on the WTG grounding system is also investigated to install the earth electrodes. As the resistivity of the soil is frequency-dependent, an analysis is performed to evaluate the effect of the frequency-dependent soil parameters on the WTG grounding system at various frequencies of lightning discharge current. In addition, the impact of the rebar of the WTG foundation on the grounding system is evaluated as the rebar shares the lightning discharge currents. The effective length of the earth electrodes is frequency-dependent, and rebar determines the impedance of the grounding system at high-frequencies. The next step in the grounding design is the design of earth electrodes. The current dissipating capacity of the earth electrodes depends on soil resistivity, dimensions of the earth electrodes, and burial depth of the electrodes. However, the traditional practice of designing earth electrodes is based on the soil resistivity alone, considering the uniform soil resistivity model. The conventional method of designing earth electrodes based on the uniform soil resistivity is not practical due to non-homogeneous behavior of the soil resistivity. To enhance the WTG earthing system design, this research proposes a novel method to calculate the minimum length of an earth electrode for uniform and two-layer based soil models considering electrode dimensions and burial depth. The grounding impedance achieved when electrode lengths are calculated using the proposed method is compared to grounding impedance values computed using the conventional method. This comparison shows that the proposed method is an improvement on the current convention. In particular, the proposed method gives a grounding impedance value of less than 10 Ω at low frequencies for all soil resistivity values. This results in a reduction in the potential rise of up to 64% compared to the peak potential value in the conventional method. The benefits offered by the proposed method mean that it can be employed to calculate electrode lengths for the required resistance values based on soil resistivity, electrode dimensions, and burial depth. Such a design may serve as a starting point for an engineer wishing to design a WTG earthing system. Another challenge noted is the practice of assessing the effectiveness of the WTG grounding system. The conventional method is based on achieving a low-frequency resistance of 10 Ω according to the standard IEC 61400-24 and the performance of the grounding system at high frequencies is not considered. Hence, identification of the high-frequency components of the relevant lightning discharge currents is important to understand the performance of the grounding system. An analysis of the wind turbine earthing system for different lightning discharge current wave shapes is performed considering the lightning current waveforms and parameters mentioned in the IEC 61400-24 standard and evaluated the various frequency components and their influence on the WTG grounding system. It is identified that the impedance of the grounding system is minimum for the first short positive stroke current parameters for all the soil resistivity values compared to the first short negative and the subsequent short current wave shapes, although the peak current magnitude is highest for this wave shape. From the analysis of WTG grounding system based on various parameters, this research presents a procedure for assessing the effectiveness of WTG lightning protection system with a focus on the grounding system. It is identified that the effectiveness of the grounding system can be improved by proper design of earth electrodes, optimum soil stratification, and selecting low resistivity soil sites. Finally, various earth electrode configurations are evaluated to identify the better electrode configuration for WTG grounding system. This thesis provides an in-depth analysis of WTG grounding systems to protect WTGs from lightning strikes. The contributions of this research will help wind farm architects to design effective grounding systems leading to effective lightning protection systems. Finally, the contributions will help to increase the adoption of wind power, resulting in more renewable energy generation. The outcome of this research can be realized to reduce the downtime of WTGs by incorporating the effectiveness of lightning protection system component into the wind farm optimization process. Also, a generalized procedure for calculating the minimum length of earth electrodes for all the soil models can be developed in the future.