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    South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) is taking its research into lightning protection for renewable-energy systems a step further.

    The Johannesburg Lightning Research Laboratory (JLRL) at Wits and electronics manufacturer DEHN Africa are extending their partnership, with the latter donating ZAR500 000. This follows their recent study in which 50 lightning currents were measured over the 2020/21 thunderstorm season in Johannesburg. A custom-built lightning current measurement system – which prevents extensive maintenance and downtimes in wind turbines due to lightning damage – was installed on the Sentech Tower in Brixton, Johannesburg, to conduct the research.

    The donation is expected to fund the installation of the device on other tall infrastructure in Johannesburg, such as the Telkom Tower. It is also expected to fund bursaries for MSc and PhD students working in lightning protection research.

    According to Wits, Southern Africa ‘as a climate change hot spot is likely to see increased lightning activity, making the study of lightning in Johannesburg paramount to mitigate the dangers to human safety and economic sustainability’.

    The project measures where lightning events occur, using high-speed cameras, direct current measurements, fast electric field measurements and lightning location systems.

    The collaboration builds on the Wits Centenary programme, which focuses on improving access to education at Wits, combating inequality, contributing to employment and furthering sustainable development.

    14 September 2021
    Image: Gallo/Getty Images