New weather warning system for industrial facilities

Louise Davis

Meteorological equipment specialists Biral has announced the launch of its new BTD-200 self-contained, standalone lightning warning system.

The BTD-200 gives advanced warning of overhead lightning risk using its professional-grade detection system, all the more important for highly combustible industrial processes such as oil refineries and storage facilities as well as for petrochemical production where lightning strikes can be particularly hazardous. Other applications include electricity generation, solar and wind farms, computer data centres, munitions factories and open cast mining where in all cases the ability to reliably warn of lightning and thunderstorms can mitigate risk, increase site safety and maintain productivity.

The BTD-200 is a complete detection and warning system which has been developed from the Biral range of professional aviation-grade lightning detection systems. It detects the local presence of all forms of lightning out to a range of 35km (22 miles) from the sensor. Designed to be installed and set up by non-technical staff, it comes with a power supply and the essential PC application ‘Lightning Works’, for monitoring and warning personnel of approaching thunderstorms.

The BTD-200 makes quasi-electrostatic measurements to avoid the problems of false alarms and mechanical failures associated with the detection of lightning using radio wave and field-mill based sensors.  Most importantly, it is able to issue overhead lightning warnings prior to the first discharge of lightning which radio wave-based systems cannot. Virtually all commercially available lightning detection systems use the reception of radio waves generated by lightning discharges as the primary detection technique.

Whilst providing a sensitive method of detection there are many other sources of these radio waves such as arcs from electrical equipment, vehicle ignition systems and fixed or mobile transmitters. All of which can result in high false alarm rates for these systems. Due to these limitations, most standalone lightning detectors employ secondary measurements such as optical flash detection in an attempt to reduce false alarms and employ complex signal analysis to estimate range. These techniques are only partially effective, giving these older technology lightning detectors a poor reputation due to their high false alarm rate, poor distance accuracy and short working lifetimes.

In many applications, the lightning warning system is used to help protect people and equipment from the dangers of a lightning strike by providing advanced warning of a storm's approach. Detectors which rely on lightning detection alone are only effective if the storm is already producing lightning at some distance before moving closer towards the detector. If the first lightning strike of the storm is overhead, then these types of systems give no advanced warning and therefore no protection.

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