Lightning won’t be striking in this same place twice – once was enough!
Very rarely do we see direct lightning hits on MEA systems, despite our having deployed many thousands of them over the past three decades. Much more common is damage due to ‘secondary strikes’ where the actual bolt hits the ground within a ten kilometre radius of the equipment. Even these lesser strikes are still able to do damage through massive ground currents and induced electromagnetic radiation.
But this particular Plexus field station was – unhappily – in the wrong place at the wrong time. With one foot in the ground and its head stuck up in the air, it formed the perfect path for lightning to travel between atmosphere and soil.
The tremendous amount of energy released so rapidly within the electronics, cables and enclosure systems lifted the copper off PCB tracks, scorched the plastic, melted the connectors, blew the tops off integrated circuits, arced across from cables to the aluminium masts and exploded the Plexus body, splitting it like a fragmentation grenade and turning the solar panel assembly into a projectile.
So repairs are impossible, though a place of honour will be made for the remnants of this Plexus unit in the MEA Museum, testament to the fact that Mother Nature has taken notice of our efforts at last.
Perhaps she just wishes us to remind readers that long lateral cables are bad news when she’s about?
|A Plexus Field Station blasted apart by lightning|