Thunderstorm and Lightning Prediction and Detection

Published 22 July 2020

Bristol Industrial & Research Associates Ltd (Biral)

Thunderstorm and lightning detection in offshore wind has historically required large and expensive networks of radio receivers or the use of standalone sensors, which often proved to have an unacceptable false alarm rate. What’s more, current research and product development have been limited to the detection of events, rather than the prediction of them. Improved prediction of thunder and lightning storms can lead to improved safety and productivity. Therefore, early warning of potential lightning activity is vital to ensure the continued safe operations, and safety of personnel, at any offshore wind farm.

The Solution

UK-based Bristol Industrial & Research Associates Ltd (Biral) has created an innovative solution that provides users with advanced, real-time information about thunderstorm activity within a 45 nautical mile radius of a wind farm. Biral’s BTD-350 technology is virtually maintenance-free and can either interface directly to an integrated system, or operated using the supplied PC compatible display and logging software. The optional warning relay module allows the sensor to automatically sound alarms whenever a storm approaches or the conditions necessary for the beginning of a storm are present.

BTD-350-on-Transformer-Platform in the North Sea


With the ability to provide warnings of overhead lightning up to 30 minutes before the first lightning discharge and a false alarm rate that is almost zero, Biral’s innovative sensor represents a significant step-change in lightning detection and advanced warning technology. The technology provides offshore wind technicians sufficient time to disembark from the turbine and get to a safer position, as well as providing more clarity on the environment for technicians to return to work than current detection systems allow for.

ORE Catapult’s Role

Biral has been working with ORE Catapult to further develop its BTD-350 thunderstorm and lightning detection system for offshore windfarms. In 2019, the SME installed its technology for testing at our 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine in Fife. This testing investigated the impact on the performance of Biral’s technology when in such close proximity to the moving blades. Previously, the technology had been mounted on land or on large vessels, where there was bountiful space around the unit to monitor the changing weather.

From testing at our Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine, we were also able to collect a substantial amount of data that can be used later in the project to analyse thunder and lightning detection trends more deeply.

Nathan Neal, Sales and Marketing Director for Biral, said:

Working with ORE Catapult has been invaluable in helping us better understand how the BTD-350 thunderstorm and lightning detection system can offer real-world safety benefits to the wind turbine sector. We hope that this partnership will give potential customers from this sector confidence in the performance of our innovative new product.

With project management support and engineering expertise from ORE Catapult’s O&M Centre of Excellence, Biral now plans to test and demonstrate their technology further in real-world conditions at Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Demonstration Centre, off the coast of Aberdeen. This will give wind farm owner/operators increased confidence in the product and open up a route to market for the technology.

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