Why Auckland’s Sky Tower survives lightning strikes

The Sky Tower in Auckland is prone to lightning strikes, so it needs to be as fully protected as possible. Thankfully, it is. With the latest lightning protection system technology, the Sky Tower should be able to avoid any damage from lightning for decades to come.

What is Auckland’s Sky Tower?

New Zealand’s Sky Tower is a telecommunications and observation tower. At 1,076 feet tall, it is the twenty-seventh tallest tower on the planet. The striking Sky Tower was constructed between 1994 and 1997. Visitors can dine at the tower’s 360°-view restaurant or take in the incredible view from the main observation deck at the top of Sky Tower. You can even do a wire-base-jump off of the tower or walk around the narrow platform at the top. At the base of the tower is the vibrant SkyCity casino complex. But if you want to play casino games like roulette and poker after jumping off the Sky Tower, you may prefer to visit an online casino like Casumo while enjoying a coffee at the tower’s café instead of facing the hurly-burly of the SkyCity casino.

Why the Sky Tower Needs Protection Against Lightning Strikes

Sky Tower attracts around 1,150 visitors every day, so it needs to be a safe environment. Due to its tallness, the tower is also more prone to lightning strikes than other structures. Indeed, over the years, lightning has hit the Sky Tower more than a dozen times. Indeed, in 2019, three lightning strikes hit the tower during just one storm. The average power of each strike is around 30,000 amps, which is 3,000 times the power of a household electricity socket. Thankfully, when the tower was planned and constructed, lightning strikes were taken into account and some clever tech was employed to ensure the Sky Tower’s safety.

The Tech That Enables the Sky Tower to Survive Lightning Strikes

While there is not a method for actually preventing lightning strikes, lightning protection systems can be used to help control the passage of the lightning and discharge it in order to minimize fires, equipment downtime, injuries, and other risks. The lightning protection system used for the Auckland Sky Tower is the nVent ERICO System 3000. The system’s design includes an air terminal, a down-conductor, a lightning event counter, and a low impedance grounding system. The elements work together to form a system with a holistic approach.
Traditional lightning rods that are used to protect structures use the Rolling Sphere Method, which is based on the Electro Geometric Model for striking distance. However, the Electro Geometric Model does not account for the importance of a structure’s height, the physical basis of the upward leader inception process, or the geometry of a structure’s objects. Instead, the Rolling Sphere Method uses a fixed striking distance, which is usually about 147 feet, regardless of the structure’s width or height. That means a 16-foot-tall structure has the same capture and strike probability as a 328-foot-tall structure.
In contrast, the nVent ERICO System 3000 used in the Auckland Sky Tower uses what is known as the Collection Volume Method, which determines the ideal placement of a lightning protection system. The System 3000 is based on the Eriksson’s Attractive Radius Model, which uses the current of lightning to calculate the radius of protection that is provided by the lightning protection system. The Collection Volume Method considers the structure’s features and evaluates things like the air breakdown and electric field intensification that is created by the structure’s different points. The information is then used to provide the optimum protection system for the specific structure; resulting in the system being one of the most sophisticated lightning protection systems available. Thus, the nVent ERICO System 3000 is the ideal tech to ensure the Auckland Sky Tower is protected against lightning strikes for years to come.

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