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  • small system grounding question

    I have done a search, and haven't found a good answer, or at least one that is concise enough for me to under stand so I'll start a new thread.


    We live on a small island in the middle (really the middle!) of a big lake on the Canadian shield. The entire island is almost bare rock, with little soil. The current grounding system(s) is this: Each generator frame, neutral ground, building ground etc carry a ground wire out the building, along the rock, and then into the lake.

    In conversation with someone on another site, on another matter, it was suggested that this was a very dangerous situation. In the event of a strike in the lake,(a common event!) the energy could pass back up the ground wire and energize the system. We have never had any trouble in 60+ years of using this system.

    My question is, is this system safe, or are there alternatives that I could explore. I cannot drive ground rods anywhere. My intuition is that any strike near enough to the ground wires (in the lake) would dissipate it's energy into the water so that the potential current would be very limited. I have had a ground wire struck once before. Lightning wrapped it's way down a tree, ran along the ground until it found the wire. It energized the system and blew out the charge controller as well as a 12vdc radio that was hard wired to the system. Other than that there was no damage.

    I'm fairly confident that the gensets, and the inverters are safe (for protection from short circuit and shock) but the lightning question is now unclear. Any and all opinions would be appreciated.

    Icarus
    Please note, being a moderator does not add any weight to my opinions 300 watts Siemens/BP panels,plus a Sun 90,, making ~400. ~30 amps into Rogue MPT-3024, 450 ah of Trojan T-105, Morningstar ts300 inverter, a Tri-Metric meter.a collection of antique generators, plus 2 Honda eu-1000i's (also a BS2512 IX controller) and assorted other stuff!

  • #2

    Re: small system grounding question

    Re: small system grounding question

    This was interesting. Did a little searching, came across two different possibilities for you to check.

    One involves grounding in a rocky environment, which would require that you do some rock boring to get the grounds in.

    The second one, which might better suit your needs, involves the grounding of ships at sea. From your description, being on a rock island in the middle of a lake essentially makes you like a ship at sea. The same grounding procedures used for a boat should work for your setup. This Yahoo search will provide more info.

    Must be pretty cool living on your own island in a lake.

    Comment


    • #3

      Re: small system grounding question

      Re: small system grounding question

      there is a possibility of damage due to emp pickup and you have proven it can happen. on the other hand what else can you do without getting rediculous?
      there may be one remote possibility though that could be worthwhile exploring. is there ground water below the house at all? you probably don't have a well due to the rock, but if you do then there is water below. anyway, contact with water below the house would be better than making a long wire run to the lake. the below ground water would most likely be in contact with the water in the lake and would help take away the possibility of emp pickup. the strikes on the lake do not hit the lake and run up to your house just so you know as that would be emp pickup on the exposed wire if anything did happen that way. in your blowout you just had the misfortune of the lightning travelling the way it did in its quest to reach a good ground. once it hit your wire the whole wire is energized.
      NIEL

      Comment


      • #4

        Re: small system grounding question

        Re: small system grounding question

        Originally posted by Telco View Post
        This was interesting. Did a little searching, came across two different possibilities for you to check.

        One involves grounding in a rocky environment, which would require that you do some rock boring to get the grounds in.

        The second one, which might better suit your needs, involves the grounding of ships at sea. From your description, being on a rock island in the middle of a lake essentially makes you like a ship at sea. The same grounding procedures used for a boat should work for your setup. This Yahoo search will provide more info.

        Must be pretty cool living on your own island in a lake.
        From what I have been told, ships at sea have the advantage of being on salt water, and the salt water is MUCH more conductive than soft fresh water. I too have read that is what ships at sea count on. Question is, what do ships on the great lakes do?

        Neil,

        If I am reading you correctly, you would think that grounding into "wet ground" would be better than the lake directly?

        What we have is exposed granite, with some areas covered with a thin layer of forest duff. Some areas are strewn with boulders, with the space between the boulders filled with 1000 years of duff, some times a meter or two above the bed rock. Near the lake shore, if you pull out a number of rocks, you can get to water. Would you suggest that would be a good ground spot?

        There are a few (very few) spots where the bedrock is overlaid with a mix of sand, gravel, clay and big stones. I suspect if I tried to dig a pit by removing a bunch of rocks, I could lay a ground rod in the pit, then fill it again! Lotta work by hand!

        Question is what is the relative safety of using the lake?

        Tony
        Please note, being a moderator does not add any weight to my opinions 300 watts Siemens/BP panels,plus a Sun 90,, making ~400. ~30 amps into Rogue MPT-3024, 450 ah of Trojan T-105, Morningstar ts300 inverter, a Tri-Metric meter.a collection of antique generators, plus 2 Honda eu-1000i's (also a BS2512 IX controller) and assorted other stuff!

        Comment


        • #5

          Re: small system grounding question

          Re: small system grounding question

          i am not proposing you to break out a shovel, but do understand that water flows even through rocky terrain. if you do not have a well or already know there is water not far from the surface then it is not worth the big effort to dig to it or as i had in mind, drill to it. i know you mentioned your ground before, but refresh my memory on the distance to the lake and what you are using to run the ground to the lake with. also, if you have an idea of roughly how much higher than the lake your place is it could give me an idea on possibly how far a drill may have to go to get to water. in any case the extra you do may not be worth the extra return for your effort.
          as to your present ground there is a risk, but unless you are in a faraday shield i think there is always a risk with any grounding system including one that may go under the ground as with ground rods. it has been shown in past studies that even an 8ft copper ground rod is insufficient, but that it is considered a minimum. my ground system is enormous compared to what most homeowners would do and there's still a chance it will fail or not be enough.
          NIEL

          Comment


          • #6

            Re: small system grounding question

            Re: small system grounding question

            Neil,

            I'm about 5' from the water both horizontally and vertically!

            The current ground wire is a pair of #4 copper.

            Drilling any kind of bore hole is impossible. We are 150kms from town, on a island that is only accessable by small boat, or over the ice in the winter.

            I am going to try to upload a picture so you can get the idea. (I have never been able to up load pictures. I think I have figured out how to size them properly. (I am not very computer literate). The big rock in the foreground is bed rock.
            The house itself sits on bedrock a foot or two below the surface.


            Icarus
            Attached Files
            Last edited by icarus; March 4th, 2008, 18:34.
            Please note, being a moderator does not add any weight to my opinions 300 watts Siemens/BP panels,plus a Sun 90,, making ~400. ~30 amps into Rogue MPT-3024, 450 ah of Trojan T-105, Morningstar ts300 inverter, a Tri-Metric meter.a collection of antique generators, plus 2 Honda eu-1000i's (also a BS2512 IX controller) and assorted other stuff!

            Comment


            • #7

              Re: small system grounding question

              Re: small system grounding question

              hey i like your place. looks nice.
              you are right there at the water and just be sure you have several feet minimumly into the water and more if you can, but i'd say that's the best that you can do. forget drilling or digging. as said before that no ground is foolproof, but yours is possibly better than most due to all of that water. that water does soak through rocks and makes streams through it and you couldn't make yourself such a sophisticated ground system if you tried. the key would be the contact area between your wire and the water as more contact does equate to a better ground connection.
              NIEL

              Comment


              • #8

                Re: small system grounding question

                Re: small system grounding question

                Niel thanks (as always) for your advice,

                The ground wire(s) go into lake for ~10'. (Now they are under 3' of ice,, will be 'till mid May!

                I guess the short answer is that it has worked for 60+ years. A direct hit on the buildings would burn them to the ground probably, and a near strike will have it's way with the wiring. What is interesting is that we are really in the middle of the lake, the highest point for several miles. Over the years we have only taken a few strikes on the island itself. (That I know of!) One would think that we would be a lightning magnet, since we do get very wicked thunderstorms.

                If anyone else as an opinion, I would love to hear it.

                Tony
                Please note, being a moderator does not add any weight to my opinions 300 watts Siemens/BP panels,plus a Sun 90,, making ~400. ~30 amps into Rogue MPT-3024, 450 ah of Trojan T-105, Morningstar ts300 inverter, a Tri-Metric meter.a collection of antique generators, plus 2 Honda eu-1000i's (also a BS2512 IX controller) and assorted other stuff!

                Comment


                • #9

                  Re: small system grounding question

                  Re: small system grounding question

                  Have you considered putting a few poles that go higher than the house, say 30-40 feet to either side, in the water, with a grounding path on each? It would reduce the likelyhood of lightning actually finding the grounding on the house. Putting the poles in the water would make for a more direct path to the grounding source, and the power of the strike should dissipate radially from the point the pole meets the water so any backfeed that does hit the house ground should be a lot weaker.

                  The only thing I found was that shipboard lightning systems are grounded to a metal plate in the water, so if your wiring to the lake is just a loose wire you might attach a large metal plate to the end of it.

                  Hope all this helps.

                  Comment


                  • #10

                    Re: small system grounding question

                    Re: small system grounding question

                    Tony,
                    Lovely looking palace you have there...but where are the panels? Are you maybe a beta testing site for Nanosolar...some kind of shingle, siding or fake pine needle thin film solar?

                    How close to the pilings has the lake ice been shoved up before? Must be one of those little worries rec property people have (i don't have those worries, sniff sniff sniffle).

                    Ralph
                    http://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/p...stems/hY7W5536
                    see the project buildhttp://www.greenpowertalk.org/showthread.php?t=11702

                    Comment


                    • #11

                      Re: small system grounding question

                      Re: small system grounding question

                      The panels are on a "powerhouse" shed that is out of the frame. Gets better sun. I am going to put two panels on the house, and put two out on the ice to get a longer day in the winter.

                      Ice is a real problem for us. I have seen the ice roll up on the shore ~20' dep ending on the wind. It is a classic case of the irresistable force meeting the imovable object! Our docks and other structures are often seriously damaged. In the case of this building, there is a small reef/shoal in front of the building that protects it from the ice. Also there is only a small reach for the ice to gain momentum in front. The other direction(s) have tens of miles!

                      As for adding a pole or some other structure,,, aint gonna happen. The ice would push it over every spring.

                      I am either going to try to dig a pit for grounding, or I may add a large chunk of something on the end of the ground wire in the lake. Big chunk of copper pipe, or a bronze anchor or something. I have miles of old copper telephone wire, I may drop a mile into the lake!

                      Tony
                      Please note, being a moderator does not add any weight to my opinions 300 watts Siemens/BP panels,plus a Sun 90,, making ~400. ~30 amps into Rogue MPT-3024, 450 ah of Trojan T-105, Morningstar ts300 inverter, a Tri-Metric meter.a collection of antique generators, plus 2 Honda eu-1000i's (also a BS2512 IX controller) and assorted other stuff!

                      Comment


                      • #12

                        Re: small system grounding question

                        Re: small system grounding question

                        Originally posted by icarus View Post
                        I'm fairly confident that the gensets, and the inverters are safe (for protection from short circuit and shock) but the lightning question is now unclear. Any and all opinions would be appreciated.
                        Lighting protection will * HELP * prevent your house from much structural damage (fire)

                        It will do little to prevent electronics from being blown out.

                        You have a tough grounding situation. Your best bet may be to stick a lighting rod in a couple of trees around your house, and each tree/rod has it's own heavy steel or aluminum ground wire, as short as possible, not going thru your house, to the lake. You want to attract and divert away from your house/electronics.

                        Sorry.

                        More info is at the http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/LightningProtection Group.

                        (1)
                        Those who are interested in obtaining a clear explanation about the
                        function of lightning rods, please download the Powerpoint presentation
                        prepared by Dr. William Rison of New Mexico Tech's Langmuir Laboratory in
                        New Mexico, USA.

                        http://tinyurl.com/ynkjcs


                        (2)
                        message excerpt:
                        A message titled: "Air Terminals versus Surge Arresters" was posted on January
                        14, 2008. As stated in that message, "air terminals and surge arresters serve
                        different functions and promoting one of them has no implications regarding the
                        need for the other."

                        In the case under consideration, the $15,000 loss to the electric and electronic
                        systems of the subject house arose from the lack of surge protection and it was
                        caused by a nearby lightning strike. The owner wanted to avoid recurrence of
                        such an event and specifically spoke of his concern regarding his plasma TV.
                        Hence he was advised to apply surge protection. Providing a Franklin rod system
                        too would be a good idea. I personally would install such a system if I lived
                        in a place like Florida where the keraunic level is high. However, it is up to
                        the owner to decide whether he is willing to pay for both surge protection and a
                        Franklin rod system.

                        Assuming that the house was equipped with a system of Franklin rods, the
                        termination point of the nearby stroke would not have changed. This is because
                        the attraction zone of a house would not materially increase by installing
                        Franklin rods having a typical height of within 2 ft (0.6 m). For the same
                        reason, the frequency of lightning strikes to a house would not materially
                        increase by providing protection against direct lightning strokes.

                        Regarding the comments of Mr. Shewmaker, there is no evidence in the subject
                        case that the damage resulted from diversion of lightning current into the
                        underground cable(s). This, however, may have been a secondary contributing
                        factor. Induction in the wiring of the house due to electromagnetic coupling to
                        the lightning channel is the most likely cause. By the way, distribution lines
                        operating at voltages up to 35 kV often experience flashovers due to induction
                        from nearby strokes. Hence the effects of induction in general are well knwon.
                        Each case differs, however, depending on the related geometrical parameters.

                        In case of commercial and industrial buildings, it would be in order to provide
                        the IEC three-stage coordinated protection and also take into consideration the
                        ground potential rise.

                        ** Such provisions and related studies, however, are
                        usually beyond the budget of the average home owner. **
                        Last edited by mike95490; March 5th, 2008, 23:38.
                        http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
                        http://tinyurl.com/LMR-BigLug
                        http://tinyurl.com/LMR-NiFe

                        Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph # 214505 ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV
                        Powerfab poletop PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe battery | 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV | Midnight ePanel || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT

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                        • #13

                          Re: small system grounding question

                          Re: small system grounding question

                          I realize that I am at the mercy with the electrical/electronic side of things. I do want to do what I can do simply to protect the building(s)

                          Tony
                          Please note, being a moderator does not add any weight to my opinions 300 watts Siemens/BP panels,plus a Sun 90,, making ~400. ~30 amps into Rogue MPT-3024, 450 ah of Trojan T-105, Morningstar ts300 inverter, a Tri-Metric meter.a collection of antique generators, plus 2 Honda eu-1000i's (also a BS2512 IX controller) and assorted other stuff!

                          Comment


                          • #14

                            Re: small system grounding question

                            Re: small system grounding question

                            if you want to increase the contact area in the water that would be good to do, but as i said, you have a better ground system than most people do already.
                            as to lightning hits, florida is #1, but pa is #2. to any with halfbaked grounding systems you should be aware that that could be worse than no ground at all. this is especially true when there is a high resistance (like corrosion) or a break in the lead going to ground as this does not allow the air to predischarge that causes a higher attraction of a strike, but lessens this when allowed to discharge. as in the case of icarus this could be like the ice moving or breaking the wire and a buildup of charges can then occur increasing the odds of a strike.
                            Last edited by niel; March 6th, 2008, 4:50.
                            NIEL

                            Comment


                            • #15

                              Re: small system grounding question

                              Re: small system grounding question

                              Here is a question for you: If I run the wire out into deep water, clamp it to a ground rod, and bury it in the rocks on the lake bottom, would that be an improvement? There is some sand deposits in the shallows that are formed by sort of dishes in the rock, so that the sand has settled in over the eons. With some warm summer water (Ha!) perhaps I could drive a rod into the sand. What do you think.

                              As for ice damage, all our water lines, wires etc are protected by piling boulder over and around them. Ice is amazing as to what it can do!

                              Thanks once again,

                              Tony
                              Please note, being a moderator does not add any weight to my opinions 300 watts Siemens/BP panels,plus a Sun 90,, making ~400. ~30 amps into Rogue MPT-3024, 450 ah of Trojan T-105, Morningstar ts300 inverter, a Tri-Metric meter.a collection of antique generators, plus 2 Honda eu-1000i's (also a BS2512 IX controller) and assorted other stuff!

                              Comment

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