Measuring up: A massive lightning bolt strikes close to the twin chimneys of Torrens Island Power Station, near Adelaide, Australia.
An eerie humming sound can be heard emanating from the power station. Maybe the photographer is so engrossed in his work that he doesn’t notice the sky darkening and the thunderstorm brewing. Or perhaps he came in anticipation of such meteorological pyrotechnics and his attention simply lapsed. Either way, soon the first drops of rain begin to fall, and the downpour quickly rises in intensity. Then, as the photographer runs for cover, the first bolt of lightning strikes.
This first image shows Torrens Island Power Station – not only Adelaide’s main power plant but also the largest in South Australia. It can burn either natural gas or fuel oil and generate up to 1280 MW of electricity. Speaking of power, photographer Anthony James still can’t get over the lightning strike he witnessed: “That bolt is huge if you compare it to the two towers close to where it struck.” Isn’t it just! A symbol of nature’s might over man? You decide.
Bull’s eye: It might look as though the main tower of this industrial plant was hit dead center by the lightning bolt, but some of the bolt can be seen behind the tower, so perhaps our eyes are just playing tricks on us.
Flat on your belly, camera at the ready, you’d surely be praying to the weather gods for your safety as the lightning moves closer – one bolt hitting the main building, making sparks fly among the overhead power lines. An adrenaline-inducing experience if ever there was one, yet exactly the kind of experience that the people who took these pictures must have gone through to capture the shots of power stations being struck by lightning.
Recharging the batteries: Nature appears to have used whatever was in her palette to paint this spectacular picture. Purple and pink dominate the composition, separated from the vegetation in the foreground by a golden glow courtesy of the setting sun. The lighting, of course, brings it all to life.
With so many transmission towers and overhead power lines liable to attract lightning, power and power distribution stations (like this one) do have measures in place to counteract lightning strikes. Different kinds of ‘surge arrestors’ ensure the power station and its electronic equipment are protected against strikes. This is why – even though looking at these images might make one’s heart skip a beat – power plants can operate without problems during thunderstorms.
Cooling off: The two giant cooling towers of Byron Nuclear Generating Station emit steam while cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the background.
Although the lightning in this image is upstaged somewhat by the two 495-foot (150 m) cooling towers of Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Ogle County, Illinois, it still makes for an impressive scene. The power plant generates around 2,300 MW of electricity a year (based on 2005’s figures) – enough to meet the energy demands of around 2 million American homes.
Play of light: Reading Power Station in Tel Aviv, Israel being struck by lightning.
This power station looks a bit like a lighthouse, or, seen from other angles, a Greek temple. Interestingly, several of the original power-producing units that make up Tel Aviv’s Reading Power Station have since been repurposed. Reading ‘A’ is been transformed so that it can host public exhibitions, while ‘C’ houses a memorial for Israeli statesman Yitzhak Rabin. Only unit ‘D’ is currently in use. Its energy-producing capability? 214 MW.
Looking at images like these, the movie Back to the Future (1985) springs to mind. If you remember, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) needed a power source large enough to help propel their vehicle back into the future. This can only be achieved by capturing the energy of a lightning bolt. A fantastical futuristic notion? Maybe.
Electric sky: Lightning over Torrens Island Power Station, near Adelaide.
But if only someone could come up with a way to harness the energy from lightning in real life, so that we could replace our meager and often unsustainable means of generating electricity. In the meantime, let’s enjoy these incredible images of lightning striking power stations, as if scolding them for their inadequacy.
There are some images that have it all, and this is one of them: lights, scenery and atmosphere, not to mention the textbook example of cloud-to-cloud lightning – meaning lightning that doesn’t touch the ground but instead occurs between two different clouds. Simply stunning!
Catch me if you can: A power distribution station feels the force of a lightning bolt.
The heavy rain lashing these transmission towers makes this image look like a painting created using measured brush strokes. Given the height of transmission towers – they usually range from around 50 to 180 feet (15 to 55 m) – they seem predestined to attract bolts from above. To deal with this situation, ground wires on top of the towers are used to catch and ground lightning, thus preventing harm being done. Did you know that transmission towers are also called ironmen (Australia), hydro towers (Canada) and electricity pylons (UK and Europe)?
Heavens above: Power station set off against a dark sky.
The dramatic sky with four simultaneous bolts of lightning affords this photograph a doomsday-like atmosphere. Dark and gloomy, it’s a scene that would have been perfect for any Hitchcock movie. If ever there were proof that nature’s power dwarfs the technological inventions of man, this is it.
Apocalypse now: There’s something ominous about power stations at the best of times. Add a thunderstorm with lightning striking overhead power lines to cause a few pyrotechnics, and you have one heck of a scene.
This power station in Armley, a district of Leeds, England, has been around for a while. Photographer Wayne Shipley remembers it well from his childhood: “This power station freaked me out as a kiddie,” he recalls. “We used to have to walk around the perimeter fence to visit our Grandma. As you got closer all you could hear was the eerie humming of the electric energy, which I will never forget. I decided to re-visit after 25 years and it still sends a chill up my spine.” We can believe it!
Supplying the supplier: A power station narrowly misses the attentions of a lightning strike.
The next bolt of lightning looks like a giant electric fork stuck into the ground outside the power plant – as if thrown there by Zeus to light up the landscape. Don’t miss what looks like a little windmill on the right.
Pitching in: A border patrol station feels the brunt of a lighting strike.
Although it isn’t a power station pictured, we just had to include this photo of a US border patrol station outside Douglas, AZ being hit by lightning. Call it a bonus. It’s a stunningly composed shot of what looks like an electric pitchfork that’s been sent down to Earth!
Thus ends our tour of power stations being struck by lightning. In truth, we feel more than a little thunderstruck! Now if only we could harness all that energy... Images like these might make it look as though nature is trying to boast while mocking human efforts to generate power – but wouldn’t it be something if we could exploit all that energy charged up in the atmosphere?