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Neither data nor theory support claims that "lightning elimination" and "early streamer emission" techniques are superior to conventional lightning protection systems.
The conventional lightning protection technique has proven its effectiveness as evidenced by the comparative statistics of lightning damage to protected and unprotected structures. The rolling sphere method commonly used in the design of such systems is relatively crude, in part, because of our insufficient understanding of the lightning attachment process, but it does represent a useful engineering tool for determining the number and positions of air terminals.
Lightning elimination systems cannot prevent the initiation of lightning in the thundercloud and are unlikely to be able to avert an imminent lightning strike. Further, these systems are indeed struck by lightning, in which case they act as conventional lightning protection systems. The overall lightning elimination system often includes both structural and surge protection components, the latter being likely responsible for the reported improved lightning performance of the protected object.
There is no experimental evidence that an ESE air terminal can protect a larger volume of space (i.e., can attract a lightning to itself from farther away) than can a similarly placed and grounded conventional rod of the same height. Given the lack of evidence of the superiority of ESE systems over conventional systems, adequate lightning protection would require that each of them have a similar number of air terminals.
For additional details, download the
Uman & Rakov AMS Dec. 2002 paper:
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