Image: Anthony James
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.