Unlike a lightning rod, Nott's 'static cats' dissipate electrical charge in the atmosphere so a lightning bolt never forms

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FARMINGTON — They say lightning never strikes twice, but those are hardly comforting — or accurate — words for owners of towers and other structures that attract lightning strikes that cause thousands of dollars in damage.

One local company, Nott Ltd., has found success as one of the only manufacturers in the country of a specialized system of lightning prevention.

Nott Ltd., located on the La Plata Highway, was founded by Ron Nott in 1982, and in addition to selling lightning protection, it also manufactures specialized AM radio broadcasting antennae.

Before founding the company, Nott worked at the Four Corners Power Plant for 12 years as an electrical test engineer. In his spare time, he was involved in radio broadcasting and established a manufacturing facility for AM broadcasting antennas.

After retiring from the plant in 1990, Nott focused on his business, primarily developing lightning dissipation systems for residential and commercial purposes. His company is now one of only three in the nation that manufactures this type of lightning dissipation technology.

The system utilizes multi-points of metal that dissipate the ions that collect in the atmosphere right before a lightning strike. Unlike a lightning rod, which is designed to attract a bolt of lightning to it so it will strike the rod instead of the structure, Nott's units, which he calls "static cats," actually dissipate the electrical charge in the atmosphere so the lightning bolt never forms.

"Each point dissipates a little bit of energy and an electric field is discharged, which causes ions in the atmosphere to discharge elsewhere," he said. "The science of it goes back to Benjamin Franklin."

Nott's business continued to grow, particularly in 1994 and 1995 with the explosion of cell phone towers. The company has now become the exclusive supplier of lightning dissipation units for the city of Farmington, Nott said.

"Farmington has 56 electrical substations and there's one of my units on each one of them — they never fail," he said, adding that units are also found on the thousands of oil and gas well sites throughout the county, and are even used on sailboats.

After Nott's wife passed away in 2009, he sold his company to Jim Burt, a technology engineer who also worked in broadcasting. Burt has operated the company for the past seven years.

"I take care of radio and TV equipment throughout the region — all equipment that's associated with broadcast communication," said Burt. "I really liked the products and I liked Ron so I decided to buy the company. It's been pretty exciting and we really fill a niche here."

Randy Klock serves as the company's sales and marketing manager. Klock said Nott's "static cats" can now be found on thousands of radio and TV stations throughout the U.S. and also internationally. Some of Nott Ltd.'s clients are in countries that include Canada, Africa, Mexico, Malaysia and the Philippines.

"That's the exciting part — 99 percent of our business is outside of San Juan County," said Klock. "But we try to buy and manufacture all of the materials and parts locally, so it's good for all of us."

Part of the attraction of the "static cats" is the relatively small size and low investment cost — units range from 15 to 20 inches in diameter, and cost between $79 to $1,200 each.

"The beauty of it is the simplicity, and they work so well," said Klock. "As far as dissipation units go, we know we're the best."

Burt agrees  people are often surprised at the simplicity and low cost of the units, which often end up saving customers thousands of dollars by preventing lightning strikes before the bolts even have a chance to form.

"That's been the biggest sales hurdle — they're so simple and people think they should be complicated," said Burt. "But people come to realize that it's really inexpensive insurance."

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.

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