# Could We Actually Harvest the Energy in Lightning?

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I’m pretty sure Dr. Frankenstein did.

But for real from what I know lighting is really high voltage with almost no watts/amps behind it.

Seems like it would be easier to use a kite or balloon and harvest steadier currents. The kite or balloon would have to be brought down every time a storm got close enough, though.

Lightning has enough current to split trees, fuse sand, etc.

No. It's static electricity. A simple difference in potential energy, brought to zero by a loud bang.

You'd want to connect to the difference in potential energy before lightning. A real tall perfectly insulated tower (- I think) and ground (+).

If you perfectly insulated a wire, ran it far away, and connected it to something. The difference in potential energy might be able to power something, but such a wire is impossible.

The "electricity" doesn't know if it's static. If you have enough coulombs at a high enough voltage, you will have enough energy to use. And lightning has a WHOLE BUNCH of current. I'm sure a kite NEAR a storm could get a good current. Ben Franklin showed that perfect insulation isn't necessary.

Whether it would be worth the expense, compared to other sources of power, is another story.

25 years ago we had a group come to our launch who were trying to attract lightning strikes using a rocket trailing a wire.
They were at step one, getting rocket to go straight and the wire to unwind smoothly. Fishing line was being used for some safety.
The hardware for the real test they had was a sensor with a 5 meter pole with a couple of probes and the voltage could be measured and parts for a device to measure voltage, current vs time. It was to take the direct hit.
After a couple of launches we never saw them again. Lost funds? Got better funding? Got zapped? ???

The "electricity" doesn't know if it's static. If you have enough coulombs at a high enough voltage, you will have enough energy to use. And lightning has a WHOLE BUNCH of current. I'm sure a kite NEAR a storm could get a good current. Ben Franklin showed that perfect insulation isn't necessary.

Whether it would be worth the expense, compared to other sources of power, is another story.
Yes. There's a bunch of current.

V=IR

... so if V is frick'n high and R is low (an arc is generally quite conductive), then "I" must also be high albeit for a very sort space of time.

TP

https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-power

If an average lightning strike is 300 million volts and 30,000 amps delivered over 30 microsecond, do we have the ability to transfer and store that much energy delivered in such a short time?

https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-power

If an average lightning strike is 300 million volts and 30,000 amps delivered over 30 microsecond, do we have the ability to transfer and store that much energy delivered in such a short time?
You could probably do it thermally - I'm guessing... then transfer that heat capacity in whatever medium into a more storable/useable form.

TP

https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-power

If an average lightning strike is 300 million volts and 30,000 amps delivered over 30 microsecond, do we have the ability to transfer and store that much energy delivered in such a short time?

If I haven't slipped up a key someplace, that's only 75 kilowatt hours, though I'm sure the energy varies tremendously. Not a lot of money there to pay for your equipment.

If I haven't slipped up a key someplace, that's only 75 kilowatt hours, though I'm sure the energy varies tremendously. Not a lot of money there to pay for your equipment.
That may see a strike once every... dunno... not often enough.

TP

View attachment 647601

But for real from what I know lighting is really high voltage with almost no watts/amps behind it.
It's enough to kill people... or send you from 1955 to 1985.

That may see a strike once every... dunno... not often enough.

TP
Maybe if you built a tower in a certain area of Venezuela* and had some way to store the energy of a sudden surge.

*I forget just where, but a certain area apparently gets thunderstorms 300 nights a year. MANY lightning bolts. Might not be enough, though.

My point was, the lightning is the end of the power.

Like pulling power from an exhaust pipe. Or like trying to explode something with the bang, after a grenade goes off.

It's not feasible.

There's still considerable power when it hits trees or the ground. Otherwise, trees wouldn't burst* and sand wouldn't fuse. If your gadget is what it hits instead of that tree or that mound of sand, you might be able to harness that energy. AFTER the bolt is done, of course, the energy has been dissipated, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there.

Of course, it may not be worth bothering with unless you have a very inexpensive way to capture and store the energy. Maybe a useful chemical process that uses the energy?

If there was no usable energy in engine exhaust, there wouldn't be any turbochargers or turbo-compounded engines.

*I've never seen complete destruction, but I've seen significant damage to trees.

My point was, the lightning is the end of the power.

Like pulling power from an exhaust pipe. Or like trying to explode something with the bang, after a grenade goes off.

It's not feasible.
I think it's most like having a battery with wires on both terminals. You briefly touch the wires together and see that it sparks. You wonder if you can harness the energy from the spark.

Exactly.

But with lightning, the energy is gone after the spark. The battery is dead.

Trying to scoop up the plasma, or pull energy from it, is beyond us, still.

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That's like saying there's no point in having a cistern, because it can't catch any water once the storm is over.

There's a substantial electric current at a substantial voltage to capture. Nate B's figures imply an average of 75 kwh. It's not necessary to capture the plasma unless you need every last erg.

You could probably do it thermally - I'm guessing... then transfer that heat capacity in whatever medium into a more storable/useable form.

TP
Nail = head. For many sources of energy, especially blue-sky sources, *practical* storage is key. And 75kwh isn't an awful lot of energy in terms of human use anyway. Enough to run a typical electric space heater for a couple of days.

"Every new idea sounds great...until you do the math" --- prfesser

If this was practical, somebody would have done it by now.

That's like saying there's no point in having a cistern, because it can't catch any water once the storm is over.

There's a substantial electric current at a substantial voltage to capture. Nate B's figures imply an average of 75 kwh. It's not necessary to capture the plasma unless you need every last erg.
That's not what I was trying to say.

You're trying to feed off of, or capture and store the spark.

I'm suggesting to connect to the battery that creates the spark.

25 years ago we had a group come to our launch who were trying to attract lightning strikes using a rocket trailing a wire.
They were at step one, getting rocket to go straight and the wire to unwind smoothly. Fishing line was being used for some safety.
The hardware for the real test they had was a sensor with a 5 meter pole with a couple of probes and the voltage could be measured and parts for a device to measure voltage, current vs time. It was to take the direct hit.
After a couple of launches we never saw them again. Lost funds? Got better funding? Got zapped? ???

If this was practical, somebody would have done it by now.
+1,as multiple sources say that if you cover 100 square miles of unused desert somewhere near Nevada with solar panels that are only 24% efficient, that it would still be able to power up the entire United States, and be very safe and the sun never stopped shining.

I wonder if you had high tension lines running through the part of Venezuela that has the most lightning on Earth, if you couldn't at least run your radio and a reading lamp from a long section of the grounding cable at the top if it was insulated. Of course, if it's insulated, I'm not sure it counts as a grounding wire any more. You can pick up power even if the bolt doesn't actually strike the wire. Got a good tingle once when a storm came up quickly and a bolt hit a quarter mile away. I was trying to get off the roof and was touching an antenna guy wire that might have been 5 feet long. I'm glad I hadn't been touching a longer antenna guy wire.

Not worth doing for any monetary reasons, but might be entertaining.

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