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This directory addresses the power of lightning and it's utilization. There are several questions concerning this, but the most pertinent are (a) how to harness that power, and (b) whether there are substantial reasons not to.
Even if a harnessing method were derived, the primary drawback of lightning power is its inconsistency. Storms might come regularly into some regions, but would enough lightning potential fall within the range of the device to make it worth while? See NOVA's special on Lightning (1989), to see how difficult it is to draw down lightning even in the most prone areas, using rockets with teathers attached. 
- "One of the things that has chilled my excitement about harnessing the tremendous power in lightning is to realize that some of the same electrostatic and possibly even cosmic forces that drive lightning might also be at work in some of the other free energy technologies such as overunity electromagnetic generators -- but in a much more constant and reliable manner." -- Sterling D. Allan, Aug. 5, 2010.
The Power of Lightning
"Each year lightning destroys more property and causes more injuries than hurricanes, floods and tornadoes combined? It can cause structural damage to buildings, destroy electronics and damage electrical and communication systems....the cost of this damage can be astounding!" 
- Biggest Lightning Rod (video) - Lightning strikes Toronto's CN Tower (tallest tower in world) around 75 times a year! Being studied to understand those bolts from above. (DiscoveryChannel.ca; May 17, 2005)
- Stunning Facts About Lightning - Lightning is exciting and frightful at the same time. Seven stunning facts, with many amazing photos.
- LIVING IN LIGHTNING ALLEY NATURE LIGHTNING STRIKE MUSIC VIDEO - This was filmed in Central Florida over 3 days. We added some music for fun. The jet was not hit by lightning. It was further behind as the Bolt had no thunder. (GreenPowerScience; YouTube; July 11, 2008)
- "Lightning" page by GSU's Hyperphysics
- A lightning strike is composed of several stroke events.
- Voltage: A typical lightning bolt bridges a potential difference (voltage) of several hundred million volts.
- A typical lightning bolt may transfer 1020 electrons in a fraction of a second, developing a peak current of up to 1000 kiloamperes.
- Current: Most measurements have been in the range 5,000 to 20,000 amps. Currents over 200,000 amps have been reported.
- Hot v Cold Lightning: Most commonly, the lightning current ceases in about a millisecond for a given stroke, but sometimes there is a continuing current on the order of 100 amps following one or more of the strokes. This is called "hot lightning" and it is the cause of lightning fires according to Uman. The temperatures of lightning are 8,300-33,000°C for both "cold" and "hot" lightning - it is the continuing current that starts some 10,000 fires per year in the U.S. in the estimation of Uman.
- Total power: A moderate thunderstorm generates several hundred megawatts of electrical power.
- "Gigantic Jets" Blast Electricity Into the Ionosphere - These lightning bolts that reach from cloud tops upward into the ionosphere, as high as 90 kilometers, have been measured by researches at Duke University to carry as much energy skyward as ordinary lightning strikes carry to the ground. (New Scientist; Aug. 23, 2009)
- Newsletters > Future Energy eNews > Events >
Future Energy eNews: January 2011 - Tom Valone's headlines this month include: 1) Upcoming Conference on Future Energy (COFE 4) Abstract: Water Electrolyzers and ZPE; 2) The Year in Energy; 3) Thunderstorms Produce Antimatter; 4) Italians Claim Demonstration of Cold Fusion; 5) TR-10 Solar Fuel
- One strike has enough energy to light 150,000,000 light bulbs. (Discovery.ca; May 17)
The following data is from an Atlanta Journal article (cited here)
- About 95 people die from lightning yearly in the U.S.
- A single thunderstorm can release 470 million litres of water (that's the volume of 16 Washington Monuments).
- One storm can discharge enough energy to supply the entire U.S. with electricity for 20 minutes
- A large Midwestern cumulonimbus can tower 20-25 km (Mount Everest is 8.8 km high.)
- There are approximately 2,000 thunderstorms at any given moment worldwide.
- Nature > Lightning >
Eye of the storm: The jaw-dropping image of an enormous 'supercell' cloud - A collection of photos from storm photographer, Sean Heavy. An amazing display of nature's power that resembles a mother ship. (Daily Mail; Dec. 2, 2010)
Lightning and the Grid
- "Chances are, you've seen it. Right after a lightning strike -- a bright, mysterious blue-green glow in the sky, coming from ... the ground? This time it's not lightning - it's a brief man-made fireworks display produced by a short-circuited power line."
- A lightning bolt strikes one of the live power lines, then jumps across an insulator to reach the grounded tower.
- The section of lightning channel across the insulator acts as a conductor, causing a short circuit.
- Man-made power from the live wire begins flowing through the section of old lightning channel in an intensely bright arc.
- Circuit breakers at a substation detect the short, then cut power to the affected line momentarily to stop the arc.
Harnessing Lightning Power
"Lightning electricity technically does not need to be generated, only transformed into a useful quality." (ref)
Calling Down a Lightning Strike
- Laser Triggers Electrical Activity In Thunderstorm - A team of European scientists has deliberately triggered electrical activity in thunderclouds for the first time by aiming high-power pulses of laser light into a thunderstorm. During two passing thunderstorms, the researchers used laser pulses to create plasma filaments that could conduct electricity. (SoftPedia; Apr. 14, 2008)
Building A Lighting Harnessing Power Plant
How hard would it be to build a power plant that harnesses the electricity generated by lightning? Then, store the electricity and use it on-demand on the electric grid? Pie-In-The-Sky?
This concept is perhaps not as impractical as it once was. The main limiting factor of implementing a lightning capturing scheme such as this was the inability to be able to store large amounts of electricity for later use. However, new Utility Scale Battery technology or other energy storage technologies such as Flywheels or Capacitors could be used to store the electricity captured from lightning in massive quanties, for later grid use.
Obviously, a lightning capturing power plant would only be practical in regions with frequent thunderstorms, such as Florida.
How hard would it be to build an array of lighting rods to capture periodic thunderstorm electricity? The biggest hurdle would really be creating power plant infrastructure that could survive the harsh surges created by lightning strikes, but even that seems possible with current technology and materials. Electrical and building design engineers could come up with an innovative way to make it work. Specially designed buffer/insulation and transformer materials could be used to safely capture and harness the massive amounts of electricity generated during a lighting strike, and transfer it to large storage device for later use.
On Dec. 7, 2007, Farid Fahim of Logic-Co wrote:
Logic-Co is an environmental company pursuing renewable energy in the form of electricity from lightning.
"The rate of lightning is 100 flashes per second all over the globe. One flash = 4 strokes. Each stroke has 10^12 Watts. This means that when Locig-Co succeeds to get one flash, and trsnform it to electricity, that it is equal to a power station of 20 MW working for 50 hours continuously.
"Logic-Co is seeking a partner in USA to clean the environment."
Tel & Fax: 00202 24322655
Mobile: 012 3358572
6TH B Bahst Badia St. (Saudia Buildings)
- For Splitting Water - So, a large electric current will split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Combusting hydrogen regenerates water and produces a lot of usable energy. Is there any way to direct lightning through a closed container of water that could then be split into gasses that could serve as fuel?
- Harnessing Lightning with Tungsten Reservoir - "An array of lightning rods would channel the electricity to a large underground reservoir of tungsten (or other metal with a high specific heat). This would melt the metal, storing the energy as heat. The energy can then be harnessed at a leisurely pace by creating steam and generating electricity from it."
- Rods for Lightning Power - Make a huge tower connected to a huge capacitor and on to the power grid... Every time it gets hit we get tons of energy.
- Space elevator - could be used as cloud charge harvester as well!
- Space balloon - large array of balloons which would be tied to conductive lines. If placed in a lightning prone area, strikes would generate constant energy (does not have to be ground strikes)...
- cons: would the intense current fry any lines that we can create? these lines would be a hazard to aircraft (this would have to be declared a no-fly zone). Also, same storage issues as listed elsewhere.
- (posted here on Nov. 12, 2006 by User:Dachoste)
- Q. "I have heard that one lightning strike would provide enough energy for a medium sized town for a month. Is this true? How much power would it provide?"
- "Capturing and using the energy in lightning has been the subject of many imaginative proposals over the years, but there are practical reasons for not even trying. If I relocated my house in central Florida, where the greatest flash density in the United states occurs, I could maximize the chances of lightning hitting my house. This area experiences about 10 cloud-to-ground strokes per square kilometer per year. Because my house occupies much less than a square kilometer of area, I could build a tall tower to attract or trigger lightning, thereby preventing it from hitting neighboring houses but probably violating the local covenants and greatly irritating my neighbors. I would also have to install a very large capacitor to store the energy in each bolt so that it could be used as needed during the days between lightning strikes. If my tower could attract 100 bolts a year‹and a real 300 meter (984-foot) tall tower in Florida does‹I could reduce or perhaps eliminate my electric bill, but I'd have to be very careful to stay away from the base of the tower during storms. It would not profit my neighbor to build a similar tower because there wouldn't be enough lightning to go around.
- "To summarize, the energy in lightning bolts is far too small to satisfy the voracious energy appetites of a small town in an industrialized country. The equipment needed to store the energy would probably not fit with the decor of your living room, and if lightning were your only source of electrical power, you would find yourself in the dark during dry spells."
Reasons not to harness lightning power.
Not a regular, reliable input stream, but sporatic. Not feasible for a primary energy source.
(response) Consider it Supplementive
As an augmentive source, this becomes additional energy that can be used at least for a brief period.
"There are place on earth however, which are known for exceptional lightning activity (such as lightning alley in Florida) which might one day fill the bill for this, much the same as cost effective wind power generators have to be installed at specific locations on earth where air speed is reliably high enough to do the necessary work." (ref)
"From what I understand, there are over 2000 lightning storms occuring at any given time around the globe. The reason for this, is solar winds from the sun blowing across the ionsphere. If we could focus the cumulative lightning strikes to a centralized location, we could then not only have a constant, uniform, plasma tube of energy to tap off of any time we want. Then we could use Tesla's wireless transmission to transmit power to any location on the globe, providing the entire planet with all the free energy it could ever use." Dan ND804@hotmail.com
Mechanicial storage beyond the atomic scale is inpracticial for this applicaiton. A new concept is storage means could make this an idea with practicial applications.
I think there are indeed new material combinations offering infinite possibilities in this sense; this goes especially for the future (as well as the frequency of storms - see "Bladerunner") - but this would need dedicated experimentation and development which on any serious scale WILL run into difficulties and obstructions coming from the "fossils".. cheers jiri
Rate of Utilization
"Another issue would be transferring this massive block of power to the electrical transmission grid in a slow enough manner to be absorbed by the system without adversely affecting online generating stations, and without transmitting more power than the grid can use." (ref)
(response) Reservoir Storage
Store the energy such that it can be extracted at the rate needed.
"Perhaps the new superconductors being developed can make a magnetic energy storage device capable of handling the job (SMES)." (ref)
- Clouds can store electricity just fine themselves. They are basically just huge capacitors. Why not slowly extract thier energy by suspending a large branching net of conductive rods and wires in the lower level of the cloud. The smaller, more frequent stikes that would come in contact with this structure are more the kind of thing we are looking for. The more intricate and large the net of wires is, and the closer you get to touching every single charged droplet, the more evenly distibuted through time the current will be.
- Another idea! Suspend this net between 3 or more parallel cables which continue upward to a massive kite in the jet stream. Tether the cables to electric trains which attempt to follow the storm, and convert the energy to AC onboard and direct it back into thier electric rails. =_)
- Hey, why not use the high-altitude wind turbine capability to create a lead to ground to conduct the current from the storm clouds! Or whould that be like trying to collect electricity from a wind turbine during a hurricane?
DC to AC Losses
Electricity derived from lightning would be DC, and would need to be converted to AC for grid usage.
(response) So Some Gets Lost
When the energy is free to begin, so what if you lose some.
Lightning Towers would be considered an eyesore.
Get over it. Decorate it. Make it look like a tree. Also take this into account. Within a century our conventional fossil fuels will have run out. By then most people would rather deal with an eyesore rather than having to give up electricity. The true is we are really going to have to grow up as a race and deal with alternative energies seriously or deal with the impending world crisis which seems to already have started due to Hurricanes such as Katrina.
Towers wouldn't be neccessary if wire leads were fired into the storm clouds by small rockets no bigger than the kind used for fireworks.
Messing with Nature's Cycles
- Nature cycles, nitrogen cycle, nitrogen fixing in soil. Would harnessing lightning power eliminate important rejuvinative cycles of nature, or could it be done with minimal impact on nature's needs?
(response) Compromise Solutions
Lightning power harvesting devices could be rotated from one area to another so that no one region's ecosystem is deprived of its quota of needed natural factors derived from lightning.
Nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria provides most of the nitrates that plants need. Fixation by lightning only amounts to about 5% of the total.
Projects Tapping Lightning Power
- "My latest test used an artificial lightning bolt for 1 second to charge a diode/resistor wired 2,100VAC capacitor. The stored energy was dumped into a CO2 cutting laser burning thru 1/4 inch steel. Only 3 turns of #10 wire used for induction capture.
- There are hurdles to overcome. Storage technology for power is getting better, I'm not sure if it is 100% feasable to power homes yet. But will continue experimenting." Steven LeRoy
- Livingstone Lightning - Todd Livingstone claims to have two working prototypes for harnessing the power of lightning. Seeks assistance in taking the project the distance.
- BLAM-O -- Power from Lightning] - Having demonstrated a smaller prototype using artificial lightning, Todd Livingstone is now waiting for the next lightning storm to test his full-scale prototype for harnessing the energy of a lightning strike. Technology is a reverse of directed energy weapons.(PESN; July 10, 2005)
Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc
Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc: A rapidly developing green energy holding corporation with multiple alternative power projects under development, including marketable lightning harvesting technology for electricity production. Harnessing the natural energy produced from a bolt of lightning as a clean energy solution will not only eliminate numerous environmental hazards associated with the energy industry, it will also significantly reduce the costliness of power production. When amortized over four to seven (4-7) years, a lightning farm will be able to produce and sell electricity for as low as $0.005 per kilowatt hour, thus significantly undercutting the current production costs of its competing energy sources.
Our project research team has successfully developed a model prototype to demonstrate the ‘capturing’ capabilities of the lightning farm technology, and initial project focus will be on the development of a mobile full-scale lightning farm to be tested during peak lightning season (July through August) of 2007. For additional information and investor relations, please visit http://www.alternateenergyholdings.com or email email@example.com.
- Lightning Detectors - Several makes and models at shopping.com.
- 7 Zip Download - 7 Zip, A free archive extractor.
- http://bondedlightning.com/ - Lightning protection for residential and commercial applications; includes surge protection.
Image source: http://www.worth1000.com
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