Is There a Way to Use Lightning as an Energy Source? Last night as a powerful thunderstorm danced around my home, I wondered how many folks would be interested if you could actually use Lightning as a power source.
Harnessing the Power of Lightning
Nikola Tesla famous inventor, who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system, was fascinated about the idea of harnessing the power of lighting.
Lightning: Fun Fact
Nikola Tesla was actually born during a ferocious lightning storm. According to family legend, midway through the birth, the midwife wrung her hands and declared the lightning a bad omen. This child will be a child of darkness, she said, to which his mother replied: “No. He will be a child of light.
Most of us know that Lightning is a natural electrical discharge taking place between two adjacent clouds, each having been charged with electricity of opposite polarity. As soon as they approach sufficiently close, the electric potential between them becomes so terrific that the air strata between is ruptured, thus producing a vivid spark, followed by thunder, which is caused by the sudden rush of air into the evacuated space produced by the electric discharge. Lightning may be caused also by a discharge taking place between a cloud and the earth. The process by which the clouds are electrically charged is still a mystery, and we must wait until some future genius will explain to us the exact phenomena that takes place in the upper atmosphere, where such electrical disturbances take place.
Realizing that each year about one and-a-half billion lightning flashes occur in our atmosphere. Also that approximately one in four of these bolts blasts the ground somewhere on Earth. Of course, some land in Ohio, some strike Paris and more rain down on the Congo than anywhere else in the world.
An average bolt of lightning, striking from cloud to ground, contains roughly one billion (1,000,000,000) joules of energy. This is no small amount, enough to power a 10-watt LED lightbulb for over three years. In the forms of electricity, light, heat and thunder, this energy is all released by the flash in a matter of milli- or even microseconds. From here let’s consider the practical potential of lightning is as a power source.
The average household in the United States uses 10,812 kilowatt-hours of electricity. If we translate a lightning strike to kilowatt-hours we see that the average lighting bolt produces about 277 kWh, which translates to if a home were stuck 39 times per year their electric needs would be met.
Is this really feasible? Well the answer today is no for several reasons:
A. Not only are there not enough lighting strikes for the sheer number of homes but
B. The bigger problem is the technology needed to capture the energy from that brief flash into some sort of large holding capacitor (battery) and store it to be used as needed. (not to mention that Physics reminds us that we can not store and retrieve energy at 100% efficiency)
Sadly, while the idea is brilliant it is really with today’s technology to use lightning for electricity. But technology is always changing so perhaps in the future lighting will be harnessed as a source of power.
At Mitchell Electronics, we have a history of treating our clients just like family. Call Mitchell Electronics at (914) 699-3800 today! Contact us today or visit our FAQs for more information about our products.