I find the lack of encouragement for (harnessing lightening) very disappointing. Are any of you aware that several scientific teams are well on their way to creating an actual "STAR" in a reactor? Which, by the way would solve ALL our energy problems and advance our species 100 fold? Compared to this, lightening is easy. So why aren't we already doing it?
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There was one answer above that has potential, the (weather balloon) idea I think has merit. Clouds are basically very battery like entities. These are massive charges that could be harnessed with a clever anode/cathode device and routed to the ground for rectification or some other energy producing means such as steam. There are many people who think that there is not enough energy produced naturally in clouds to be of sufficient use but keep in mind that this is (free energy) and as such should definitely be researched and used. The big problem is that fossil fuels are the only thing we have truly harnessed which is why other forms of energy production pale in comparison. We need to start doing things because we should, NOT just because it prosperous and marketable.
If you build a Tesla coil, and it makes a ONE inch spark... that is about TEN THOUSAND volts. A 2 inch spark is 20KV. Now calculate the voltage of a 100 foot LIGHTNING BOLT! The voltage and amperage is tremendous and instantaneous.... which makes it difficult to harness... but... you can make a really neat lightning DETECTOR. Just find a fluorescent bulb... one of the long tube kind. doesnt matter if it is burned out, as long as it still has its vacuum inside. Attach a wire to ONE end going to a GROUND such as a water pipe or just a piece of metal buried in the ground. Attach the other end to just a length of WIRE to act as an antenna. 10 or 15 feet should work fine. Now just wait for a thunderstorm. Your bulb will flash brightly every time a thunderbolt occurs. I know what you are thinking now. you are worrying that you will ATTRACT LIGHTNING into your house and the danger it might cause. But this is no more dangerous than the wiring in your HOME attracting lightning. DONT run the wire outside and into the TREES though!!! You are on your own if you do THAT !! If you build this, dont expect it to work very much untill AFTER winter. For some odd reason, lightning is pretty rare in winter here (in the USA midwest.)
It gets delivered at fairly random intervals and random locations. It's a bit like trying to catch balls being thrown out of aeroplanes when the pilot rolls a double-six. Also, it's one big blast, which is like trying to catch a very heavy ball dropped from 20,000 feet when someone gets 3 double-sixes in a row. Then note what Steve said. L
There's about 1/2 kWhr in a single bolt of lightning.
I think the problem is the time period it's available. Compare it to the wind, if there was only one quick, 400km/h gust of wind, we wouldn't be able to make much use of it. The long time availability makes it easier to "capture". It would be a different story if we could make a baloon that goes up into the clouds and "absorbs" the power before the lightning comes to ground.
You could. There are many problems that have to be addressed. Lightning is random. You can direct lightning to strike a particular point by firing a small rocket into the storm but you can't cause a storm to be there when you need to recharge. Lightning carries a huge amount of electrical current. You would have to design a system to safely carry all of that current instantaneously. Your storage facility would have to accept all of that power instantaneously. Your distribution facility would have to be able to meter out the stored electricity in voltages that would be useable AND be able to do so continuously AND be able to isolate the user and all of his equipment from the reloading charge. Lightning is DC and the ground is not always at negative potiential. Lots of times the ground is more positive than the clouds so some method would have to be used to keep the polarity right. Lightning is DC and the power grid is A/C. Early power experiments using D/C proved that D/C is not usable for transmission of more than a few miles. In the end it seems to me that the only positive in using lightning is that it is naturally occuring and free. I'm sure that some of the other readers will come up with anything that I've missed.
We don't have the technology, and there isn't that much energy in one.