This is a fun idea

Let’s harvest lightning for energy!

Of course, harnessing the power of an H-bomb is easier said than done, and scientists have been scratching their heads for decades over the conundrum of capturing and storing the five billion joules of energy that a bolt can transmit to Earth in a matter of microseconds. Chen admits that “it is really farfetched, but if we can develop it, that would just be pretty cool”.

It would indeed be pretty cool but I’ve a feeling there’s something of a basic problem there. Like, lightning strikes are a major reason for the grid blowing up?

21 thoughts on “This is a fun idea”

  1. So long as it isn’t some parasite wanting a fortune off the taxpayer good luck to him. He is thinking big so at least he is not a full on ecofreak.

  2. It’s not the lightening, is it? It’s the difference in electrical potential between the clouds & the ground. Essentially a very big capacitor.
    Theoretically, I suppose, you could utilise the potential by flying one end of a cable in the clouds & earthing the other end of your whatever, the cable’s attached to. Didn’t some C18th bloke narrowly avoid getting carbonised buggering around with this?

  3. It might be possible Tom Worstall, if we had an specialist entrepreneur in rare materials who could attract funding for the mining of sufficient dilithium crystals.

  4. That’s right, Tim, Ben Franklin, Also politician. Which provokes an interesting thought. Attach politicians to the bottom end of the cable. Whether it would increase the power collection’s another matter. But who would care?

  5. “Ben Franklin, while – allegedly – going on to invent the lightning conductor.” I didn’t know that there was doubt that Franklin invented the lightning conductor.

    There is, to put it kindly, doubt that he ever did his kite experiment. Or, less kindly, apparently he didn’t. It’s said that if you read what he said carefully enough, you can see he didn’t quite claim to have done it. Politicians, eh?

  6. The H-Bomb is an atomic fusion reaction, the same thing the Sun is doing.

    Nature solved the problem of not only capturing the energy from nuclear fusion, but storing it too. Coal.

    Mankind has been harnessing it since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

    The problem with capturing lightning bolts, or the charge build-up, is the conditions which produce lightening are naturally occurring, non controllable, intermittent and unpredictable.

    There must be a mental condition that draws people to ‘clean’ energy which has all these features making it useless.

    But then they are the same mental defectives who ‘believe’ that Mankind can control the Earth’s climate system by tinkering and making infinitesimal adjustments to the concentration of a trace gas in the atmosphere.

  7. There are about 300,000 lightning strikes a year in the UK, so if each is 5 GJ and we could capture every bit of energy, that would still only be 47.5 MW of power. The UK base load is about 30 GW, peak is 60+ GW, so lightning could provide about ~0.1% of our needs even if we had perfect technology for capturing it right now.

    File under “Not going to happen”.

  8. Bloke in Costa Rica

    5 GJ is ~1400 kWh. About 180 quid’s worth of electricity. And that’s if you can capture, and store or distribute, 100% of it. Big fucking deal.

    I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb when I predict this will never get beyond the stage of having articles written about it by journalistic innumerates.

  9. @bind – as he can’t sought this out (can’t even wire a plug) he’s decided that this is rent seeking and is working on a 60% tax rate to encourage more lightning

  10. How would we replace the ozone ands NOx that lightning creates, if the electrical energy is going elsewhere?
    More cars perhaps.

  11. Yes JohnB.
    Before any sums are done (to death) the question that needs an answer is “where is your energy store ?”.
    It is not a trivial detail that can “be worked out later”, it is the show stopper.

  12. So Much For Subtlety

    Of course, harnessing the power of an H-bomb is easier said than done

    I am disappointed that this was not about harnessing the power of an H-bomb. A much more sensible idea. An idea that some people have devoted some thought to including my favourite solution – digging a huge cavity underground, filling with water, exploding said H-bomb in the middle of, generating a lot of power.

    I am fairly sure it is not practical but I think it deserves an A- for trying.

  13. @Bongo
    “How would we replace the ozone ands NOx that lightning creates, if the electrical energy is going elsewhere?
    More cars perhaps.”

    In all seriousness, this is something never seems to be explored in these crackpot energy harvesting schemes. Weather systems are driven by energy. Extract a significant amount of energy from weather systems & the energy’s no longer driving the weather system. And the inefficiencies of the energy extraction mean there would be a lot of heat being dumped into the weather systems where it wasn’t present before. Inevitably, this is going to alter the weather patterns.
    And these people are concerned about climate change?

  14. A recent post by TimW concerned a masssive windfarm in the N.Atlantic to harvest the worlld’s energy needs. The effect would be equivalent to a significant landmass appearing between Europe & N. America. And this is not going to modify the climate of northern Europe? Which owes its mild temperate climate to the warm westerlies from the tropics.

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