The Source of Lightning

What causes lightning?
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In the end, barring the development of a technology that could capture the energy from lightning before it strikes, it's probably best to focus on other, more earthly sources of energy.

What if I were struck by lightning? Does ball lightning really exist?

Lightning: Fun Fact

Can we harvest the energy of lightning? Lightning packs a huge amount of power - 5 billion joules of energy in a single bolt to be exact.

Check out these amazing lightning pictures! Each year about one and-a-half billion lightning flashes occur in the atmosphere, with roughly 25 percent striking the ground. Each lightning bolt that actually hits the earth averages about one billion joules of energy, more than enough to power a 60 watt light bulb for six months.

On the surface this seems a decent amount of energy, surely you can see why I suggest lightning as an energy source. The average American household consumes 41 billion joules of energy each year, which means it would take 41 lightning bolts to power a house. There are million households in the US, which means that the US requires 4.


This number is pretty meaningless to most but it basically signifies that the energy in all the lightning bolts on Earth in a year could only power eight percent of US homes. This number falls even further to just 0.

So the figures have left me a little deflated, now to continue with the analysis of my apparently ridiculous idea and look at the physics of capturing lightning. The greatest challenge is that the one billion joules of energy in the lightning bolt is released in mere fractions of a second in the form of heat, sound and electrical energy. Such devices are incredibly difficult and expensive to create and worst of all very inefficient.

The long and short of it after this brief and basic analysis of lightning as a source of energy is that it is not feasible. The physics of capturing and storing the energy are too complex to be worth the effort, and the actual energy levels involved are not really as large as one might think at first.

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Could We Harness Lightning as an Energy Source?

Previous Post. In , a company called Alternative Energy Holdings tried to make it happen, with a design that involved a tower, grounding wires and a capacitor.

Quite frankly, we just couldn't make it work Given enough time and money, you could probably scale this thing up. It's not black magic; it's truly math and science, and it could happen. The logistical problems involved in making it work are significant. First of all, there's the basic fact that thunder storms are sporadic and lighting strikes random; considering that energy demands are steady, dependable energy sources are preferable.

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