Static Electricity to Current Electricity
Posted 12 July 2011 - 04:42 PM
Posted 22 July 2011 - 09:08 AM
Why are we unable to convert lightning into usable electricity? Or is it that we can't store it? Could we convert a small arc of shock instead of the colossal flash? Just a question, is that 'spark' between two point the same as what you get when two electric rod adjacent create an electric arc to complete the circuit? I think it's called a spark gap. If these two are the same then there's something similar and we can start work from there.
Lightning can occur with both positive and negative polarity. An average bolt of negative lightning carries an electric current of 30,000 amperes ("amps") — 30 "kiloamps" (kA), and transfers fifteen coulombs of electric charge and 500 megajoules of energy. Large bolts of lightning can carry up to 120 kA and 350 coulombs. An average bolt of positive lightning carries an electric current of about 300 kA — about 10 times that of negative lightning. (source: wikipedia)
500 Megajouls sounds like a lot, but it's not if you're talking about powering whole countries. It's just the same as about 12 liters of petrol.
To power a city like New York, which uses about 11 GW of electricity (souce, see page 9), you would need to catch 22 lightning strikes every second (and be able to convert all the energy of the lightning into useful electricity.
According to wikipedia, lightning strikes about 44 times per second worldwide, so you could power two cities the size of NY city with that - if you're able to catch each and every lightning strike everywhere on earth (including the cloud-to-cloud strikes that never hit the ground).
... so, in short: all the lightning together does not carry enough energy to be of significant importance to the world. Also, it's available at random distributed places. At best, it can power smaller things (like your house). The investment therefore also has to be affordable for a single person or a small company. And that is the bottom line: it's too bloody expensive to build something that can handle lightning. Your system should be incredibly robust to handle lightning.
You're better off with a windmill or a solar panel.
Edited by CaptainPanic, 22 July 2011 - 09:10 AM.
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