Eli5: can we use lightning for electricity? If not, why?

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Eli5: can we use lightning for electricity? If not, why?

In: Physics

4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

I think there are a few reasons:
– lightning is a LOT of energy in a very short amount of time, and I’m not certain we have the materials that can withstand that much energy at once
– the conditions that produce lightning are too variable and intermittent to be reliable
– we have other means of energy generation that are safer, easier to capture, and have conditons that are more likely to happen

Anonymous 0 Comments

Not really, no. While a lightning bold carries a large amount of energy, even with a lighting rod, it won’t strike a given spot regularly enough to make it a cost effective source of power. We’d have to have a system designed to collect power in occasional, sudden, and enormous bursts. A power grid needs to be able to adjust itself to both power supply and power demand. Adding lightning into the mix just makes the matter more complicated.

To give some idea, the Empire State Building is hit by lightning about 25 times a year. At 5 gigajoules per strike this works out to about 35 megawatt hours. Roughly what would be consumed by three average American households in a year. This is assuming we can collect the power with perfect efficiency, which is impossible.

So you’re really not getting a lot of return for the amount of effort you’re putting into it.

Anonymous 0 Comments

trying to use lightning for usable electricity would be like trying to use a tsunami to supply your water pressure

Anonymous 0 Comments

Mostly, it’s about predictability. Lightning is pretty *rare*. It could also have highly varying strength (thus power you get out of it, if you somehow do). And you need one to strike at your lighting collector rod to begin with.

Electricity is about stability, because it provides our most stability-critical elements – heat, food, light, etc.

So tying it to really jumpy, unpredictable natural half-disaster is really bad.

Or consider this; sunlight, which compared to lighting lasts about 8 hours (in average conditions hours, season and locale) instead of 30 microseconds is ALSO considered “unstable” and problematic. Yet, you can nearly always count on sun to come out sooner or later.

So while lighting strike releases A LOT more energy, instability levels are also insane and cannot be relied on.