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  #1  
Old 11-15-2011, 10:59 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Could we capture and store the electricity from lightning?

Seems a waste to have all that vast power zapping back and forth in the sky, and occasionally to the ground, and not be able to make use of it. How long until we can erect a tower in an area prone to lightning, with a very well-insulated cable leading to a big bank o' batteries that could be thus charged?

Maybe a dumb question, but driving through a very lively lightning storm last night made me wonder.
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  #2  
Old 11-15-2011, 11:07 AM
anson2995 anson2995 is offline
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Short answer: no. Longer discussion in this thread.
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  #3  
Old 11-15-2011, 11:09 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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A perennial:

Why can't we capture lighting?

I want free electricity dammit!

lightning?

Capacitor Pyramids as Energy Source. Why or why not?

Is it possible to create lightning by human means ? If so , can we someday use it for energy ?

And here's the one that should make you really should be embarrassed about this question.

Extracting Electricity from Lightning storms: Would This Work?

Last edited by Exapno Mapcase; 11-15-2011 at 11:11 AM..
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  #4  
Old 11-15-2011, 11:11 AM
Duke Duke is offline
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You don't happen to own a DeLorean, do you?
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  #5  
Old 11-15-2011, 11:33 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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No DeLorean, dammit.

Thanks for the links. Didn't see those in my earlier search.
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  #6  
Old 11-16-2011, 01:54 AM
AaronX AaronX is offline
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Could you store the energy by splitting water into H and O? Seems it might be simpler than using capacitors.
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Old 11-16-2011, 02:29 AM
constanze constanze is offline
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Originally Posted by AaronX View Post
Could you store the energy by splitting water into H and O? Seems it might be simpler than using capacitors.
Well, technically of course you can. A few months ago, a combined power plant using this method was brought online in Germany:

wind wheels connected with electrolysis plant + storage tanks for H2 + gas power plant:

when the wind blows and more energy than needed right now is produced, the overflow is used to split water into H2 (+O2). The H2 is stored and can be mixed up to 20% of volume with methane (natural gas), that can then be burned later to produce power, or be piped down to heat houses.

But of course that uses European physics.
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  #8  
Old 11-16-2011, 07:26 PM
AaronX AaronX is offline
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I mean, what would happen if you directed a huge current into a tank of salt water (or the sea)? Would most of the energy be used to split water, or would there be side reactions?
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Old 11-17-2011, 03:46 AM
constanze constanze is offline
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I mean, what would happen if you directed a huge current into a tank of salt water (or the sea)? Would most of the energy be used to split water, or would there be side reactions?
Well, if you direct it into the sea, there might be boiled fishies, which is not nice.

Hydrolisis works with two cathodes, (so no open ocean), and produces two gases, so you need a mechanism to trap them, otherwise, they'll mingle and explode when a spark is produced, or they'll float away.

That trapping mechanism needs to be ready whenever lightning might strike, so you have a baseline cost - but you can't tame lightning to strike your copper spike vs the cell tower 50 yards away or the roof over there or just the other cloud without ground contact, so even if you only turn your catcher on when a thunderstorm is predicted, you can still end up without catch.
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  #10  
Old 11-17-2011, 03:52 AM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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hold it! all those threads and all the wikis don't say you can't store electricity from lightning. you can (why ever not?) what they're all saying is one lightning bolt gives you 10,000 volts but you won't get enough kilowatt hours to run a huose for a month. the reason is a bolt has only a 1/1000 sec duration. to be economically viable, you need a lightning farm (several bolts a day.)
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  #11  
Old 11-17-2011, 08:02 AM
Attack from the 3rd dimension Attack from the 3rd dimension is offline
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The real fun issue is not siting the lightning farm, it is trying to build the farm - erecting towers, hooking up the water tanks - without having your work force getting electrocuted.
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  #12  
Old 11-17-2011, 08:11 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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That doesn't seem too big a challenge. You have some temp towers on trucks that you can drive in, raise and immediately ground on a clear day at the beginning of your project.
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  #13  
Old 11-17-2011, 08:17 AM
Attack from the 3rd dimension Attack from the 3rd dimension is offline
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Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
That doesn't seem too big a challenge. You have some temp towers on trucks that you can drive in, raise and immediately ground on a clear day at the beginning of your project.
I ain't drivin'. You can drive.
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  #14  
Old 11-17-2011, 08:22 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Will do. Let's draft the contract.
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  #15  
Old 11-17-2011, 08:37 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Exapno writes:

Quote:
And here's the one that should make you really should be embarrassed about this question.

Extracting Electricity from Lightning storms: Would This Work?
This answer seriously pisses me off. At the SDMB we claim to be fighting ignorance. This kind of attitude bullies ignorance into silence instead of alleviating it. There's nothing to be gained by intimidating someone who might want to ask a question.


Especially because, in a limited way, the answer is arguably "yes". It's certainly not a good idea to take the immense power of a lightning strike and try to store it for later useful release. But Fronklin's original kite experiment did, in fact, extract charge from atnospheric voltage difference (not a lightning strike, or he'd likely have been killed) and store it in a Leyden jar:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kite_experiment

In 1753 Georg Wilhelm Richmann, replicating Franklin's kite experiment, got himself killed by lightning. we hear about Franklin, but rarely about Richmann or the others who didn't survive the attempt.
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  #16  
Old 11-17-2011, 11:58 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
This answer seriously pisses me off. At the SDMB we claim to be fighting ignorance. This kind of attitude bullies ignorance into silence instead of alleviating it. There's nothing to be gained by intimidating someone who might want to ask a question.
You're misreading it. It was a mild bit of snark about the OP of that thread. Since it was one of a half dozen threads on the issue, I thought it would be obvious that the question was real and a matter of interest.

I apologize if others didn't understand either.

Last edited by Exapno Mapcase; 11-17-2011 at 12:00 PM..
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  #17  
Old 11-17-2011, 06:56 PM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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a lightning farm doesn't need to have permanent towers. everytime the ground charge is up and there's a low-lying cloud, launch a wire up using either a model rocket or a strong crossbow. your permanent structures should only be single-story with good ground insulation and overhead lightning conductors.

Last edited by mac_bolan00; 11-17-2011 at 06:58 PM..
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  #18  
Old 11-17-2011, 06:59 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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I seem to recall a dude named Ben Franklin who tried. But a mouse named Amos vetoed his plans.
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  #19  
Old 11-17-2011, 07:05 PM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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amos was at the kite itself when the bolt struck. more impressive was amos' invention of the bifocal glasses and savvy reporting.
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  #20  
Old 11-17-2011, 08:26 PM
Attack from the 3rd dimension Attack from the 3rd dimension is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mac_bolan00 View Post
a lightning farm doesn't need to have permanent towers. everytime the ground charge is up and there's a low-lying cloud, launch a wire up using either a model rocket or a strong crossbow. your permanent structures should only be single-story with good ground insulation and overhead lightning conductors.
I ain't crossbowin'. You 'bow.
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  #21  
Old 11-17-2011, 08:37 PM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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mounted on the ground, shot remotely with either a long lanyard or an electrical trip system. but then, it probably won't go higher than 200 feet. better a gun that can loft a projectile trailing a wire.
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  #22  
Old 11-17-2011, 09:14 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Originally Posted by mac_bolan00 View Post
mounted on the ground, shot remotely with either a long lanyard or an electrical trip system. but then, it probably won't go higher than 200 feet. better a gun that can loft a projectile trailing a wire.
Would a model rocket (or a gun) be capable of towing a wire which is big enough to carry that sort of current without the wire getting incinerated in the process?

Last edited by kenobi 65; 11-17-2011 at 09:16 PM..
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  #23  
Old 11-17-2011, 09:24 PM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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the rocket and wire vaporizes but there's enough current to reach the grounding point. the rocket's use is to induce a lightning discharge.
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