How about harvesting the whole potential energy of the atmosphere?

Lightning is bad, potential of electrons is good no matter of the voltage There have been experiments to harvest the energy of lightning, but they were doomed…
If we tried to get all the energy of the atmosphere, would it be too great of an effort?
I never read this, but I think it is about what I just asked…
Will we get too much energy? We could use some of it to cool the climate down.
I would place a billion of electrically heated balloons to the altitude of several thousands of miles and raise the potential of the electricity to millions of volts (so that it could be wired very thin)…
But there is a bunch of experts among you. Give me some data to work with this more.

That lecture you linked to but didn’t read seems to be over 60 years old.

Ah, my favorite! A catastrophically bad idea that fortunately is far too impractical to actually attempt. There should be an xkcd What If…


Yes, it would be too much effort. And frankly, “a billion heated balloons a thousand miles up" kind of gives it away. The atmosphere isn’t even that thick. The heating would require fantastic amounts of energy anyway.
Had you actually read that link - which I strongly encourage you to - you would know that the entire atmosphere generates about 700 MW. That’s like one nuclear power plant.

At the same time, discharging the atmosphere could affect cloud formation and rain fall.

Skip the balloons and add a tether to the space elevator. Run a wire down the elevator to access the energy. :cool:

Not that I wouldn’t mind reading through the whole lecture, but would anyone like to reduce it down to the precise apparatus that the OP is suggesting be built?

Do you think the science of electrodynamics has changed significantly in that time?

The answer, from the lecture, is that even if you captured all of the power from the atmospheric voltage gradient, it would only amount to 700 megawatts. That’s the scale of a modest power station. It’s an incredibly small amount in comparison to the effort required to capture it. In comparison, generating the same power via solar panels requires only 1/100,000,000 the surface area of Earth.

LOL - definitely undermines John Galt’s motor in Atlas Shrugged.
However, parachute spiders are making practical use of the electrostatic field:

I wouldn’t know if it is normal for electrodynamics to not change in over 60 years-I’m not a electrodynamicator.

It’s what Ben Franklin demonstrated with his kite. Hasn’t changed much since then.

To spell it out - as far as I can tell, the idea is to send a balloon up with a long wire down to earth. Due to the huge voltage between up and down, electrons would travel along the wire - an electric current that could do useful work. However, once enough electrons have gone up, the current stops because the balloon is now at the same potential as the earth. Now you will have to wait for positive charges in the air to discharge your balloon - which might take a while.

Regarding Franklin, he used the opposite mechanism that recharges earth with electrons. That happens quite fast, but is equally useless as a power source.