It is theoretically possible to store and harness electricity from lightning, and several proposals have been made to show how this could be done. 

However, there are a number of reasons that make these proposals impractical.

 Lightning is simply not a good source of energy, and there are numerous alternatives that are safer, less energy-intensive, more effective and readily available. In other words, just because humans can potentially and theoretically highly store electricity from lightning strikes doesn’t mean they should.

On the surface, lightning appears to have great potential as a source of energy. It is fully renewable, which is a definite plus, and is readily available in some regions of the world. Also, lightning has a lot of energy; a single lightning bolt can power 150 million light bulbs. The idea of ​​harnessing so much energy and storing it is immensely tempting.

There are a number of problems with trying to harness the enormous energy of lightning. The first is that lightning is highly unpredictable. There is no way to know exactly where and when lightning will strike, so it would be difficult to find a place to turn into a facility for processing lightning to produce power. Lightning also supplies its energy all at once, which would require huge batteries and capacitors. Otherwise, the energy would simply blow up all established systems to capture it.

The potential instability in the electricity supply from lightning strikes is far less of a problem than the infrastructure that would be needed to support the energy harvesting process. Lightning strikes are so powerful that they would overload all but the most sophisticated and heavy systems, and the wisdom of building and installing such a system would be questionable if it could only harvest energy from a few lightning strikes a year. Even in areas where lightning strikes are frequent, the cost of the system would likely outweigh the benefit of getting electricity from lightning.

Humans may at some point develop a system that can economically and effectively collect and store electricity from lightning strikes. Technological innovation is a natural part of human societies and progress is constantly being made. Men of the 18th century would have been amazed by the things developed in the 19th century, for example. However, this development is likely to occur in the distant future, making it more important to focus on accessible sources of alternative energy such as sunlight, wind and water.

Chris Kille
Author: Chris Kille

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