Could lightning be used as a power source?

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,
Could lightning be used as a power source?

Adrian Robertson,
Chicago Heights


Dear Adrian,
While spectacular, lightning isn’t dependable. It’s here one day in scattered, capricious bursts and absent in many others. Chicago sees only about 38 days with thunderstorms in a year. How would a power company capture and store such erratic discharges to meet daily power needs? Lightning produces lots of current over several millionths of a second while generating surprisingly little power. Power is the amount of energy transferred over time and a single lightning bolt produces enough power to light a 100-watt light bulb for a month. Even the 0.01 percent of lightning strokes that last longest and produce the most power don’t survive beyond 0.2 seconds, making it nearly impossible to capture them.

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