How Much Electricity Does a Lightning Bolt Contain?

Last week I wrote an article that briefly discussed who invented electricity? In that article, I spoke about Benjamin Franklin

Last week I wrote an article that briefly discussed who invented electricity?

In that article, I spoke about Benjamin Franklin (no, he did not invent electricity) who sent a kite into the sky with a Leyden Jar to collect ambient energy in the sky, during a thunderstorm.

That got me thinking about lightning!

And I found some awesome information about it.

For example, did you know that a single lightning bolt unleashes five times more heat than the sun?

What?!

That’s a lot of energy seeing that 40 minutes of sunlight contains enough energy to power all of Earth’s energy needs for an entire year. 

Or to put it more scientifically, the sun release energy at a mass-energy conversion rate equal to 38,460 septillion watts per second.

Leyden jar
A Leyden Jar is a jar that captures and stores a high-voltage electric charge between electrical conductors on the inside and outside of a glass jar.

Yes, “septillion” is a real number. Unfortunately, I don’t think Bill Gates, Elon Musk, or even Jeff Bezos will ever actually get to be septillionaires since septillion has 24 zeroes behind it.

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

That’s what a septillion looks like.

A lightning bolt is estimated to contain more than one billion volts of electricity. That’s a tremendous amount of energy. To translate this, a single bolt of lightning has enough energy to power a small town for an entire day!

But surprisingly, all that energy strikes within 50 microseconds.

To make it more intense, a lightning bolt is extremely narrow by the time it hits Earth, anywhere between 1-7 inches in diameter.

That is so much concentrated energy, so fast!

Then I asked myself, what would happen if a lightning bolt struck an egg?

I know, it sounds crazy, but apparently, I’m not the first person to have asked that question. I kid you not, there’s an entire Reddit thread about the odds of lightning cooking an egg to a consumable point.

How Many Times Does Lightning Strike Earth?

Lightning strikes Earth about 100 times every single second. That’s about three billion lightning bolts a year!

Imagine how many small towns or entire cities could be powered if we could just figure out a way to harness that energy.

These ten cities experience the most lightning density in the U.S. are:

1. Green River, WY
2. Rock Springs, WY
3. Dickinson, ND
4. Pierre, SD
5. North Platte, NE

6. Vernal, UT
7. Huron, SD
8. Spearfish, SD
9. Kirksville, MO
10. Hays, KS

Harnessing Electricity

Can you capture lightning’s electricity and transform it into a form useable by, well… your cell phone, your light bulbs, or a manufacturing plant?

The concept exists but according to MIT, it poses many challenges that have not yet been solved. According to a paper they released:

“Tall metallic rods extending high above the ground would do the trick, drawing any electrical charges in the atmosphere and directing them into a facility. But robust and dependable safety mechanisms would also need to be built to immediately contain the huge burst of energy and prevent the entire facility from being blown to bits.”

While we have not yet developed a way to harness the electricity contained in a lightning bolt, we have developed ways to create energy from the plentiful energy sources that surround us.

In nature, everywhere you look electricity is at work, it’s just a matter of harnessing that power.

The Most Popular Sources of Natural Energy

As demand for electricity grows, more and more businesses are establishing green energy or renewable energy goals. Installing your own means of renewable energy production, such as solar panels, is not only a large investment, but it can sometimes be challenging to offset your entire energy needs. 

For this reason, Energy Professionals has partnered with renewable energy companies, green energy suppliers, and wind and solar farms in local communities to help businesses with renewable energy goals source their energy from renewable energy production. 

To find out more about our renewable energy programs contact us at: (844) 674-5465

Bonus Video:

And since we’re on the subject of lightning, I thought to include a bonus video of the 10 ten lightning strikes recorded by Pecos Hank, who has been chasing lightning for more than 20 years. Each of the ten strikes were captured by him. 

James Lightning

James Lightning
Senior Editor, Energy Professionals
info@energyprofessionals.com
(844) 674-5465
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