Truck- or tank-like vehicles that chase storms around the country and collect electricity from lightening/thunders.
there are many thunderstorms happening all the time
real-time maps of thunderstorms are freely available (1,2)
everybody is scared of thunderstorms, but they are full of power (approximately 5 GJ or 10 Giga Watts) that can be used for various purposes
moving power plant allows you to harvest energy more often than a stationary one which "waits" for the storm
there are already ways or tries to control the energy from thunders
it's green and sustainable
it can help weaken the storm and prevent unwanted consequences (?)
storm chasing is fun and popular
When planning this idea, I had several main objections and potential solutions of thunder energy harvesting in mind :
Not available on demand.
Lightning frequency varies by region.
Difficulty in directing a strike.
Lightning is energetic, unpredictable and dangerous.
Lightning occurs too quickly to build up a charge.
Lightning may destroy equipment.
The main pointbehind my idea was to target the first two bulletpoints.
Interesting thoughts on this topic can be found in these two videos: video1 and video2.
The vehicle (shown on the header photo) should be an all-terrain vehicle, that is autonomously-driven, protected, windproof (orange edits on the photo), can go fairly fast to "catch" the storm, has a "thunder collecting system" (red on the photo), an energy storage or an energy-transforming protocol (blue on the photo) and is safe from the damage caused by thunder strikes. It could be powered by solar energy (solar panels or solar-collecting metal body) or the energy harvested from thunders. The wheels could be replaced by track as seen on tanks or snowmobiles to ensure all-terrain driving.
Harvesting and storing the energy
Since I am not the first one interested in harvesting energy from thunders, there are some existing technologies and methods to capture thunders. The first one is performed by a high pole, tower or similar structure . The structure needs to be high to attract the thunder and needs to transmit the energy without being destroyed. The second one is related to sending rockets connected with a wire into a storm. The thrid one is related to using lasers to target lightning.
I think the best way for the beginning would be a retractable lightening pole similar to those seen on firefighter trucks with a lift to reach high places (shown on header photo). The highest lifting cranes mounted on trucks that I could find had an 84m working height! That should be enough to attract the lightening.
The lightening could be collected in a battery BUT WE FIRST NEED TO DEVELOP THAT KIND OF CAPACITORS AND BATTERIES that can handle and charge fully in less than a second.
Maybe a better way of harnessing huge amount of power harvested from the lightening could be to heat some material that can slowly release heat and provide energy for longer period of time. The same could be applied to water in a truck-mounted water tank. The electricity could either heat the water or be used to split the hydrogen and oxygen atoms (a process which usually requires a lot of energy).
It would be autonomously driven by satellite-guided systemthat tracks thunderstorms and chooses the best route for the vehicle. The autonomous driving would eliminate the factor of safety for humans driving the vehicle.
But please have in mind that I aimed to solve the first two bulletpoints from the above mentioned problems regarding lightening harvesting, not all of them. However, any comments and suggestions on all of them are welcome.
Are there negative consequences of "cathing" the energy of the lightening? Was it meant to do something else in the nature? Can we introduce yet unknown disballance?