lightning-mapGlobal Lightning Flash Rate Density (WMS)

Power of Lightning   …   A typical lightning bolt contains about 15 million volts of electricity and instantly heats up the air around it to over 60,000 degrees, with some reaching more than 100,000 degrees.    

The energy of an average 3 mile-long lightning strike is one billion to ten billion joules. To keep a 100-watt light bulb going for one second, one hundred joules of energy will be used. With one billion joules, the light bulb will be lit for 116 days. 

Most measurements have been in the range 5,000 to 20,000 amps but a famous strike just before the Apollo 15 launch in 1971 was measured at 100,000 amperes by magnetic links attached to the umbilical tower. Currents over 200,000 amps have been reported. 

lightning-turbinesLightning Strikes Near a German Wind Farm

Lightning discharges produced by wind turbines   …under certain thunderstorm conditions, wind turbine blades can produce electric discharges at regular intervals of ~3 s in relation to its rotation, over periods of time that range from a few minutes up to hours. This periodic effect has not been observed in static towers indicating that the effect of rotation is playing a critical role. The repeated discharges can occur tens of kilometers away from electrically active thunderstorm areas and may or may not precede a fully developed upward lightning discharge from the turbine. Similar to rockets used for triggering lightning, the fast movement of the blade tip plays an important role on the initiation of the discharge….  Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Triggering Lightning Experiments   …   Very cool experiments you can try at home. Just don’t make any mistakes, or you will become famous in a flash.


ELVES (Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources)   …   Like celestial halos, elves are circles of light that appear some 50 miles or more above thunderstorms. Triggered by lightning flashes far below, these ephemeral discs spread out radially across the bottom of the ionosphere in the briefest instant, expanding up to hundreds of miles in diameter in less than a millisecond. Experts believe elves are caused by lightning processes that accelerate electrons in the lower ionosphere.  [These upper atmosphere phenomena are also referred to as Transient Luminous Events or TLE’s.]

Smartphone app could decipher mysterious gamma-ray bursts from thunderstorms   …   These terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) produce short-lived but immensely powerful bursts of energy that could zap airplane passengers with unhealthy doses of radiation.

…Bowers plans to search for TGFs using GammaPix, an app designed to test for radiation from medical devices, power plants or other environmental sources. …

GammaPix accurately detects radioactive cesium and stood up to a modal-based test of its ability to spot a TGF, Bowers said.

schumann-resonanceSchumann Resonance

At any given moment about 2,000 thunderstorms roll over Earth, producing some 50 flashes of lightning every second. Each lightning burst creates electromagnetic waves that begin to circle around Earth captured between Earth’s surface and a boundary about 60 miles up. Some of the waves – if they have just the right wavelength – combine, increasing in strength, to create a repeating atmospheric heartbeat known as Schumann resonance. This resonance provides a useful tool to analyze Earth’s weather, its electric environment, and to even help determine what types of atoms and molecules exist in Earth’s atmosphere.   

While they’d been predicted in 1952, Schumann resonances were first measured reliably in the early 1960s. Since then, scientists have discovered that variations in the resonances correspond to changes in the seasons, solar activity, activity in Earth’s magnetic environment, in water aerosols in the atmosphere, and other Earth-bound phenomena.

Lightning Research (Physics of the Earth)


 si-guideWatts a Giga?


Volts & Amps, AC & DC, and the Whole Kit & Caboodle


Arc Lamp   The First Form of Electric Light (c. 1800)



Spirit of the Night (Maxfield Parrish)

Edison Mazda Lamps calendar illustration, 1919.

“And even the Spirit of the Night,
Lured from her far and dusky halls,
Follows the gleam that falls
Across her throne,
And comes to wonder and admire
How man has conquered light and fire
And made their radiance his own.”


Shining the light on solar power    …   Every renewable energy project comes with its own complex set of competing environmental concerns. The grand opening of California’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS), the world’s largest solar thermal power plant, on February 13th has thrown a harsh light on just how many issues come into play.

India to build world’s largest solar plant   …   India has pledged to build the world’s most powerful [photovoltaic] solar plant. With a nominal capacity of 4,000 megawatts, comparable to that of four full-size nuclear reactors, the ‘ultra mega’ project will be more than ten times larger than any other solar project built so far, and it will spread over 77 square kilometres of land — greater than the island of Manhattan.  

But the ostensibly green mega-project has been criticized by environmentalists. “We don’t think this should be the way to go ahead,” says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director-general of the think tank Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi. “Feeding 4,000 MW into an already leaking grid where 20% of electricity gets wasted in transmission and distribution losses and [most] ends up feeding the urban centres makes little sense,” he says, adding that less than 50% of Indians living in villages have access to electricity.

  • Question:  How could solar power plants be designed to minimize the area required for installation?

Stacking the deck   …   A way to double the efficiency of solar cells is about to go mainstream 

Solar cells are made of semiconductors, and every type of semiconductor has a property called a band gap that is different from that of other semiconductors. The band gap defines the longest wavelength of light a semiconductor can absorb (it is transparent to longer wavelengths). It also fixes the maximum amount of energy that can be captured from photons of shorter wavelength. The result is that long-wavelength photons are lost and short-wave ones incompletely utilised.

Dr Rogers gets round this by using a different material for each layer of the stack. He chooses his materials so that the bottom of the band gap of the top layer matches the top of the band gap of the one underneath, and so on down the stack. Each layer thus chops off part of the spectrum, converts it efficiently into electrical energy and passes the rest on.

The problem is that the materials needed to make these semiconductors (including arsenic, gallium and indium) are costly. But Dr Rogers has devised a way to overcome this. Normal solar-cell modules are completely covered by semiconductor, but in his only 0.1% of the surface is so covered. The semiconducting stacks, each half a millimetre square, are scattered over that surface as a matrix of dots, meaning that a panel with an area of 125 square metres has half a million of them. Each stack then has a pair of cheap glass lenses mounted over it. These focus the sun’s light onto the stack, meaning that all incident light meets a semiconductor.   

The new panels have aesthetic advantages, too. The 99.9% of them not covered by stacks can be used for art.  [Perhaps the likes of Maxfield Parrish will be employed with decorating these.]

  • Question:  How could electricity generated by solar or wind power plants be stored for later use?

Cheap battery stores energy for a rainy day   …   Quinone could make flow-battery technology competitive with current storage methods.

  • Question:  What technological advances might merge to allow for new methods of electrical power generation?

20,000 megawatts under the sea: Oceanic steam engines   …   Claims for it have certainly been grandiose. In theory, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) could provide 4000 times the world’s energy needs in any given year, with neither pollution nor greenhouse gases to show for it. In the real world, however, it has long been written off as impractical. 

This year, a surprising number of projects are getting under way around the world, helmed not by quixotic visionaries but by hard-nosed pragmatists such as those at aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. So what’s changed?

Electromagnetic launchers: Hurling objects with electrical energy is giving the catapult a new lease of life.   …   Inside the barrel of a railgun are a pair of parallel metal rails and a sliding conductive armature. The armature cradles the projectile to be fired or, in some cases, is the projectile. When electrical energy accumulated in a bank of capacitors is rapidly pulsed into the rail, it creates an instantaneous magnetic field which flings the armature out with explosive force…. A railgun can hurl a slug of metal much farther than artillery can and at speeds far exceeding those of missiles. The slugs destroy things with the force of their impact rather than detonating an explosive warhead.   …   

…the muzzle energy of shots has increased from six to 32 megajoules, enough to hammer targets beyond 160km (99 miles) at more than five times the speed of sound (sound travels at about 1,230kph)….   …

HyperV is, though, making progress with another exotic railgun. Rather than use metal as an armature, the firm strips ions from a few milligrams of argon gas and uses the resulting conductive plasma to transfer electrical energy from one rail to another. In a vacuum it can fire a plasma blob at nearly 150km a second—fast enough to initiate fusion in a deuterium and tritium fuel. HyperV hopes to use it to design the world’s first commercially viable, power-generating fusion reactor.

  • Question:  Who will build and maintain our electricity generating plants and distribution networks?



 Wooden Ladders Don’t Conduct Electricity

Electrician:  Designated Trade Information (SK)   O Sparky,  Where Arc Thou?

And, the benefit of your ears, through the magic of electricity, have a listen to:

Rokia Traore


Wishing you a very good day, with an electricity supply that meets your every need and desire.



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