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I planned to have a region on my world that is similar to Mordor, as in a place with near constant thunderstorms and lightning strikes, about 30 times per minute at peak for at least 25 hours at night (the world has a rotation period of 60 hours).

The idea came from this specific video by the Artifexian.

Now I was wondering if such a place could be reliably exploited for energy, especially the lightnings that would strike it so frequently.

Would it be advantageous for a late 21st to early 22nd century civilization to establish power plants over there with lightning rods organized in large fields and probably coupled with wind turbines to take advantage of the weather conditions?

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2 Answers 2

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Yes, with the proper technology

Each lightning bolt carries about 5 gigajoules of energy. This means that harvesting the energy from the lightning would yield about 1GW of energy on average. Assuming that your future civilization uses energy at the same (per hour, not per day) rate as US house holds, this could power about 9 million households.

I think there is some what-if question (or maybe in the book) that relates to how hard obtaining energy from lightning is, but if this is figured out in your setting, it would probably be practical to setup such a powerplant, as it would supply as much energy as a nuclear power plant, but without the radioactive waste.

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    $\begingroup$ But it's Mordor. Non-radioactive, green-energy Mordor just isn't in character. Mount Doom would have been much safer surrounded by radioactive waste. Ring-sickness + radiation sickness. Brings a whole new dimension to "The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume." $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    yesterday
  • $\begingroup$ Power of the atmospheric electicity of the whole Earth is about 1 GW - 3,000 times smaller that humanity electric power. It is not really realistic to power even 1 M strong nation. $\endgroup$
    – Vashu
    yesterday
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Surprisingly, there is relatively little energy in a single lightening bolt compared to chemical energy.

5 gigajoules of energy sound like a lot. But a gallon of gas is about 132 mega joules. So if you put it in that perspective a lighting bolt has the energy equivalent of about 35-40 gallons of gas.

To get the 5 gigawatts you would need to capture one bolt per second and have an efficient way to store the energy between bolts.

So it is a nightmare of an engineering problem of where to put the towers, or high powered lasers to ionize the air for the lightening to follow a nice path, and very specialized capacitors to release the energy or maybe convert the energy into something like hydrogen and use it some other form later. As well as how to route the energy between towers to where you want it…

But as a story idea, sure you could set up a ring of towers find ways to direct the lightening to the towers or route the lightening bolts or their energy in plasma channels and have some way to harness the energy.

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