The best of both worlds: wind turbines shooting lightning into a storm

This is a seriously cool phenomenon: wind turbines in the centre of a lightning storm are actually shooting lightning bolts back into the sky.

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Lightning is caused by a build-up of static electricity in the clouds, creating a difference in charge between the negatively-charged clouds and the neutral Earth. Eventually, something has to give and an incredibly hot burst of charged particles rushes from one to another, tearing apart the atmosphere on its way down. The key point to note, though, is that this bolt can run in either direction, up or down.

So tall structures can actually shoot lightning up into the clouds – and this includes wind turbines that have been strategically placed on top of hills to catch the most wind. What makes this fantastic is that the wind turbines are still spinning, so their highest point above ground is constantly changing as the lightning is discharged.

However, this stunning display does damage the turbines, meaning that they might need to be lightning-proofed in future.

[Source and image: Gizmodo, original article and video on Wiley Online]

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3 comments

  1. An atmospheric scientist I know told me that the electric charge that is discharged in a lightning bolt comes from a volume of many cubic kilometres of cloud, which I think is kind of impressive.

    • Very impressive! I love how truly awesome nature is sometimes.

      Thanks for the Twitter share and for adding me to the Physics blogroll by the way, very much appreciated 🙂

  2. Pingback: Ball lightning observed in nature for the first time | Jabberwacky

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