Nigerian engineer reckons he can end power outages by harnessing lightning for electricity

by | Jun 9, 2017

Power has been a major issue for decades in Nigeria and we are yet to get a solution. Before now, the general expectation was that the privatisation and deregulation of the power sector would usher in a lasting solution to the power outage. That is however not that case.

Power generation in Nigeria currently peaks at 2,662 megawatts, which is far from what a single state in the United State generates. This is poor and the resulting damage has crippled businesses over time.

We are all aware of these problems, but instead of complaining, Obayagbona Emmanuel Imafidonan, an Electrical Engineering graduate from the Institute of Management and Technology in Enugu, has chosen to find a solution.

Obayagbona Emmanuel Imafidon developed a power-generating device that, according to him “can end blackout in Nigeria”. He plans to convert lightning to electricity.

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Imafidon pix 1 4 17

Obayagbona Emmanuel Imafidonan. Photo Credit: LAWRENCE NJOKU

How feasible is a lightning power generator?

In this interview with The Guardian, Obayagbona details how feasible his solution is.

“I have been researching on generating constant power from thunder lightning. That is using a strike of thunder lightning to generate power that can serve Nigeria and Africa for five years and 30 days. That means that whenever thunder strikes for once, we are sure of uninterrupted power for five years and thirty days.

Thunderstorms generate a potential difference of 200 kilo-volts (KV) to 500KV between the earth’s surface and the ionosphere, with a fair weather current of about 2×10-12 amperes/square-metre. In simple English, that’s enough to power a 60-watt light bulb for six months.

While it is possible to use lightning from a thunderstorm as a source of energy, the only concern would be how to store and then step it down for consumption. This will require a large capacitor that can charge up instantly when the lightning strikes, then slowly and steadily let out the power.

Obayagbona claims that his device can store up to 25 mega-volts (MV). However, it is only efficient enough to output 20% (5MV) of that for power generation:

“The conversion zone takes one mega-volt at a time, send signals to other sensory zones which shut down other sensory zones from discharging at the same time. Now the transmission zone of the power generating plant will step down the mega-volt to whatever Nigerians need.

Nigeria currently generates 330,000 volts, but my device can generate 5 million volts, give Nigerians their 330 KV and still have about 4,670,000 volts left as reserve.”

The reality

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The challenges in Nigeria’s power sector are multi-dimensional and currently, there is a backlog of several issues from the past. Just last year, the country suffered a nationwide blackout as the national grid totally collapsed on March 31, 2016

In finding a lasting solution, a few more questions arise. Does the solution to Nigeria’s power problems really lie in finding more ways for sourcing energy? Is it rather a problem of distribution or maintenance? How much of the deregulation of the power sector has been done? Are we fully utilising the current sources of energy in the first place? Is it a matter of policies? Are we our own problem(If you know what I mean)?

Ambitious as Obayagbona’s solution is, if he is going to pull it off, key stakeholders in the power sector will have to play a significant role. The government needs to find a way to ascertain feasibility by encouraging him with funding for research. The NSE (Nigeria Society of Engineers) needs to rally round one of their own to see this project to fruition as well. Because if we can find a solution to the lingering problem of power, Nigeria will be better for it

How much electricity do you get daily and what do you think about Obayagbona’s solution?

Drop your comments below; I’d like to hear from you.

Nifemi Akinwamide
Nifemi Akinwamide

Building interesting stuff at Kudi.

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sholijay
sholijay
4 years ago

How on earth can he be contemplating storing millions of mega watts of electrical power in a capacitor?

One problem is that a capacitor discharges very fast although it can be controlled through circuitry. Another problem is that it takes a lot of space for a capacitor to store a lot of energy compared to a different type of storage medium like a battery.

So when you look at the space needed for storage based on the energy density to support your needs along with the circuitry to control the discharge it starts to become very impractical as a long term energy storage system. Even if cost wasn’t a problem.

Capacitors only have one battery like characteristic in that they can be charged and discharged extremely fast. That’s it. . Their energy density make them completely useless for energy storage. Lead acid batteries energy density is high enough at 50 wh/Kg, a capacitor is piss poor at 10 wh/Kg. Not even remotely close to the 200 wh/Kg needed to be useful in energy storage and EV’s.

Lastly how are you going to get the high voltages and large capacitance. Power does not add when you string capacitors in series. It divides You do not have to be a genius to figure out that completely eliminates them as power storage.

If was spending my money on research it would be in battery chemistry that is low cost and high energy density than in a capacitor design.

Signal Net
Signal Net
Reply to  sholijay
4 years ago

Well you’re right anyway but don’t be too hard on the guy his thinking is in the right direction. The right direction which is natural power solutions. Although he is really needs to be careful playing around with such voltages without proper funding for space things could go south really fast

Akinwamide Nifemi
Akinwamide Nifemi
Reply to  Signal Net
4 years ago

You are absolutely right Signal Net, he needs to be careful before the unthinkable happens. Meanwhile, how often do you have access to light daily and what do you think is wrong with our power sector in general?

Powerlessconscious
Powerlessconscious
Reply to  Akinwamide Nifemi
4 years ago

The problem with the power sector is both political and system of operation. The political aspect must be solved first and new system of operation is adopted.

POLITICAL:
The sources of generating electricity are gas, coal, wind, solar biomass etc. Among these, the cheapest is gas and Nigeria have gas in abundance. But the politics sabotage gas supply to generating plants by sponsoring groups to vandalize gas pipes so that generator investors can sell. The problem of gas supply must be solved.

SYSTEM OF OPERATION:
If the gas supply is solved, there is need to DECENTRALISED power generation and supply. National grid is not ideal for Nigeria. They don’t practice that in most develop countries. Let investors build their plant at a states or region they want to supply and supply only that state or region. Government only need to build a gas pipe to the plant so that the investor can supply power to consumers in his area.

When power supply is decentralised, sabotage will reduce or vanish.

The third one is power plant should not be far away from gas supply.

If these steps are follow, Nigeria will achieve stable power supply.

Akinwamide Nifemi
Akinwamide Nifemi
Reply to  sholijay
4 years ago

Thanks Sholijay for breaking it down, I think he still has a lot of work to be done to perfect his claims. Meanwhile, how often do you have access to light daily and what do you think is wrong with our power sector in general?

sholijay
sholijay
Reply to  Akinwamide Nifemi
4 years ago

I have been without grid power for 4 days now and the grid power supply in my area is quite bad. The only way to fix our power supply is to review the un-bundling of PHCN that was done by the previous administration. There are so many issues that was not well thought of before the sales of the un-bundled assets, many of the buyers are only interested in profits and not good service delivery. The fact that majority of the consumers do not have pre paid meters says it all. Affordable renewable energy source might just be the solution for consumers to reduce the cost of generating their own electricity.

Life is Good
Life is Good
Reply to  sholijay
4 years ago

Spot on.
Sometimes we need to caution our ambitious inventors that the American researchers are never in bed cos of their ambition to end fossil fuel dependency. Inventors should always get their Physics right first before shouting Eureka. Also they should research on what others have done before thinking they were ahead. The other day I heard of a secondary school student inventing a simless phone that will work without any network. Whats the physics behind that? I’ve been wondering about it since and that was the last time I heard about the guy. Inventions are NOT ideas rather an Idea that is successfully turned to reality is an invention.

o_niran
o_niran
4 years ago

For anyone to believe him, he first need to put it to test, we just don’t want to hear theories and theories, you have the equipment, why not set one up, you don’t need to power a whole state, power your room or house first, make a video about it, and then post it on YouTube.
To be sincere i really want to see you taming a lighting bolt King Zeus.

Akinwamide Nifemi
Akinwamide Nifemi
Reply to  o_niran
4 years ago

You are spot on Niran.O. However, he needs all the help he can get to achieve his goals. On asking him to try and power his room first; don’t you think the power will be too much for a room? Lol

Akinwamide Nifemi
Akinwamide Nifemi
Reply to  Akinwamide Nifemi
4 years ago

Meanwhile, how often do you have access to light daily and what do you think is wrong with our power sector in general?

Oluseyi Akinkugbe
Oluseyi Akinkugbe
4 years ago

Hmm, there is a basic fundamental question which has not been asked or even answered, how on earth does he intended to predict where lighting is going to strike? Lighting strike is very random and unless you know exactly where it would strike he could end up spending a lot of time and effort just trying to place his equipment to capture it. Seems like he has focused on just one part of the problem and not considered the first.

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