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Lightning, orange skies, forest fires... and power?

One of the shots Vida Morkunas used in her amazing animated GIF of last Saturday's electrical storm.

Posted by Rob Klovance

Many Vancouverites, new and old, called it one of the most spectacular electrical storms they'd ever seen in this city. And the shocking, apocalyptic orange glow of the pre-fireworks sunset was the most breathtaking in memory.

The bad news, of course, is that when lightning strikes tinder-dry forests, fires erupt. The count after Saturday's light show was at least 100 new fires across B.C. And as we head into a busy long weekend, even with campfire bans in effect just about everywhere, we'll all have to be extra careful in the forests and grasslands of this province.

The good news out of Saturday was the show itself and the abundance of amazing photography that resulted. And at or near the top of the list has to be the animated GIF produced on Flickr by amateur photographer Vida Morkunas, a contract project manager with BC Hydro. Prepare to be blown away by Vida's show, which shows a series of lightning strikes in succession – make sure you scroll down the page to the animated image – taken from Vida's very-Power Smart Yaletown apartment.

Can lightning be harnessed as power?

In the wake of Saturday's show, I couldn't help but wonder whether anyone has devised a way to effectively harness power from lightning strikes. That search took me to a cool online discussion on www.whynot.net that began in April, 2004 and continues into 2009.

A whole lot of Big Brains have weighed in on the "electricity from lightning" discussion, with the consensus seeming to be that conventional technologies just can't contain the extraordinary amount of electricity generated. One post says that one lightning strike contains enough energy to power a small city for one year.

Others discuss the possibility of directing lightning into a huge body of water, splitting the water into hydrogen and oxygen gases, then recombining them as energy.

There still seems to be an enormous amount of thought dedicated to the possibility, and experiments are ongoing. I'll bet on a solution appearing a year or two before the Toronto Maple Leafs win another Stanley Cup.

In the meantime, join Team Power Smart and do what you can to conserve electricity.

Rob Klovance is managing editor of bchydro.com