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luni, 11 martie 2013

Harnessing the power of a tornado

Back in 2007, we here at DVICE reported an interest in energy derived from tornados. Well, that idea has become more concrete over the years, and now Peter Thiel (founder of PayPal and early Facebook funder) has, through his Breakout Labs fund, given $300,000 to a Canadian company called AVEtec. That money is to work on designs and prototypes for “atmospheric vortex energy.”

Which means what, exactly? Not like you can just tap a tornado and go for it. Well, the basic idea is there would be a circular chamber into which warm air is released at tangential angels. This would create a rising cortex that is controlled by the colder air above the chamber. Turbines at the base of the chamber would spin and bam, there you have an artificial tornado.

The predictions, as of now, are that a 200-meter wide version of this baby could generate 200 watts of energy at 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, cheaper than anything we have now.

As an added benefit for this system, the heat source for creating these tornados could be fossil fuel power plants. Most coal and natural gas plants operate at a fairly low efficiency, losing power as waste heat. In fact, a study found that 68 percent of energy in electricity generation in 2011 was wasted energy.

Is it a stretch? There’s no telling, really, but here’s something I never thought I’d write: all signs point toward a brighter, tornado-filled tomorrow.

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