Friday, September 14, 2007

Energy from Unusual Sources

From BusinessWeek (Special Report):

A slew of entrepreneurs are looking well beyond sunlight and wind. Think: tornadoes, algae, giant kites, and lightning

Chances are that Louis Michaud is one of very few people who spend their days trying to make tornadoes. A year ago, the retired petrochemical engineer put together what looked a bit like a high-tech kiddie swimming pool. Only rather than splashes, this pool tends to generate twisters about as high as the garage.

Michaud is shopping this prototype around to energy companies, hoping to get funding to build a tornado pool the size of a sports arena. The plan is to use warm air expelled by, say, the cooling system of a nuclear power plant, to create tornadoes that stretch up to 9 miles high, spinning turbines to generate electricity. Michaud figures that such a tornado could generate as much power as a nuclear plant (BusinessWeek, 6/26/07), though he allows that his idea is "the type of thing that's outside the norm."

But as the nation hunts for ways to reduce both pollution and U.S. dependence on foreign oil, outside the norm is exactly where many entrepreneurs are poking for inspiration. With prices for traditional fuels still riding high, it's more economically feasible to pursue potential energy sources that might otherwise appear to be "way out there," from algae and huge kites to lightning bolts....Much More

Green Tech