Of all the authors at the Post Scarcity Alliance, I am probably the most optimistic. I see the technological advances that are occurring and can easily see a promising future of abundance. I marvel at the ability that humans display to solve their problems through applied science and engineering. It is unfortunate that the filed of alternative energy has become so tainted by politics, because finding ways to access the abundant energy resources that our planet enjoys will be an essential growth energy of the post scarcity age.
When people think of alternate energy, they tend to think of expensive photovoltaic panels and big windmills. Very few people are aware of the genetically modified e coli bacteria that are being engineered to produce diesel fuel as part of their metabolic process. I also suspect that very few people know much about atmospheric vortex engines, which harness the thermodynamic properties of tornadoes to produce consumable energy.
An atmospheric vortex engine (AVE) uses a controlled vortex to capture mechanical energy produced when heat is carried upward by convection in the atmosphere. A tornado-like vortex is produced by admitting warm or humid air tangentially into a circular arena. Tangential entries cause the warm moist air to spin as it rises forming an anchored convective vortex. The work of convection is captured with turbines located at ground level around the periphery of the arena. The heat source can be solar energy, warm water or waste heat.
The vortex engine has the same thermodynamic basis as the proven solar chimney except the physical tube of the solar chimney is replaced with centrifugal force. There is no need for a solar collector – The solar collector is the earth’s surface in its unaltered state.
An AVE power station could have a diameter of 200 m and generate 200 MW of electrical power at a cost as low as $0.03/kWh.
Now the full-scale development of this technology might be a long shot, but I choose not to underestimate Peter Thiel:
Breakout Labs, part of the Thiel Foundation that offers grants to bleeding-edge technologies that are a little too wacky for commercial or governmental investment, hasgiven $300,000 to AVEtec. AVEtec (AVE = Atmospheric Vortex Engine), run by Canadian entrepreneur Louis Michaud, is trying to develop a tornado-power add-on for conventional fossil-fuel power stations. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
The libertarian billionaires from Silicon Valley are the pioneers of what will be a future of abundance. Let’s applaud their efforts, which will hopefully move us past the current politically dysfunctional energy policy paradigm. Although, I am going to predict that despite the potential to offer peace of mind to those who are concerned about global warming, if this revolutionary technology is commercialized the environmentalists will find a way to oppose it. To the average environmentalist, harnessing the power of tornados just isn’t as cool as controlling the behavior of others through the state.