Harvesting energy: The power of tornadoes

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AVEtec has been awarded an approximately $350,000 grant from Breakout Labs and the Thiel Foundation to promote innovation in science and technology, in this case harnessing clean energy.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

AVEtec's proposal is to harness the power of atmospheric vortexes (tornadoes).

The Atmospheric Vortex Engine (AVE) produces inexpensive and clean energy by harnessing the physics of tornados. By design, warm or humid air is introduced into a circular station where it takes the form of a rising vortex (i.e., a controlled tornado). The temperature difference between the heated air and the atmosphere supports the vortex and drives multiple turbines. The vortex can be shut down at any time by turning off the source of warm air.

According to AVEtec founder Louis Michaud's website, 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, as the solar collector is the earth's surface in its unaltered state.

Michaud also contends on his website that if an enormous amount of energy stored in the latent heat of water vapor and the stored heat content in tropical ocean waters could be released and completely depleted, they would be completely replenished by solar energy from the sun in 10 days and 100 days, respectively.

AVEtec projects that the cost of the energy it generates could be as low as $0.03 per kilowatt hour, making it one of the least expensive forms of energy production. An AVE power station could have a diameter of 100 meters and generate 200 MW of electrical power, the same order of magnitude as conventional coal power stations.

AVE power generation has many benefits outside of its low cost, among them: AVE doesn't generate emissions or need energy storage.

"The power in a tornado is undisputed. My work has established the principles by which we can control and exploit that power to provide clean energy on an unprecedented scale," said Michaud. "With the funding from Breakout Labs, we are building a prototype in partnership with Lambton College to demonstrate the feasibility and the safety of the atmospheric vortex engine."

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