6 Unusual Alternative Energy Sources

(ref: Uncle John’s Certified Organic Bathroom Reader, pg. 73)

Desperate times can call for desperate measures and our need to find new ways to meet the demands of our insatiable energy appetite has resulted in some unusual (to say the least) ideas.

  1. Tornadoes — Canadian engineer Louis Micahaud has patented a "vortex engine". The plan (on paper anyway) involves creating essentially a controlled tornado 650 ft in diameter and between 1 to 12 miles high. It could power up to 200,000 homes.
  2. Beer — Since 2005, California brewer Sierra Nevada has been powering its brewery on a mixture of natural gas and methane (which is a by-product from the water-treatment process that the brewery uses).
  3. Miniature nuclear power generators — Hyperion Power Generation markets a nuclear reactor about the size of a hot tub. Designed to be buried underground, Hyperion claims that it can fuel 20,000 homes for up to a decade.
  4. Lasers — To get around the problem of solar cells not being very useful when the sun isn’t available (e.g. at night), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Osaka University are planning to build solar collectors 22,000 miles above the Earth and use lasers to beam the energy back to surface stations. The hope is to deploy these by 2030.
  5. Trees — In 2006, MIT scientists discovered that there’s a slight pH imbalance between a tree and its surrounding soil which can cause a small amount of electricity to be generated. A company called Voltree is planning to use this as a potential energy source.
  6. Japanese commuters — In 2008, the East Japan Railway Corporation tested a power-generating floor at the ticket gates in Tokyo train stations. Basically, the floor contains discs made of piezoelectric material that converts vibrations into electricity. Apparently, through the millions of people who walk through the station each day, enough energy is generated to power the computer displays and ticket machines at the stations.

Learn lots of other stuff you didn’t even realize you needed to know in Uncle John’s Certified Organic Bathroom Reader.


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