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Hurricane Power (2)

Combining some ideas posted elsewhere
  [vote for,

Originally posted years ago in annotations to the original "Hurricane Power" Idea (linked), I've finally decided these two notions can stand on their own --except I'm still keeping them together here, just to make the title punny.

Another reason to reiterate these Ideas has to do with a recently publicized plan by Bill Gates (of Microsoft fame) to fight hurricanes by sucking cold water from the ocean bottom, and using the cold temperature. I think that is a bad idea for two reasons. First, cold water holds more CO2 than warm water; there is a LOT of CO2 at the ocean bottom that would get pumped to the surface, warmed (if we use cold water to cool air, the water gets warmer!) --and then released into the air by that project. The extra CO2 then increases global warming and in turn increases hurricane activity. Talk about an idea that backfires! Second, "cold" is a resource. It is in limited supply. Anyone who disagrees should be reminded of the old outdated notions that there was unlimited air to pollute, unlimited water to pollute, unlimited trees to cut down, unlimited oil upon which to become technologically dependent, and so on. If we become dependent on THIS resource, and then use it up fighting one aspect of global warming, we will be toast. Almost literally. Better to find other ways to deal with global warming and, specifically, hurricanes.


While the title of this Idea specifies "hurricanes", which occur in the Atlantic Ocean, please remember that in the Pacific Ocean the same type of storm is often called a "typhoon", and in the Indian Ocean it is usually called a "cyclone". They are all the same, as far as these Ideas are concerned.

The first Idea is to build a huge huge raft in the middle of the ocean, maybe 300 kilometers in diameter, with lots and lots of windmills on it. See my "Pile Driving the Oceans" Idea (linked) for details on constructing something that should be able to stand up to the weather. Then "simply" (heh) move the raft to intercept a storm, and start sucking power from it.

Having had time to think about this over the years, it is possible that many small rafts, each say 1km in diameter, would be better. More maneuverable they would be, of course! The MINIMUM diameter of such a raft should be something that ensures not even an exceptionally large rogue wave would be able to tip it --the "pile" construction specified actually helps this considerably, by allowing waves to pass between the piles.

As mentioned in the original annotations, these rafts should also collect rainwater; fresh water is becoming more and more valuable these days. The "pile" constuction helps with this, too. Each pile is a hollow tube that can hold water. The longer the (empty) piles, the higher the whole raft rides above the water (and the windmills get to intercept higher-velocity winds, too). As fresh water is stored inside the piles, the raft lowers, becoming more stable and resistant to increasing wind speed --it is unreasonable to think one can actually extract so much energy from a hurricane to prevent it from growing, simply because even if the windmills are 500 meters high, the STORM is multi-kilometers high.

We don't want to completely fill the piles with water, of course (duh, the raft would sink!), which means that the rest of the space inside the hollow tubes can store hydrogen gas. This gas would be generated by electrolysis from water (plenty available in the ocean) using electricity from the windmills. When the storm is over, ships can come to haul the gas and water to shore.

The second Idea here is about extracting hurricane power BEFORE the hurricane arrives. I reiterate, as I stated in the original annotation, that this Idea is a variant of something that was published in "Analog Science Fiction/Fact" magazine several years ago. The article was titled, "Defeating the Son of Andrew", and a Web search indicates the issue was Feburary of 1994 (OK, more than merely "several" years ago).

The Idea notes that the "fuel" for a hurricane is warm humid air. The dynamics of the storm causes the air to rise and the humidity to condense, as the rising air cools. There is a "heat of condensation", a considerable amount of energy, that is released in the process. This energy drives the winds of the storm.

It should be apparent that if a volume of warm humid air has its potential heat-of-condensation energy extracted from it before a hurricane arrives in the area, then the hurricane will be deprived of that much fuel and will lessen in strength. So, the more air we can affect in that way, the more a hurricane will effectively be prevented.

Now, how to do that? The original "Analog" article described building a tall cone, shaped not unlike a volcano, a thousand or more meters high, and forcing air inside the cone to come out of its narrow top. The air in the cone thus rises and supposedly cools, with condensation the result. The wide base of the cone is open to allow more air to enter, of course.

I'm pretty sure that design has a major flaw; the cone needs to be turned upside down. That's because rising air needs to EXPAND in order to become cooler, and a cone that narrows at the top won't allow that to happen. A cone that has a narrow base and a wide top should work perfectly, however.

I will call this thing a "Tornado Tower", because that's what it will look like, and also because that's what will be happening inside it! --(described below). Tornadoes, after all, are called "funnel clouds" for a reason; a funnel is mostly a cone-shape, of course. And, like a hurricane, a tornado is powered by warm humid air; indeed, tornadoes are often spawned by hurricanes.

When a Tornado Tower is built, it will need a lot of support struts to keep the cone from falling over, and we still want it to be very tall. Heh, the struts would cause it to imitate the original cone-shape of the "Analog" article! But only the supported cone actually has a solid wall, remember. Since it will be too big to move, we want to build it in a place that has a lot of warm humid days during the year. Most such places are likely to be completely off-shore. Perhaps, if mass-manufacturing can bring the cost down, to build them, they can be put in lesser locations. In the United States, a region called "Tornado Alley" is ideal in the summertime (lots of tornado fuel leads to lots of tornadoes, see?). In the winter there, though, an immobile Tornado Tower will just be taking up space.

On a warm humid day we activate the Tornado Tower by running fans that blow air into its base and out its top. Once the main action gets going, we will be able to turn those fans off. We especially want the air in the tower to circulate along the wall of the cone as it rises. As previously mentioned, the rising air is able to expand and cool, and water will condense. The rotating air will encourage that water to fall onto the cone, making it easy to collect (it's fresh rain water, after all!). The energy released by the condensing water will encourage the moving air to keep moving, and even rotate faster.

The initiation fans can now be turned off, and turbines inside the cone can now extract power. This man-made tornado will continue for as long as plenty of warm humid air can feed it. I've worried about the size of the opening at the base of a Tornado Tower, and how to ensure enough air enters it, to keep it running. On a day that is not windy, OUTSIDE the Tower, this could be quite problematic. One semi-solution involves making the actual cone-wall of the Tower out of flexible flaps. If the man-made tornado inside the Tower has enough suction, then it can pull open some of the flaps and allow more air to enter.

Vernon, Jul 21 2009

Hurricane Power hurricane_20power
The original Idea [Vernon, Jul 21 2009]

Pile Driving the Oceans Pile_20Driving_20the_20Oceans
As mentioned in the main text [Vernon, Jul 21 2009]

Tornado Alley http://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Tornado_Alley
As mentioned in the main text [Vernon, Jul 21 2009]

Rogue Wave http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogue_wave
Just in case you don't know what one is. [Vernon, Jul 21 2009]

1982 prototype Solar Updraft Tower http://en.wikipedia...Solar_updraft_tower
50KW wind turbines powered by air sucked into base of huge hollow tower [wbeaty, Sep 11 2009]

Solar downdraft tower http://en.wikipedia...y_tower_(downdraft)
Wind turbines powered by water-cooled air falling down inside huge hollow tower [wbeaty, Sep 11 2009]


       Well, it does have paragraph breaks.
normzone, Jul 21 2009

       // recently publicized plan by Bill Gates //
We're doomed.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jul 21 2009

       When the system crashes, do we get the blue ocean of death?
normzone, Jul 21 2009

       //many small rafts, each say 1km in diameter, would be better// Therein lies the rub, mehearties!
4whom, Jul 21 2009

       and BTW, your upside down cone is, in fact, Ma Nature's vortex...
4whom, Jul 21 2009

       After perusing a few cyclone diagrams, I think the area of interest may be shaped like a martini glass - a flattish upward pointing cone joined by a tube to a steeper downward pointing cone.   

       If you suspend a longish metal tube over an open fire, it's possible to get a fairly strong chimney effect, but it's not very stable, as there is a path of nearly equal resistance outside the tube. Likewise, there will be a strong tendency for your captive cyclone to escape, and you may need the upward pointing cone after all and perhaps the entire martini glass structure.
spidermother, Jul 22 2009


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