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Snow harvesting infrastructure

Gather snow for fun and profit.
  [vote for,

In the (for the most part) temperate climes of the UK, the country grinds to a halt once every few years when a moderate snowfall occurs.
It is because of the rarity of the event that this happens - it isn't worth the infrastructure required to deal with this relatively rare event.

The major issue is repeated or significant snowfall on roads preventing vehicle progress[1] by exceeding the authorities attempts to clear it. The usual approach is to 'grit' the roads with a mixture of salt and sand. However, I propose that we instead turn this issue into a small business opportunity.

Subsidies should be made available for house-owners on every street to set up a snow-clearing business. Snow of over a derisory amount would be collected and tipped into large covered pits built for the purpose. These would be built under front gardens, in empty lots, accessible back-gardens or the centres of roundabouts - there are many potential sites in most urban areas.

The snow is likely to be too dirty for most uses, however I can think of two. Depending on the nature of the storage pit, acquired snow would either be stored until summer, then used for power generation (perhaps involving a large Stirling motor), or simply for refrigeration purposes (effectively a modern ice house). Either way, as the snow melts it can be released slowly to drain away.

The money currently used to buy, maintain and store snow-ploughs and salt could be turned over in part to subsidising this snow collection, in built-up areas at least. Minor changes in the law might enable people to take time off their main work to help with this effort.

One important consideration is size - the larger the amount of collected snow, the lower the proportional rate of loss due to heat-gain from the environment. On the other hand, the larger the catchment area, the further snow must be transported.

This does decentralise snow clearing - which might be a good thing, since each community is more responsible for its own welfare. Given some freedom to act, a great variety of inventive systems and uses for snow might be made. Some pit-owners may hire people to collect snow, others may just pay by the barrow-load. Still other communities may form a communal system for mutual benefit.

In any case, the roads would be cleared in an environmentally friendly manner, and a new resource would be created.

[1] Pedestrians are currently left to fend for themselves.

Loris, May 17 2010

Ice pond refinement Ice_20Pond_20Refinement
[mouseposture, May 18 2010]

Thought that sounded familiar Snow_20power
[FlyingToaster, May 18 2010]


       For a storage-pit you can have it drain into the same tank as rain runoff.
FlyingToaster, May 18 2010

       the snow here (near Wash. D.C.) gets so dirty and bound inside the gravel and dirt it becomes a pykrete of sorts and does not melt as fast. I think this application would work well for the creation of storage huts.
dentworth, May 18 2010


       I wonder, if depots were paying by the barrowload, if you'd get collectors fighting over stretches of uncleared roads...
MaxwellBuchanan, May 18 2010

       the problem then becomes moving all the snow to the snow cistern. operating a wheel barrow or snow shovel is okay for a few feet but anything more strenuous and you might as well use a full sized plow.   

       Also snow isn't as dense as liquid water. Anyone who has been to a parking lot of a large building after a snow fall can attest to the sizes that snow piles become. If you tried to store a season's worth of snow in pits they would have to become quite large.   

       Probably takes more energy expenditure to build and put the snow in pits then could be recovered using them as giant ice boxes for the summer.
metarinka, May 18 2010

       Snow might not be as dense as water, but if it's being stored in a fairly deep/tall container, the bottommost snow will be compacted by gravity into ice.
goldbb, May 18 2010

       [metarinka] Consider that a large part of the energy expenditure is already spent in clearing the snow out of the way. On a household level, the homeowner could install their snow cistern or cellar beside or at the end of their driveway, perhaps under the garage. This would minimise the extra energy spent to transport the snow compared to simply piling it beside the drive.   

       However I think your point has more relevance at the municipal level descibed in the original proposal. Perhaps a continuous linear snow cellar could be built under the road itself, and a heat exchange fluid circulated through it in summer. Transport the mass the shortest distance possible, and use pumped fluid to retrieve the coldth on demand.   

       [goldbb] Ice, though denser than snow, is also less dense than water.
BunsenHoneydew, May 20 2010

       //under the garage// There's quite a definitive beer cooler idea there, with maybe a side order of faux ice-fishing.
FlyingToaster, May 21 2010

       //legal tender//
Considering it's over 30C this weekend... Canada... in May... it's at least going to become a valuable commodity.
FlyingToaster, May 27 2016


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