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hurricane power

tap the power
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Hurricanes are like huge heat engines that convert warm oceans and air into winds and waves. The heat released when water vapor condenses into water droplets provides the energy to power a hurricane. In a single day, a hurricane can release the amount of energy necessary to supply all of the United States' electrical needs for about six months.

Damage caused by hurricanes can be divided into three types:
storm surge,
wind damage,
inland freshwater flooding

Tap the heretofore wasted power those surges, winds and freshwater floodings produce by means of transportable and really, really, really, really, really reliable equipment.
thumbwax, May 25 2002

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       I independently thought of this a while back. Knowing that the damage-power of hurricanes is mostly in its winds, I dreamed up the idea of building a kind of raft about 300 kilometers on a side, in the middle of the ocean, and covered with windmills. This raft would have to have an "open" structure, to allow sunlight to reach ocean surface to evaporate water. The raft would need the stored onboard power to move itself toward the nearest hurricane, as determined by satellite. Obviously it would intercept and convert a tremendous amount of wind into electricity. If the "open" design of the raft was like a bunch of connected floats, then mechanical linkages between the floats would be moved by wave action, and even more electricity could be generated. The raft will also intercept a large amount of rain, which could simply be caught and stored as fresh water. Electricity applied to water will generate hydrogen; at intervals ships would dock with the raft to carry away both fresh water and hydrogen fuel. The raft could be built small (say 1 kilometer square at first), and be kept under construction, even while doing its job, for howver-long it takes. That 300-km final size is about the same size as many whole hurricanes. I suspect the raft would extract so much energy so fast that every hurricate it encounters would die before ever making landfall.
Vernon, May 26 2002

       A 300 km disc with vanes rotating above another with keels would create some real torque; just see that you don't stick "hur" in the eye or she might turn into a heated "psyclone".
FarmerJohn, May 26 2002

       As Vernon and UnaBubba point out - It's a win/wind situation
thumbwax, May 26 2002

       Imagine the fallout damage a terrorist could do by detonating a nuclear device in the northeast corner of a hurricane as it makes landfall. Wouldn't even have to get it past anybody's security forces, either. Just park a boat in international waters.
beauxeault, May 26 2002

       Quick! decrease the font size on your computer! Then they might not notice it!
yamahito, May 26 2002

       UnaBubba, the sneaky thing here is that for a wind to reach 200KPH in the first place, it has to take time and space in which to accelerate. That space is the body of the hurricane. If the raft met the storm when it was still at tropical stage, or even sooner, the windmills would be extracting energy from the winds as fast as they could acquire it from the condensation of water vapor to rain. This means not much stress would be placed on any of the windmills.   

       And, if the windmills were SMALL enough, they would be robust enough to take on full-force hurricane winds. Sheer numbers of small windmills can extract as much energy as fewer numbers of large ones.   

       P.S. I need to mention that there is an alternative proposal to extracting hurricane energy, which I read about a few years ago in ANALOG Science Fiction/Fact magazine. The Article was titled, "Defeating the Son of Andrew", but I don't recall which issue it was in. In that proposal, the author suggests a tall conical tower (thousands of feet high, and even wider at the base). He said that if this tower was "pumped" a bit to encourage the rising of humid air, then a self-sustaining wind system would form in the tower, and energy could be extracted turbine-fashion (and lots of fresh water, too). Personally, I didn't think it would work quite the way he described it. Warm rising air EXPANDS after all, so I think his tower needed to be turned upside down before it could work like he said.
Vernon, May 26 2002

       Vernon - remember that air expanding is the cause of it rising, as well as differential air pressure. Wouldn't that make more of a difference?
yamahito, May 26 2002

       Without having a way to store this harvested energy, what good is it?
bristolz, May 26 2002

       Actually, if you could do the reverse - untap all the energy in a hurricane and disperse it harmlessly - I think various nations would pay you a *lot* of money.
DrCurry, May 27 2002

       yamahito, since that original conical design is smaller at the top than at the bottom, the expansion of the rising air would be severely inhibited. But put the small end of the cone down, and air can both rise and expand freely. (As long as a steady supply of warm humid air enters the base of the cone, a literal tornado may perpetually exist in the cone.)   

       bristolz, I specifically described electrolyzing water and shipping out hydrogen. You should have been able to deduce on-raft hydrogen storage from that.   

       UnaBubba, sorry, I meant smaller windmill blades, not smaller towers. Obviously because you are right about the high-altitude winds, the raft should support high towers, with lots cross-bracing and lots of windmills on each. (The "Wind Motel" -- winds go in but don't come out!)   

       DrCurry, preventing a hurricane at the simplest level means preventing condensation of water (rainfall). I suspect many nations would not like that. (Since planetary rotation and Coriolis effects are behind the circulating-wind pattern of hurricanes, stopping the Earth's spin to prevent that aspect of hurricanes wouldn't be such a good idea, either.)
Vernon, May 27 2002

       //, a hurricane can release the amount of energy necessary to supply all of the United States' electrical needs for about six months.//   

       Which reminds me....I heard on the radio that if you could harness all the energy from all the sex had in one night in NY, you could light the entire US for one week.
Helium, May 27 2002

       Surely not:   

       Say 5 million people averaging one hour at 300 calories each = 1500000000 calories   

       Which is 6280 Mjoules per hour.   

       Which is roughly 1.74 MW   

       ...and that's not enough for a small town.   

       Or am I not doing it right?
drew, May 27 2002

       It's never that warm around here.   

       On the other hand, perhaps I misunderstood the energy source - if one includes all the meals cooked, candles, music, hot water to clean out the nooks and crannies etc... Not to mention all the woik required to finance the liasons, then it's a whole different ball game. As it were.
drew, May 27 2002

       I thought that was what the halfbakery did ;op
yamahito, May 27 2002

       I have no idea where they get those kind of statistics from, they probably dream them up to improve their ratings....on the other hand...I may never look at a NYer in the same way again.
Helium, May 27 2002

       we did sexual harnesses already and look where it got us.
po, May 27 2002

       shaken, not stirred.
po, May 27 2002

       Re: Approach of Hurricane Isabel -- Looks like a bunch of Americans might be wishing this idea had been baked!
Vernon, Sep 16 2003

       The problem here is how to store all that energy, I'm sure one could device means to turn wind energy from hurricanes into usable, say electric engery, but how in the world are you going to store or even transport that energy?
tedhaubrich, May 26 2004

       [tedhaubrich], the first annotation here indicates that the electricity can be applied to water (plenty right there under the raft), to generate hydrogen, which is stored for shipment.
Vernon, May 26 2004

       Is it time to ask Vernon how we're supposed to store all this energy again? I think he's got a point with stopping the hurricane while it's at tropical storm stage.   

       I also think that if we put funnels atop the turbine towers,we can collect the rain water there, and send it through generators on the way down.
ye_river_xiv, May 01 2007


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