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Electricity Generation ideas

Requested in Science & Technology by a contributor
edited by Dreamer

4 Ideas

0 votes
Electric Wheels

A semi-trailer truck driving down the interstate is riding on top of 5 turbines, its axles, wasting all the energy they produce as it goes. There should be some way to recapture a little of that energy.

For instance, picture two metal rings, one inside the other, with a layer of bearings between each. The inside ring would have a magnet attached to it and be clamped to the center of a wheel's rim, forcing it to spin at the same rate as the wheel. The second ring would have a coil around the bottom half of it and be weighted to keep it from rolling when the inner ring rolled. This device, an electromagnet, would generate electricity whenever the truck was in motion. Sticking one on each rim would give you 10 generators.

The electricity from these generators could be used for several things, ranging from the simple to the far-fetched.
A. Instead of keeping the engine running to keep the coolers running when a refrigerated truck is stopped, the coolers could be powered by batteries which would be continually recharged every time the truck moves. This would result in a net fuel savings.
B. An electric wheel could be added to the truck. This wheel would kick in when the truck was going fast enough for the generators to keep it turning. With it helping to push the truck along, less conventional fuel should be needed.
C. The electricity could be stored in batteries which would then be discharged at a truck stop in exchange for some sort of energy credit (a discount on fuel for example). If the discharge process converted the energy from the batteries into microwaves it would be a win-win situation for both the trucking company and the truck stop.
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Making Money from Noise

In the US there are 39 states that now require utilities to allow net-metering, meaning they have to let companies put electricity back into the grid and pay them for it. Not long ago I was taking a tour through one of our company's factories and got into a discussion with one of the supervisors about the huge amount of noise out on the plant floor. We looked into possible ways to take advantage of it and thought some system based on a dynamic microphone might work (dynamic microphones convert sound into electrical energy when the sound waves push against a diaphragm, moving a coil back and forth over a magnet). Passive amplifiers could have even been added to boost the decibel level and resulting power. Unfortunately the plant was shut down before we could do any tests.

There are other places where this line of thinking might turn out to be profitable though. Planes for instance. 747's have a big auxiliary power unit (APU) in the rear that produces electricity for various purposes. If the engine noise was converted into electricity it might be possible to have a smaller one that could handle the load, thereby decreasing the overall weight of the plane and giving it better fuel mileage.

Another place would be windmill parks. Having never been to one I had to do a little research. It turns out that the windmills make a lot of noise. Modifying them so they converted the noise into electricity would make them even more of a bargain.

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Forget the power lines... One of the biggest drawbacks to creating wind farms in the US is the distance between some of the best wind sources (like the Rocky Mountains) and the place where the electricity is really needed which can be several states away. The cost of building transmission lines is something no one is willing to pay for so the windmills don't get built.

A cheaper way to move the power from source to destination might be available though. If we transmitted the energy as a laser from the source up to an orbiting satellite and then back down again to the destination we wouldn't need transmission lines at all. The estimated power production from the windmill plants they're proposing in the Rocky's is 360 megawatts. Although this is way out of my area of expertise I'm thinking that that amount of energy could create a big enough laser to give us an economically useful amount of electricity after being mirrored back down to a receiving plant even if a lot was lost along the way.

An interesting side project might be to pick a spot below an active volcano - Mt. St. Helens for example - and see if the energy directed from the satellite at it could burn a lava release hole into the side of the mountain to keep it from erupting.
Shared by JFR (6,080 points)
0 votes
Stealth Windmills

They only come out at night.

People object to building offshore windmill farms for at least a couple of different reasons - they're an eyesore and a danger to birds. Land-based ones also raise the temperature beneath them by a couple of degrees too.

The solution might be stealth windmills. These would only pop up from beneath the water at night when no one can see them and birds aren't usually flying around. The power to raise and lower themselves would get first call on the energy they produced (and it would be stored in their base). They would also have sensors built in that would turn on a set of lights in the event that any aircraft of ship approached.

The warmth produced by land-based models of the pop-up windmills might actually produce another benefit - reduced heating costs for nearby houses during the winter.

One more bonus - in the event of severe weather the windmills could be dropped back down into their silos, getting them safely out of the way in time to avoid major repair costs.
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