I’m a proponent of alternate energy sources, mostly to get us disengaged from Middle East Oil. Often there are schemes floated to produce alternate energy that just don’t balance out when you sum up the energy in versus energy out. Most corn based biofuel processes fall under that category now, so does nuclear fusion, but that may change someday.
So when something dropped in my inbox today called “cold energy” I was immediately skeptical, because it made me think of “cold fusion”, which was a hoax. This one however may be different and it’s concept is simplicity itself.
It’s another form of wind power, but this one has to do with high and low pressure systems on a synoptic scale. Basically the idea is to build open ended pipes between areas that often have strong pressure gradients, such as the Midwest. This map below gives you and idea of how High and Low pressure centers are often separated in the USA.
The pressure difference between the two pressure systems would push air down the pipe, and drive a turbine. The turbine would have reversible pitch blades to capture airflow no matter which direction the High to Low pressure gradient was.
A company called Cold Energy LLC is proposing building just such a system. The hold a patent on the concept, and call it Atmospheric Cold Megawatts (ACM). Here is some descriptive text from their website:
Utilizing a revolutionary new process, the ACM technology is capable of generating power at the scale of coal and hydro plants with virtually no environmental externalities. By leveraging the differences in atmospheric pressure at geographically separated locations, wind speeds approaching sonic levels can be generated within ACM pipelines. This energy may then be converted to a variety of desired forms using existing technology.
No fuel is required or consumed to produce the power. No pollutants are introduced into the atmosphere as the result of the generation process. The cost per KWh is a fraction of traditional (and alternative) generation methods. Because there are few moving parts, maintenance costs are minimal and the projected lifespan of installations is considerably longer than any other generation method.
They claim they can produce power at a cost of .03 to 1 cents per kilowatt/hour. Of course the advantages are huge, with there being no environmental impact other than long pipes either above or below ground. Here is how they say it would work out:
ACM is a system for the generation of energy based upon differences in the atmospheric pressure at geographically spaced sites, and comprises at least one long conduit – in the order of many miles long. In operation, the air flow in the conduit will accelerate to a high velocity wind without the consumption of any materials and without the use of any mechanical moving parts. A power converter, such as a wind turbine, in the conduit converts the high wind velocity generated by even small pressure differences into energy of any desired type.
The opposite open ends of the conduit are located at geographically spaced sites, selected on the basis of historical information indicating a useful difference in barometric pressure. A plurality of conduits, each having open ends in different geographically spaced sites, may be interconnected to maximize the existing pressure differences, and will produce higher and more consistent levels of energy production. The ACM conduit configuration of the invention can transform even barometric pressure differences in the order of one tenth pound per square inch into wind velocities in the sonic range.
I think its totally tubular. 😉 But will it work?
UPDATE: It’s a pipe dream, see reader comments, particularly Brendans.