Inventor Uses Tornadoes as Energy Source

By creating a man-made tornado, an inventor realized he could extract enough electricity to power a small city.

Tornadoes are more associated with wreckage and destruction than environmental activism. But surprisingly, they’ve got plenty of potential to do good: Your average tornado contains as much energy as a typical power plant. If only we could find a way to harness that power, we could create clean energy alternatives that don’t rely on coal or nuclear power.

Unfortunately, tornadoes don’t take direction from humans too well. But Canadian engineer Louis Michaud came up with a novel idea: By creating his own man-made tornado, which he calls an Atmospheric Vortex Engine, he could extract as much as 200 megawatts of electricity - enough to power a small city.

A tornado may sound like a tough thing to create, but all you need to do is find a way to heat an elevated layer of air so that the temperature is much higher than that of the air below, which will create a vortex. “You can generate energy whenever you have a temperature gradient,” Michaud told LiveScience. “The source of the energy here is the natural movement of warm and cold air currents.” In his AVE, Michaud places wind turbines at the bottom of his vortex, which will suck up energy from the man-made tornado.

Michaud has built many small prototypes of the AVE, and his idea seems to work without a hitch. A 200 megawatt AVE facility would cost about $60 million, which is lower than the cost of any existing power source. He hasn’t found any investors yet, though –so if you’ve got deep pockets and want to help make the world a greener place, why not give Michaud a call? He may even name a tornado after you.