Reader Questions

Reader Question: Energy from Whirlpools?


shiftymctwizz asks:

So I just read your post about vortices, and now I’m wondering if we could build structures similar to the Corryvreckan and put turbines in them for energy production? Would it be any more efficient than hydroelectric dams? Are you the right person to ask?

I can’t give you numbers off the top of my head, but I suspect that your typical hydroelectric dam will be more reliable if not more efficient. The trouble with things like the Corryvreckan, aside from the randomness of where the vortices pop up, is that they aren’t there every single day the way, say, Niagara Falls is.

That said, there is on-going work to effectively harness ocean waves for power, with ideas like buoy generators or sea snake generators. As with most concepts one of the difficulties in implementation is determining a safe and efficient manner to transmit the electricity generated from these offshore sites (we’re generally talking miles from shore) to where it’s needed. This problem is often similarly faced by solar and wind energy producers. There are already wave farms in place around the world, though, and it’s a promising field of renewable energy. (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

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