NextGen Wind Power Goes Local

Illustration for article titled NextGen Wind Power Goes Local

The world needs to figure out its energy problems. Fast. Enter our saviors: a new salvo of gonzo wind power generation systems that break the solution into small, bite-sized parts. From odd, transparent windmills that fit on your urban rooftop (pictured) to handheld devices, wind power might just save us all. And it isn't just the designer "green chic" set that's getting in on the act; Stanford University atmospheric scientist Mark Jacobson did the math in 2005 and it's official: harvesting just 20% of the windpower available above Earth's continents would yield seven times the current global demand for electricity.

Jacobson's study is of wind currents at a 80 meters in the air — right in the wheelhouse for towers that hold big, multi-megawatt wind turbines. But designer Philippe Starck's transparent "Clear Conscience" windmill can fit into the crowded urban landscape and maybe get over the whole "wind turbines are eyesores" criticism in the process.

Illustration for article titled NextGen Wind Power Goes Local

On an even more local scale — the palm of your hand — HYmini's handheld wind generator is an insanely cute, if slightly impractical device. It requires all sort of finagling to get right and even then doesn't produce a whole lot of juice, but the idea is amazing. Give this gadget a couple generations though and there could be millions of them spinning out power in cool afternoon breezes around the world.

Sources (and images): PopSci, Stanford University, Hyperexperience

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Corpore Metal

One only has to look at all the plant biomass on the Earth to realize how much energy is waiting to be tapped in sunlight. Even in places with very poor sunlight conditions you can find plants that grow.

We just need to improve our solar energy technology to a point where it is as least as compact and efficient as chloroplasts in plants.

I don't know if anyone has done the calculations to compare how much energy is used by plant biomass every year versus how much energy is used by our civilization every year.

Is it more, or less? I'd like to see some hard numbers on this.

As for wind, over centuries wind grinds mountains down and drives hurricanes and enormous storms. Again, has anyone done some numerical comparisions on this? How much wind energy is generated every year just blowing down houses versus our annual planetary energy consumption?