Well this is the idea behind the Canadian company AVEtec founded by engineer Louis Michaud. He isn’t the only one who believes it’s possible however, eccentric billionaire Peter Thiel the co-founder of Paypal and early investor in Facebook is planning to fund the idea with an initial grant of $350,000 through his foundation. Thiel has a strong track record for spotting the crazy genius in the just damn right crazy.
Atmospheric Vortex Engine (AVE) works by introducing warm air into a circular station, taking the form of a rising vortex through convection. The rising vortex is essentially a fixed and controlled tornado, capable of being stopped simply by turning off the warm air. The work done by the convection is captured with turbines located at ground level around the periphery of the arena. The heat source to create the warm air can be warm water (tropical oceans), waste heat or solar energy.
AVE is a clean energy source that doesn’t produce carbon emissions and doesn’t need energy storage. Another advantage is the low cost; at an estimated 3 cents per kilowatt-hour AVE would be one of the least expensive forms of energy production. A 100m diameter AVE power station would generate 200 megawatts of electrical power, which is about the same as a conventional coal power station.
Latent heat of water vapor in the bottom kilometer of the atmosphere has almost twice the energy (13x10 21J) of the remaining oil (7.3x 10 21J) reserves and can be fully replenished in 10 days through solar radiation compared to 100s of millions of years for natural oil.
Currently AVEtec is building a prototype in partnership with Lambton College to demonstrate the feasibility and safety of the atmospheric vortex engine.
Image of how it works: