Tornadoes are a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced by leveled Midwestern towns like Greensburg, Kansas. But the sheer power they wield, it turns out, can also be harnessed for good, potentially powering instead of knocking down houses. While the power-yielding tornadoes would be manmade, the concept remains- harvesting a natural phenomenon’s power as a viable energy source (think SUPER windpower). According to Louis Michaud of AVEtec Energy Corp, it is possible, and promising, to engineer and control full scale tornadoes and harness their energy in a relatively emission free manner.

Instead of relying on intermittent and unreliable wind to power windmills, Michaud dreams of a time when a giant tornado will power the turbines at its base. The process as to how to create a tornado, albeit a small scale one, is fairly simple and is a matter of physics. What is considerably more difficult is to create one at the scale required to power the turbines. Ideally, it would work like this: wasted heat, say from a power plant nearby or geothermal energy, is carried by a water pipe to a vortex engine which is then transmitted to air in motion. The air picks up the heat and enters the vortex causing the air to swirl inside, gathering energy and creating a vortex. According to Michaud, the vortex will keep functioning as long as heat is being funneled into it, which is where things just get a bit sticky.

A 200-meter wide tornado might just have enough power to start absorbing heat from the surrounding area all by itself (something which would be a problem if one is hoping to keep it contained, as once the tornado achieves enough energy, there would be very little to stop it from escaping, so says Nilton Renno a professor at the department of atmospheric, ocean and spaces sciences at the University of Michigan).

Still, might this be a possible solution to our growing energy needs? There are enough people that think that it’s worthwhile, including the The University of Western Ontario’s wind-tunnel laboratory, which is studying Michaud’s prototype as well as a 20 meter computer model.

+ Taming tornadoes to power cities @ the Star
+ Vortex Engine

Via Ecogeek


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  1. chaser101 February 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    awesome tornado. Probably an F4 or something. And it looks like its gonna cross the road.

  2. yew October 29, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    The artical is now dated. The brief descriptive text was not articulate. The atmospheric physics and themodynamic basis is the relevant way to understand rising air outward from a rotating planet. Aviation pilot training requires knowing the level of atmospheric physics that would suffice for appreciation of the Michaud work that is well patented now. A vortex can be created by a firestorm, like the fire east of Los Angeles this 2009 summer. A dust devil is an air vortex also. The Vortex Engine is termed such that work is obtainable from the energy innervating the vortex flow that transfers industrial heat or a geophysical heat in soil or water outward to the cold edge of the planet atmosphere. This AVE has efficiency closer to themodynamic ideal then anything you can compare to. Sadi Carnot.The necessary minimum size prototype might be underway, but i know of nothing going on now. The idea in itself is as acceptable as hydropower dam fluid gravitational directed. This writer is very laymen, FYI.

  3. Bryce August 6, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    This will be very cool if the heat is just a starter and more energy can be captured than is needed in heat. As a native Kansan, this idea strikes me as perhaps not the wisest. There seem to be more variables out in an unsecured environment than could happen in a reactor.

  4. There’s a storm b... August 6, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    […] found via Inhabitat: The Atmospheric Vortex Engine! Add this to the list with Skysails and Flying Electric Generators. […]

  5. loyd August 6, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    i find it interesting the excitement this post created. the concept of using heat to power wind turbines is nothing new. sure, tornadoes are cool things, I grew up in Oklahoma and have chased them, but I don’t think they are an energy solution.

    Overall people don’t seem to get it. One, we have to use LESS. No one is saying it, but on average it will have to be true in the future. Americans consume twice, TWICE as much compared to Europeans and Japanese. And compared to the rest of the world, well don’t get me started. Two, (to respond to some myths posted here) nuclear energy IS SAFE, especially compared with the 30,000 annual deaths caused by coal plants in the US. Nuclear reactors in the US have never had the safety issues compared with Russia and other countries (Three Mile Island caused no serious injuries) and safety and security regulations have been improving steadily. Also, disposal concerns are small compared with “carbon capture” schemes currently circulating legislative bodies. Finally, renewable energy costs more. At current prices, there would have to be a 50% tax placed on coal-derived energy to make wind and nuclear sources competitive. In the long run, these higher costs will be recouped in the form of decreased health care spending and environmental clean-up. If you call your local power producer, many will allow you to pay a slightly higher price to purchase renewable energy. Even 1% can help.

    Point blank, ride a bike, plant a tree, and buy (more expensive) renewable energy–your children will thank you.

  6. J August 6, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    wow talk about the other side of the spectrum!! you see wind turbines and you see pretty green landscapes, a shining blue sky and whirling turbine blades dancing in the sun. and then there’s this picture of a tornado…dark, ominious, deadly…fascinating. I have to say, that picture alone is enough to make me shudder- can’t we find a happier tornado as the poster child for this new energy source?? the idea of encouraging and making tornadoes is well…almost pretentious don’t you think?? does human kind really have the where-with-all to harness tornadoes? If we can’t trust nuclear power plants, I’m not sure we should trust harnassed tornadoes.

  7. David Waring August 6, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    i wonder why they wouldn’t be able to do it on a small scale. Won’t a small tornado be effective if the turbines are small? maybe even have more smaller ones than fewer big ones, that could be easier to control.

  8. James August 6, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Persoanlly, I would rather my energy come from natural free-range tornados and not these test tube GMO tornados.

  9. Andrew August 6, 2007 at 11:37 am

    As far as I could tell from another article I read (Which unfortunately I can’t find) the “tornado” is created in containment unit of some sort.

    I guess the idea of using tornado’s for power is somewhat scary, but the idea of controlling nuclear explosions is even worse in my opinion.

    I’m not sure if this will ever work, but you definitely have to applaud Michaud for thinking WAY out of the box. This is Mad Scientist type stuff we’re talking about right here.

  10. Elepski August 6, 2007 at 9:27 am

    That is a great idea… if it is contained… like in a structure.. and they feed it heat to keep the cycle running… why not have the option to slow it down with a cold air feed.. like a throttle.. to avoid that breakout scenario they described

  11. Kate August 6, 2007 at 8:52 am

    I was only yesterday sitting in my friend’s car, watching the power and force the wind had on moving my hand as I floated it out of the window. I immediately raised the debate to him why the earth’s natural elements: earth, wind, fire and water are not the simple key to renewable energy sources.

    This is a marvellous resource, if a little utopian in its present state. It will be worthy for us to follow the development of this idea, to see if it really can work and contribute on a large scale.

  12. Sam August 6, 2007 at 8:36 am

    Fight climate change through climate change!

  13. Nick Simpson August 6, 2007 at 8:27 am

    Happy days – if you keep it under control, you increase energy supply. If you don’t, you decrease demand…


  14. Sheldon August 6, 2007 at 6:43 am

    I’ve always wondered where the boundary is of using the renewable earth resources, wind, wave, solar etc before they start to have an effect on the earth. Conservation of energy basically states that there is no such thing as a free lunch so even things like wave energy extraction will remove energy from the waves. Using normally destructive weather conditions to our advantage might not be a bad thing but as a species we have a habit of not spotting knock-ons until the last moment.
    Now, this appears to be extending the principle to creating our own weather conditions to enhance renewable energy sources (in the above case wind), how big can it be before it starts affecting the local or even global weather systems?
    Sounds a bit extreme but my one car can hardly harm anyone can it?

  15. John biggs August 6, 2007 at 6:32 am

    wow…….this is one of the most amazing ideas I’ve seen. I just saw the discovery show last night on Megastructures, and this is right up there with unbelievable but amazing feats of engineering. If this could be used to cool the planet, power cities, and reduce emissions all at the same time, and still be safe, then we should create a new Planetary Nobel award for ideas that save the planet. If Mr. Michaud is looking for consulting help, I”m available.

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