Modern Marvels: Environmental Tech 2

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

The most recent episode of Modern Marvels, Environmental Tech 2, looks at a number of “sustainable” technologies.

One of the smaller, simpler products reviewed is the NatureMill automatic indoor composter, which serves as a kitchen garbage can:

NatureMill uses 5 kWh/month of energy — or about $0.50/month — less than a garbage truck would burn in diesel fuel to haul the same waste.

And, of course, it provides fertilizer for your home garden.

PacWind‘s vertical wind turbine also got plenty of coverage, with a segment on Jay Leno’s Green Garage:

But for the 17,000-sq-ft. garage, which uses, um, quite a bit of energy each month, the PacWind team recommended their brand-new, top-of-the-line Delta II turbine. It can produce 10 kw at around 28 mph and has a cut-in wind speed of 6 mph. These turbines don’t need a braking mechanism and can self-start at very low wind speeds — something similar designs in the past could never do.

As the Popular Mechanics video explains, these new turbines rely on rare-earth magnets, which are much more powerful than the magnets we all played with as children.

The episode also looked at a potentially enormous project by EnviroMission of Australia to build a solar tower, or what used to be known as a solar chimney:

The power station will be based on German designed Solar Tower technology. It will look like an enormous greenhouse canopy with a very tall hollow ventilation Tower located at its centre.

The sun’s radiation will be collected and trapped under the transparent canopy, creating a massive force of air heated to around 35°C greater than the ambient temperature. The laws of physics will make this air move at 15 metres per second towards the cold air at the top of the Tower located in centre of the canopy. The powerful updraft will force the rising air to pass through large turbines positioned at the base of the Tower. The movement of the hot wind through the turbines will generate up to 200MW of clean, emission free electricity — enough electricity for 200,000 typical Australian homes.

Addendum: I neglected to mention one other interesting technology, a towing sail from SkySails, which can cut diesel fuel expenses by 10 to 35 percent, because the kite-like sail rides above the ship, where the wind is stronger.

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