Thursday, July 05, 2007

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

This week I have read about several new ideas for energy production that seem like they could be real breakthroughs.

This first one is about an Australian inventor who has developed a wind turbine that is small and safe enough to use on your average suburban rooftop. It looks like 3 airplane wings in the shape of a cylinder. At only $700 (Aus) for each unit, one could conceivably power a home for the price of a used car.

Aussie wind turbine

(includes video)

This next one is a similar idea by a Chicago inventor, but uses a helical scoop that is both efficient and silent. It can be placed vertically or horizonatally, although the former is usually more efficient. At $15,000, one could power a small home for the equivalent of a new/slightly-used car; however, they are currently a bit too large to fit on most homes without being an eyesore.

Chicago wind turbine

(includes video)

Or, you can follow the adventures of this savvy African man, who built his own wind mill from scratch to power his home in Malawi.

Most Americans are trained by our culture to be consumers. We buy nearly everything we need, and trade our time and efforts for money to buy more things to consume. Most Americans can't even begin to comprehend the lifestyle of providing for one's own basic needs. Because we are never taught that we can even do so, the option is rarely considered, especially when it is so much easier to take the easy road and write a check or swipe a debit card. There will be some of you who might read the blog above and think, "Oh, that poor family in Africa. How dreadful." But that young man has more gumption than many of us, simply because gumption and motivation are his most powerful assets.

I think the inventions and innovations of recent years are beginning to open the eyes of Americans to the possibility that we can be self-reliant again. It's one thing to talk about freeing our nation from foreign oil, but an equally important step is to free yourself from the local power grid. Currently, about 69% of the nation's electricity is generated by coal, oil, and gas. You can see the statistics for your local region here:

In the not too-distant future, all cars may become electric, and home power generation will extend to your vehicles as well. But the sad fact of all of this is that homes and cars are not the biggest consumers of electricity (even if all cars were electric), and neither are they the biggest sources of pollution. Industry takes the lead on both power consumption and air pollution. And since most power generation also pollutes, it's a huge double-whammy! Reducing power consumption at the consumer level is a good and necessary step, but it is only a small first step towards replacing current systems with clean energy.

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