How can we have free electricity?

I was travelling on the bus. My thoughts were flying around doing their flights of imagination. “It would be wonderful to have electricity available everywhere.” Then came “It would be even more wonderful if it’s free. Or at least cheap.”

Then I wondered, “How can we have free electricity?”

“We would need something to generate it.” And my next immediate thought was “A dynamo!” I was remembering my physics lessons long ago, when we were playing with magnets. One of the interesting things I remembered was a spinning magnet as part of a dynamo to generate electricity.

So, we need an easy way to do rotation, preferably on a big scale. And the biggest thing that rotates? Earth.

I was thinking of building some structure to house some magnetic material along the equator. Earth is spinning at about 465 metres per second. That should count for something. As the Earth rotates, that structure “rubs” another supporting structure above it, using the theory of the dynamo, we’ll get electricity!

Geodynamo structure

I don’t even know if the theory behind it is sound. Assuming it is, what’s going to hold the upper structure? It can’t be supported by the Earth, because that would defeat the purpose, since it will spin along too. Then came my next breakthrough.

Supporting structures in space.

Geodynamo space supporting structure

There will be satellites holding up the structure. I thought of having just one single structure, but the mechanics of holding it steady might be tough. Have you ever played that game where you have to hold a rod of metal with a loop, and slowly pass it through a maze of metal wires without touching the wires? You need steady hands.

Metal zapper game
Ok, that drawing was bad… I hope you get the idea.

Anyway, several separate satellites to hold up the structure might be better. Now that I look at the diagram carefully, I’m not even sure if the structure would hold up… perhaps some super light material…

Assuming this works out fine, I imagine physicists (theory), engineers (building it), mathematicians (calculations) and other scientists would be involved. Programmers too, for the software used to run the satellites and the structure. Biologists too, for the effects of such a large scale of electromagnetic energy on living things near the equator. Particularly the marine biologists, since most of the structure is over the ocean.

Alright, fine. It’s probably not going to work. I’m just saying, what if it works? What if we can get cheap, even free electricity generated this way? What if you can come up with some other way?

What if…

  1. Jonathan Wong

    Interesting idea, but I don’t think it will work.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s possible to have free standing satellites in space surrounding the earth to hold the supporting structures in place.

    If the satellites are free standing, they will be attracted towards earth due to gravity. The only way they can maintain consistent distance from earth is if they move around earth in an orbit. And if that’s the case, you won’t be able to generate any electricity that way.

    Jonathan Wongs last blog post..Blog Reset – 5 Steps to Armchair Theorist 2.0

  2. xero

    I still wonder if it would be cost effective to hook up a few hundred or thousand exercise bikes with dynamos feeding electricity into a battery bank that feeds the grid. You could pay people minimum wage to exercise for 2-4 hours a day and let them do whatever they want so long as they are output enough energy from their bike. Perhaps not a bike, but some type of machine. It would pay people to get into somewhat better shape and generate electricity at the same time. A firm in NYC is taking this concept to combine a floating gym with a water taxi. The gym users will provide most of the power for the taxi. You get on in one spot, do your routine, clean up, and get off at your destination. So you get in your exercise and your ride to work/home at the same time.

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  3. Vincent Tan

    Ahh, Jonathan, the satellites won’t be freestanding. They would be orbiting the Earth too. Possibly in the opposite direction of Earth’s spin, to further enhance the dynamo effect. There would be thrusters and such to maintain the position.

    There’s also a reason why such a large part of the structures is outside in space. So that the centre of gravity (pun not intended) of the structure is further from Earth to “escape” its pull of gravity.

    … ok, maybe it doesn’t work out that well… Oh well…

    Hey xero, did you mean this?

    That’s interesting. I guess it’s not so much about finding a new source, but to see where we can harness wastage of energy.

    As I was reading your comment, that scene from The Matrix kept popping up… transforming human beings into an AA battery. *smile*

  4. xero

    Yeah, that’s what I was talking about. Human batteries ftw! 😉

    The satellite would need to travel either slower in the same direction of earth or in the opposite direction to stay in orbit. Gravity would be counter-acted by thrusters, probably powered by the sun, but it would be a tough one to get right, needs a lot of power to hold the thing up. It would also need enough power and the structures would need to be strong/tolerance enough to counteract the forces of wind, birds, planes, etc. that get in the way of the supports. Same problems as the space elevator there, but magnified by massive velocity.

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