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Wind Power? No Wind

One of the main substitutes for green-house gas emitting energy is WIND POWER, but we'd better build more wind turbines soon, because climate change can cut down on wind and make this technology useless. The prevailing winds in the "free" atmosphere about 1,000 meters above the ground are maintained by a temperature gradient that decreases toward the poles. Climate researcher Diandong Ren says, "For example, Wichita, Kansas is cooler, in general, than Austin, Texas. The stronger the temperature contrast, the stronger the wind."

But as the climate changes and global temperatures rise, the temperature contrast between the lower latitudes and the poles decreases slightly, because polar regions tend to warm up faster. And as that temperature contrast becomes weaker, so too do the winds. But turbines may work just fine underwater, where there's a big problem with drilling for oil, but no reason we can't install turbines to convert the ocean tidal flow into electric energy. Whales inspired this new technology.

Lessons learned from the ocean's largest mammals has inspired researchers to tackle one of the serious challenges of this technology: the low velocity associated with many tidal flows and the difficulty of extracting useful energy from low speed flows using current designs. Engineer Mike Murray says, "We designed a novel blade modification for potential turbine performance improvement, which was inspired by humpback whale flippers (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to these shows) with the addition of tubercles, or bumps, to the leading edge of each blade." The researchers' modified blades proved to be more effective in extracting energy at low speeds.

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