Humanity has faced countless challenges on its journey to the modern era, and innovation in technology has always played a vital role in our progress. Now, in the shadow of climate change and peak oil production, humanity faces a new challenge; how can we produce sustainable, and environmentally friendly, renewable energy? The answer may have been born in the wake of desperation and hopelessness.
Inspired by suicide
An Australian inventor by the name of Edward Linacre earned the 2011 James Dyson award for designing a low tech solution for extracting water from moisture in the air. In 2003, unprecedented drought ravages agriculture in Australia and cripples farmers with debt. Unable to pay back seed merchants and financiers, many multi-generational family farms are devastated.
As 2013 unfolds, several regions are experiencing the worst drought on record. According to Nick Bryant, BBC News, Sydney, “The suicide rate among [rural Australian] farmers is already twice the national average…one farmer commits suicide in the country every four days.”
Linacre’s invention has emerged as a response to the increasing farmer suicides and represents a viable and environmentally friendly solution to an otherwise devastating climate disaster.
But how does sunlight produce water?
A solar powered condenser utilizes energy from the sun to cool ambient air. By lowering the temperature of the air to below its dew point, it is possible to extract humidity in the form of condensation. The condensation drips into a reservoir which supplies a low pressure irrigation system, thus providing essentially free water for crops.
This has been shown to work in desert areas where humidity levels are incredibly low. Though similar technologies exist, most are high tech, expensive, and impractical for small scale use. This new concept is is a low-tech, self sufficient solar powered solution.
Sounds too good to be true?
Think again. It gets even better. Standalone, this technology revolutionizes the capabilities of residential agriculture, however, when coupled with a water tower equipped with a hydro-electric generator, the sky is literally the limit.
If a water tower is erected with several solar condensers on top, each working independently to fill a reservoir, a turbine installed beneath the water tower will generate electricity as it empties to irrigate crops. Using only sunlight and gravity we produce water and electricity.
Putting it all together
Depending on the height of the tower, enough electricity could be generated by the turbine to pump water, heat and cool homes, and power appliances. A nearby solar still can purify the water using only heat from the sun.When scaled up, this marriage of technologies represents a viable, sustainable, and renewable source of purified water, energy production, and agricultural prosperity for independent small communities. With proper funding, this solar condenser-hydroelectric generator technology could be refined and implemented even on a small scale for individual family use.
As low tech solutions and innovative elegance continue to progress and gradually replace the complex industrial dinosaurs of today’s energy production, we can only look forward to the greener possibilities that inevitably await mankind.