Potential for Evaporation Energy to Become Main U.S. Power Source

Ryan Kilgallon ’21

Caption: Natural evaporation of Russian river (Source: Flickr)

Caption: Natural evaporation of Russian river (Source: Flickr)

According to research conducted at Columbia University, renewable evaporation energy has the potential to create 325 gigawatts of power, nearly 70 percent of the country’s current power production, using lakes and reservoirs throughout the United States. The research attempts to measure the competence of evaporation energy as a main power source within the United States as well as to develop certain technologies to aid in reaching said goal.

Evaporation, the process by which liquid water is converted into vapor, allows water to circulate from the land to the air and back. Experiments are still limited to the lab where evaporation is artificially induced with an “Evaporation Engine” that monitors humidity to give bacterial spores the opportunity to expand and contract. These contractions create an atmospheric change significant enough to generate electricity.

The primary objective of the study was to theoretically measure how much power could be produced through the use of evaporation; however, assuming that the experiments prove successful, there are countless benefits to evaporation energy as an alternative to our modern day energy sources. For instance, water can be evaporated at any time, unlike solar and wind energy sources. Additionally, evaporation energy technology has the capacity to save almost half of the water evaporated from lakes and reservoirs during the energy-harvesting process.

These benefits demonstrate the potential for evaporation energy to become a major power source within the United States in the foreseeable future. Evaporation energy systems are also particularly efficient in warm and dry climates such as California, Nevada, and Arizona.

The researchers used a simplified model in their study by limiting experimental calculations to the United States and excluding specific locations such as farmland, rivers, and coastlines. They also assumed that the technology needed to utilize evaporation energy was easily available nationwide. Despite these modifications, evaporation still may prove a worthwhile energy source for the future and these findings motivate further studies.

The research team is currently working to improve the efficiency of the spore-studded material used in the “Evaporation Engine.” The team hopes to conduct a large-scale test run in order to measure the potential scope of evaporation energy in a larger area, such as a lake, reservoir, or greenhouse.

Citations:

Columbia University. (2017, September 26). Energy harvested from evaporation could power much of US: Other potential benefits include reliability and water savings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 28, 2017 from

Cavusoglu, A.H., Chen, X., Gentine, P., Sahin, O., et al. (2017, September 26). Potential for natural evaporation as a reliable renewable energy resource. Nature Communications. Retrieved September 28, 2017 from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00581-w

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