Tornado power project gathers energy

It’s been about a year since I last wrote about Louis Michaud, the retired engineer from Sarnia, Ontario, who believes he can create and manage the power of tornados and use the resulting energy to produce electricity. He has formed a company called AVEtec Energy Corp. and for the past year has been trying to get the funding and partnerships required to do a decent scaled-up demonstration of his vortex engine. “The biggest breakthrough has been in media attention,” jokes Michaud, who has been keeping me up to date on his work (check his latest presentation here). He is, however, having a tougher time turning curiosity and genuine interest into financial and strategic commitments.

Back when I wrote about AVEtec in the Toronto Star, Michaud was just working with a prototype vortex engine in his garage with a one-meter diameter. At one point he was approached by Discovery TV, who wanted to film a one-hour show about his work. They wanted him to build a prototype that was 10 to 20 meters in diameter, even offering to pay for it, but a deal never got hammered out — the channel went silent. So Michaud went ahead, using $20,000 to $30,000 of AVEtec’s own money, and started building a four-meter diameter prototype. “Our priority is demonstrating the ability of producing a fair size outdoor vortex,” he told me in a recent e-mail. He also said he’s been getting some inquiries from people wanting to get involved, “including one from the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico,” he said.

He’s happy with progress on the four-meter prototype. “The vortices were the best produced so far and some must have reached a height of over 40 feet above grade,” he explained in an e-mail to me today. “The top of the cylinder is 16 feet above grade and the building roof is 30 feet above grade. The vortex extended 20 to 30 feet above the top of the Lexan cylinder.” Clearly, he’s beginning to prove that as he scales up the vortex engine the resulting vortex also scales up to the point where it’s powerful enough to create electricity.

His ultimate goal is to build a vortex engine with a 50 to 200 meter diameter capable of creating a tornado that’s up to 50 meters wide and 20 kilometres tall. Such a spinning beast would generate 200 megawatts of electricity using 20 turbines about 10 megawatts each in size. It would get its initial energy from the waste heat of a power plant or something equivalent.

It’s a tall order, but bless the man (or woman) with the determination and vision to follow it through.

France’s Schneider Electric scoops up Xantrex

Well, as suspected, Schneider Electric of France has struck a deal to buy Vancouver-based power electronics maker Xantrex for $410 million. Perhaps just as interesting is that Schneider could be a takeover target of Switzerland’s ABB. Talk about massive fish swallowing big fish swallowing little fish. It’s yet another sign that renewables is the place to be, and that the big companies are gearing up for expectations of higher demand.