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Power to the Hamsters! 

8 New Very Alternative Energy Ideas

Thursday, Apr 27 2006
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1. Watts in a Wave Five miles off the shore of Scotland sits a 450-foot-long metal snake called “Pelamis.” Its purpose: to capture the power of waves. You know, the waves, bro. Built by a Portuguese energy company, Pelamis is robust enough to bear 60-foot waves and can generate 450 kilowatts of electricity via a sea-to-shore cable. Installed worldwide, Pelamis could one day contribute to an ocean-based power grid that would supply 13 percent of our wattage.

2. Leaded, Unleaded, or Aged 13 Years With a Hint of Wood Smoke?Biobutanol is a gasoline alternative made from whey lactose, a byproduct of cheese manufacturing that is processed into fuel using “scalable ButylizerT biorefineries.” Produced in facilities around the world by ChemLac, Inc., a subsidiary of Environmental Energy, Inc., Biobutanol is “chemically indistinguishable” from the petrochemical kind.

3. A Thousand Points of Rodent-Light Skippy the hamster powers a night-light running on his exercise wheel, a low-rpm alternator outfitted with magnets. “Though it’s hard for the hamster to make higher voltages with his low-rpm wheel, he has torque to spare,” say the reinventors of the hamster wheel at Otherpower.com. “Two LEDs are barely taxing him.”

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4. OPEC Can Kiss My Liposuctioned AssNew Zealand adventurer Peter Bethune is president and CEO of a biofuels-only speedboat race called Earthrace, and he’s developed a process that uses human fat collected via liposuction to power his own vessel. Bethune’s own lean love handles produced only 100 milliliters of fuel, so he is looking for a well-fed crew to donate their thigh, belly or bum blubber to the cause.

5. Eat Fast Food! Pennsylvania Needs the Heat Any old heater will burn any old oil, as Frank Palmarino of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, knows. He warmed his house this winter with an oil heater fueled by waste grease collected from fast-food restaurants and run through an odor neutralization process.

“I think it’s great,” said Palmarino to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’d like to see more people use it.”

6. Say VAWT?Terra Moya Aqua, Inc., of Cheyenne, Wyoming, claims to have developed a vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) that uses airfoils like airplane wings around the turbine’s curvy, vertically mounted blades. More efficient than your average big-propeller-on-a-tower turbine, Terra Moya’s VAWT appears to the avian population as a solid tower, so even the dumbest of birds navigates around it.

7. Bean and TeaThe old Indian and Buffalo Model: Don’t let anything go to waste. Coca-Cola’s factory in central Japan features a $3.9 million “eKOsystem” that uses captured methane from waste coffee grounds and tea leaves to heat and power its factory.

8. Help Me, Obi-Wan

Louis Giersch’s Solar Death Ray is an array

of 112 square three-and-a-half-inch mirrors mounted on a six-by-four-foot frame at angles carefully calculated to concentrate

the power of the sun. Properly applied, the Death Ray can heat objects to over 500 degrees Celsius with 1,000 watts of power. After a slow start due to a foggy Seattle winter, the Solar Death Ray went online in early 2005, and from January to December, Giersch fried 43 objects, including a shoe, a computer mouse, a honey bear, an N64 game cartridge and a bra (“I consider myself a feminist,” Giersch said on his Web site). Now in its experimental destructive phase, Giersch’s technology could also be put to benevolent use. Turn the Death Ray on some water to create some steam, turn a turbine — and voilà, you’ve got yourself a Life Ray.

Reach the writer at judith.lewis@laweekly.com

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