It sounds implausible, but researchers in Canada are testing the idea of creating man-made tornadoes to generate clean power. The principle behind it is simple: when heat rises it creates temperature differential, and the air starts to swirl. To make an artificial tornado you would build a "vortex building". Clean Break explains: Heated water from a power plant that would normally go to a cooling tower would instead be diverted to the vortex building to produce hot air. This would create the beginnings of a whirlwind. As the hot air rises it gathers energy and creates a vortex that reaches higher and higher into the atmosphere.
At a certain point the fans pushing the hot air into the vortex are turned off. The vortex, now hungry for more heated air, begins to suck in the air on its own. Suddenly, what were fans now become turbines that spin as the air is drawn in. The turbines are connected to generators that produce clean electricity as long as a constant source of waste heat is provided to feed the vortex, which at this point is a full-fledged tornado stretching into the troposphere.
This type of power station would produce 200 megawatts, or enough energy to power 200,000 homes.
Louis Michaud, the inventor of this scenario, has spent the last four decades of his life examining the feasibility of creating tornadoes from industrial waste heat. Clean Break reports:
Michaud has formed a company called AVEtec Energy, filed and obtained patents, and has partnered up with the University of Western Ontario's wind-tunnel lab to study small prototypes and do computer simulations of his 'vortex engine' process.
Michaud calculates it would cost $60 million to build such a plant. But because it would be replacing the function of a cooling tower, that figure would be offset by up to $20 million. The end result, assuming it works and is safe, would be a 200 megawatt power station producing clean energy at less than half the cost of a coal plant.