The Waterwheel is Just The Beginning

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In my time spent working on Brooklyn apartments, I’ve seen some strange things, but nothing as odd as the time I witnessed a man harnessing the power of his elliptical to send electricity to the other lights in the home. Weird, right? Nonetheless – this may be the direction in which we’re heading!

Recently, an inventor named Ryan Jongwoo Choi has created a miniature, yet highly influential device. It’s deemed “revolutionary” because of its ability to generate hydroelectricity from within your home. In layman terms, it is capable of utilizing the power of any standard plumbing system to generate and store small amounts of electrical energy. This isn’t a new idea in theory, but it is in terms of implementation, which makes it new and very promising!

The small waterwheels that Choi has created are placed into a home’s plumbing system. This will create energy that goes into batteries. The power within these batteries is enough to power two mobile light bulbs. At first glance, this may not seem like much, and it’s really as far as Choi has been to go with it so far. However, it is certainly a step in the right direction toward greater discoveries.

The experiment took place in a single home with average water flow and the waterwheel was only placed in a single pipe. If this idea was expanded upon, there’s no telling what the possibilities are. The average city has a water main system filled with hundreds if not thousands of pipes.

Choi created the idea as a way of helping African homes that are in isolated villages. The mobile bulbs could benefit the African homes much as a lantern helped colonial homes. The success of the project has allowed others to think about the uses and to figure out ways to make this happen on a larger scale.

Challenge

A standard water main can have fluctuations in the pressure and flow throughout the day and throughout the week.

Solution

A city could combine the current power source with a supplemental power source, such as one that Choi has devised. This would impact the amount of power that is currently used. It can be compared to how hybrid cars use and store their energy. How much could a city save? That’s not known at this point. Some cities have tried to supplement using wind energy, hoping it would boost the process. However, a citywide system such as the one being proposed here has yet to happen. No city has combined intrinsic and standard power sources.

These systems are met with opposition. Legislation gets involved. There are a lot of politics involved because of the power companies and how they can attribute to the funds of a city or a political campaign. As negative as this sounds, changes aren’t really going to start happening until power sources begin to fail. Then legislature will have no option but to consider some of the alternative energies.

The Example of the Solar Alternative

Many cities are able to coexist with power companies and homes using solar power. Anyone with a solar panel knows they need power from the power company at times. Sometimes the sun isn’t strong enough to power the home at all times. Other times, it is stronger, producing more power than what is used. The power grid is connected to the electric company. A household will receive a bill on months they use electricity and they will receive a check on months when they generate more electricity they can use. This is a way to provide the electric company with more energy so they don’t have to produce as much.

Extending this system to other alternative power systems could provide a lot of assistance. A system like Choi’s could be implemented and help a household with getting the necessary power.

We can learn from Choi’s experiment. Utilizing alternative energies is a step in the right direction. We can’t continue to coexist with a failing environment. We must put effort into solutions in order to succeed, similar to what Choi has done.

This is the only way to handle the future. With pollution becoming a growing concern and resources quickly becoming depleted, the world is not going to provide for us much longer at this rate. Choi and other inventors are using fresh ideas to be a part of the solution for tomorrow. Changes have to be made here and there to continue operating in a way in which we have all grown used to. The only way to ensure we are able to do this is to make a better tomorrow today.

Article by Sam Marquit

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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