Man-made 'tethered tornadoes' touted as a viable power source

With all the wacky unconventional proposals we've seen people come up with for generating electricity in an environmentally friendly manner, is it really so outrageous to think that giant, man-made tornadoes could be harnessed to power a small city? Well that's exactly the idea being floated around the University of Western Ontario these days, which is currently testing a scale model of retired refinery engineer Louis Michaud's patented vortex engine -- a machine fueled by excess power plant heat that uses the physics of convection inherent in rising air to drive electricity-producing turbines. In its most grandiose realization, the engine (inventor's rendition pictured above) would be 200 meters in diameter and generate a 'clean' (debris-free) tornado stretching 20 kilometers into the sky able to coax 20 megawatts each out of ten independent turbines. Obviously the main concern about the anticipated $60 million project -- which would reportedly operate at just a quarter of the cost of a coal-based facility, even before taking into account the $20 million saved on a cooling tower by the participating power plant -- is that the tornado could somehow escape its confines and wreak havoc on nearby communities. Still, with all the advantages this scheme seems to offer, we're certainly willing to give it a chance -- after all, a 'malfunctioning vortex engine' is a lot less scary than a potential disaster at one of the many nuke plants dotting our landscape.

[Via UberReview]