Evaporation Power: a new energy source that could meet 70% of our electricity needs

  • Published on September 28th, 2017

In what is believed to be the first analysis of evaporation power as a renewable energy source, researchers from Columbia University have determined that US lakes and reservoirs could generate a whopping 325 gigawatts worth of clean energy, which would account for approximately 70% of current US electricity production.

Southern and western U.S. states have the greatest capacity to produce evaporation-generated power
Southern and western U.S. states have the greatest capacity to produce evaporation power from lakes and reservoirs

By Joshua S Hill 

Researchers from Columbia University published their surprising findings on evaporation power in the September 26 issue of the journal Nature Communications. The study, Potential for natural evaporation as a reliable renewable energy resource, was designed to test how much power can be generated

“Recent advances in water responsive materials and devices demonstrate the ability to convert energy from evaporation into work. These materials  perform work through a cycle of absorbing and rejecting water via evaporation. These water-responsive materials can be incorporated into evaporation-driven engines that harness energy when placed above a body of evaporating water.”

 

“We have the technology to harness energy from wind, water and the sun, but evaporation is just as powerful,” said Ozgur Sahin, the study’s senior author. “We can now put a number on its potential.”

The researchers further conclude that evaporation power can be generated whenever necessary, compared to traditional renewable energy sources which are variable and reliant upon outside sources such as wind and sunshine. The normal solution to variable energy generation is to combine it with battery storage, which while efficient, nevertheless requires the use of expensive and sometimes toxic materials in manufacturing.

“Evaporation comes with a natural battery,” said study lead author, Ahmet-Hamdi Cavusoglu, a graduate student at Columbia. “You can make it your main source of power and draw on solar and wind when they’re available.”

The study also found that evaporation technology can also save water, with the researchers estimating that half of the water naturally lost from lakes and reservoirs through evaporation could be captured during the process of harvesting evaporation for energy — which came to around 25 trillion gallons of water a year, or about a fifth of the water Americans consume in a year.

(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica.)

About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium.   I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.