July 31, 2007 Sustainable generation of electric power is the key to realizing the vision of a world free from dependency on fossil fuels – the challenge is to ramp up the production of electricity to a level that can begin to approach the energy we get from burning coal and oil, without the perceived dangers of going nuclear. The combined threats of Peak Oil and global warming are spurring science into a furious new age of innovation. With almost daily breakthroughs in solar energy capture, battery technology and tidal energy harvesting, but the biggest contribution to green power thus far is coming from wind farming. The common windmill design used to capitalize on air currents, while centuries old, operates at around 1% efficiency in terms of the power it harvests from the wind, due to the deflective blade design and friction losses. But a new technology unveiled last year in China seeks to dramatically boost the output of wind-driven generators by using the virtually frictionless advantages of magnetically levitated turbines. Since there’s virtually no touching of moving parts, the Maglev wind turbine requires far less servicing than a traditional windmill – which dramatically lowers the operating costs to under five U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour. If projections are accurate, giant 1-gigawatt versions of these machines could have a 12-month ROI - a scenario sure to catch the eye of investors worldwide.
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