What if our buildings could harvest power from the air, not wind or solar but literally out of thin air? Its not as crazy as it first sounds with cities literally spewing out electromagnetic radiation from TV, Radio, and Mobile phones constantly. That’s just what Nokia is doing right now, actively researching this for future generations of Mobile phones.
It’s also not a new idea, in fact the first station to harvest the power from the atmosphere has already been built and now stands derelict in a plot on Long Island for sale for $1.6 million. (map)
The tower was conceived by Nicola Tesla to transmit information and power. It was even speculated that Tesla intended for the tower to demonstrate how the Ionosphere could be used to provide free electricity to everyone without the need for power lines. The First transmission tower, Wardenclyffe Tower was actually built, work started in 1901:
In 1901, Nikola Tesla began work on a global system of giant towers meant to relay through the air not only news, stock reports and even pictures but also, unbeknown to investors such as J. Pierpont Morgan, free electricity for one and all….The first tower rose on rural Long Island and, by 1903, stood more than 18 stories tall. One midsummer night, it emitted a dull rumble and proceeded to hurl bolts of electricity into the sky. (via)
Tesla Tower or Wardenclyffe Tower building was designed by infamous NY Architect Stanford White who was later shot at Madison Square Roof Garden by the jealous husband of one of his lovers . (See the excellent book on White called The Architect of Desire us/uk). However the project soon ran into financial problems and when Marconi sent a radio transmission across the Atlantic on the 12th Dec 1901, it helped to scupper Tesla’s much more ambitious project. Tesla quickly tried to change the purpose of the Tower to a power generator and transmitter taking power from the ionosphere, but time and money ran out for him and he eventually had to sell the station to pay his debts. Now the site is derelict and for sale and campaign has started to save the building.
So the idea is not new but perhaps more powerful than ever. If we can suck in energy from the air around us for mobile phones then why not by buildings? Whether it would be mega projects of huge pylon towers sucking in power from the city around or more ambiently from integrated receptors on the roofs of housing blocks powering heating systems locally, the idea really seductive.
Nokia want to build phones that will recharge this way.
NYT has an excellent article about Tesla and Wardenclyffe.