MARQUETTE - In the face of global warming and the financial and environmental costs of fossil fuels, many people have opinions on ways to fix our energy problems.
Instead of just talking, one Marquette resident is putting his theories to use to create a new way to produce energy without use of oil, gas or coal.
Marquette artist and inventor Earl Senchuk is in the running to win funding through the GE Ecomagination Challenge with his designs for a solar vortex generator.
With several environmentally friendly projects already under his belt, Marquette inventor Earl Senchuk has submitted an idea for a solar vortex generator to the GE Ecomagination Challenge. Senchuk stands beside one of his greenhouse designs. Senchuk has submitted a proposal to build a solar vortex generator, which uses the movement of air heated by the sun to turn a turbine blade, creating electricity. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Senchuk uses a vortex created by water going down his kitchen sink drain to explain how moving air works on many of the same principals. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"The situation has reached a critical mass in terms of global warming," said Senchuk, who also has produced several greenhouse designs and other devices to reduce energy usage.
The Ecomagination Challenge asks inventors from around the world to submit project proposals. Those proposals are then listed online where people vote for what they see as the best idea. The top vote getters receive $50,000 to help fund their project while GE surveys all the submitted projects to select several candidates to receive a $100,000 contract to develop their project for the company.
The GE challenge focuses on three principals - originality, feasibility and impact. Senchuk's design for a solar vortex generator is currently ranked 159th out of 2,500 ideas.
"I'm pretty sure mine is the simplest idea of them all," he said.
The generator is somewhat similar to a wind turbine, but instead of using naturally occurring wind to turn the turbine blades Senchuk's design uses the movement created by heating up air to create the energy.
The solar vortex generator is basically a tall chimney surrounded by several square miles of greenhouse. Intended to be build in large areas of unoccupied desert, the air heated by the greenhouse rises and is funneled up into a cone-shaped chamber where it spins faster and faster as it moves toward the apex of the cone, turning the turbine blades before being released up through the chimney.
"We already know it will generate electricity, we don't know how much," Senchuk said.
Funding from GE would allow Senchuk to carry out small scale testing, the building of a scale model and finally building the generator.
Relying on the power of the sun in the desert rather than on the wind, which is less constant, will provide a reliable source of renewable energy, Senchuk said.
"It uses 100 percent of the air you're creating," he said. "You know it's reliable. Our deserts are just sitting there with the sun hitting them all day long. I think it'll produce a lot more energy consistently."
Voting for the projects ends next Thursday. To vote for Senchuk's project, click on the GE Ecomagination Challenge link at www.earlsenchuk.com. The link will bring visitors directly to his project idea page on the GE site.
To vote, first visitors must register at the top of the page, which requires an email address.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.