Mad Like Tesla Book Review? Hell No. This Is Personal.

Mad Like Tesla Book Cover
So I read Mad Like Tesla. (Buy it on Book Depository if you want free shipping worldwide).

Now, if you work in the green energy industry, you may wanna read it as well. Just to get an idea of what may come (if everything goes as planned for the underdog engineers and inventors).

The book is full of easy to read stories. A nice treat for your curious brain, even if you're on on holiday.

That was the review.

This article is not about the book though. It's about my lack of enthusiasm for any of the green energy solutions presented in the book. We'll get to that later.

But now, let's have a look at what these engineers are trying to accomplish.

1. Cold fusion

Remember the Wall Street (2010) movie?

At some point in the film, the young trader pitches a cold fusion energy company to some Chinese investors. This happens just after they pitched a thin film solar company which the Chinese didn't find attractive coz they've seen similar stuff at other companies. (No patented technology = no way to have a milking cow = no way to make big bucks)

Cold Fusion - Green Energy

So what's this cold fusion thing?

Imagine a pellet of fuel the size of a pea in the middle of a sphere being hit from all directions (compressed) with pistons (or laser beams) for a fraction of a second. Then the fusions process starts - the energy is being contained and harnessed to produce clean energy.

But Tyler Hamilton is too good of a writer so I won't even try to explain more. Get the book for the full story.

2. Producing energy with tornadoes

It builds on the solar chimney concept. The difference is that the otherwise wasted hear (hot air) comes from regular power plants that burn coal or natural gas. So it's not really about green energy, it's more about efficiency. But we need both nonetheless.

The lower part of the tornado spins inside the chimney and the upper part will stick out into the sky.

Tornado Chimney for Producing Renewable Energy

Initially, turbines in the lateral walls at the bottom of the chimney act as inlet powered fans that stream the air at a certain angle as to produce the vortex. Then, as the vortex gains its own power, the turbines will no longer be electrically powered but they'll continue to spin because of the strong updraft.

This means that at each classic power plant, you'll have a high tower and some pipes connecting the power plant to the base of the chimney, supplying hot air for the turbines.

3. Space based solar power

A solar farm in outer space. No clouds, no weather, 24h/7 days a week sunshine. A special antenna beams the power to a 5 km wide receiving station on earth.

Space Based Solar Power

Wireless power delivery - now this is what Tesla had in mind.

I'm personally concerned by the harm the beam of energy may have on birds, insects, etc. Won't they get fried instantly by the microwave radiation?

4. A smartphone battery that needs to be charged once a month

What if you needed to charge your phone just once a month? Or have your electric car charged in 5 minutes for a 400 mile plus ride?

We do have some amazing technology available but it's ridiculously limited by our inability to store enough energy to power the gadgets and machines for a reasonable amount of time.
All these sound nice. Some too good to be true. But if these guys can pull them off it'll be the same for you and me (the consumers of energy).

Let me explain.

If I asked you what do you prefer between:
  1. charging your electric car in 5 minutes
  2. charging your electric car in 5 minutes at a very low cost
you'd choose option number 2, right?

The way I see it is this: we need affordable green energy not just green energy.

But the solution presented in the book rely on sophisticated proprietary technology that needs tons of capital cash to be brought to the market.

If the technology proves to be viable we'll be in the same position as we are today - that is, buying the power from the Man. And we may have no option other than suck it up.

I want energy to be like information

Cheap. Abundant. Anyone can produce it.

I'd like the energy industry to emulate the publishing business. Meaning, each consumer can also produce information nowadays. Now that's a real change.

If we can accomplish the same with energy, that will be the real revolution, not a guy patenting his invention.

Basically, if each household can produce its own energy using affordable technology, a lot of the world problems could be solved. I'm referring to eradicating hunger and poverty trough automated sustainable agriculture, irrigation, desalination of sea water, cheap and carbon free transportation of edible goods, etc.

The reason I'm excited about installing solar panels, is because, in a way, contributes to the democratization of energy production. A cold fusion machine or a spaced based solar farm cannot belong to the masses and are too complicated to run and manage. A few players selling renewable energy doesn't appeal to me.

Over to you
  • What's your opinion on the future of the energy industry? 
  • Have you read Mad Like Tesla?

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