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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Tech Note

Air Date: Week of

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CHU: Dams have long been a source of contention from the salmon whose migration they block to the people they displace. But the hydroelectricity they generate is cheap and abundant. Now, a new breakthrough promises the power without the problems. Scientist Alexander Gorlov has invented a new kind of turbine. It looks like an oversized eggbeater, but Gorlov says it could rehabilitate the world's hydropower system. Conventional turbines require a strong, confined flow of water to work efficiently. But Gorlov's design can harness 35 percent of the energy in a naturally-flowing river. And unlike other turbines, this one captures power regardless of the water's direction, so it could be used in tidal flows as well as rivers. The so-called Gorlov Helical Turbine is being tested now on a remote stretch of the Amazon River, where local residents are using it to charge car batteries to power their televisions. And South Korea has asked Gorlov to design a system for one of its shipping channels. Gorlov points out that since 95 percent of the world's rivers are unsuitable for conventional hydropower, his giant eggbeaters could fill the gap. That's this week's technology note. I'm Jennifer Chu.

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CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

(Music up and under: Robert Rich, "Forest Dreams of Bach")



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