September 26, 2012
Suppose you built a huge tunnel with one end at a cold beach and the other end thirty miles inland. Warm air rises, so you’d be sucking in the cold air at the beach and exhaling it at the warm inland side. You would literally have a wind tunnel.
Now suppose the warm end of the tunnel has lots of little hoses distributed to individual homes that require air conditioning. Now you have air conditioning as a public utility. Every home would draw in cool air from the beach and exhale it though a sun-warmed chimney.
At night, when the homes don’t need as much air conditioning, everyone shuts their hose, opens their windows and goes to bed. There’s still a temperature differential because the beach end of the tunnel is always colder. So at the warm end of the tunnel a huge door slides open to allow a new direction for the air to escape, past windmill-type generators. The generators would produce electricity all night and help pay for the tunnel.
In the winter, when you want warm air, the beach side of the tunnel is sealed and a solar concentrator one mile up from the beach comes online. It uses mirrors to focus sunlight on thermal mass around the tunnel to superheat it. The warm air would travel up the tunnel to the homes. The thermal mass at the solar concentrator side would stay warmer than the air for hours after the sun went down.
I realize none of this is practical or economical. It just bugs me that I need to pay money to change the temperature of air in my home when there’s plenty of free air at exactly the right temperature just a few miles away. And that air wants to be where I am. It just needs a tunnel.
Is there a smarter (economical) way to solve this problem?