Idea #8: Sand Dunes

This is a wild idea. Those are fun.

Landslides are movements of the superficial layer of the dirt in areas that become unstable. They occur without much warning, and can cause disasters and loss of life.

Let’s reason a bit. If the dirt moves, it is because it has the potential to move under the gravitational force. It is not yet in the least possible energy situation. And where there is potential energy, there is the potential to generate energy (pardon the word pun).

Could a machine be moved into a  location with landslides, provoke them, harness the energy then move to a second location?

I told you it was wild.

In principle this could be done with gravel mountains, sand dunes, and even snow. I don’t really see that happening with a rocky mountain (unfortunately, because they are the highest).

Maybe this wouldn’t be done with the purpose of generating energy, but rather as to release it in a more controlled manner.

In a very simplistic way of thinking, any land mass above the ground has potential energy in store. The same way a ball over a desk has potential to fall. All you would have to do is bring that mass into lower height, channel the flow into a machine and zap – energy.

And if  we could flatten a mountain to a level below it’s peak, this would release energy provided that the energy used to maintain the process is less that.

Imagine a case with a sand dune,


Another priceless paint artwork.

The machine on the center can move both the angle a and the pipe distance d to reposition it. The sand flows into the pipe due to the pressure of the sand above it. The machine converts the flow into electrical energy.

Suppose a dune is 300m in height and to make it simple its a perfect cube. We flat it to 200m on the top. That means 100x300x300m of sand is displaced. Sand has a density of 2.69 g/cc. That means a mass of 2.42×10^10kg.

The potential energy (mgh), that could be released, is at best: 2.4×10^13J.

Taking a guess, say that 30% is actually obtained due to the machine operation. That is 7.1×10^12J. Enough energy to boil 3000tons of water! In just one sand dune.

Of course, there is a reason why mountains and sand dunes have the shape they do. Much of the minimization of energy already occurred. It’s possible there would not be enough pressure to make the sand flow, I really can’t tell. The friction of the sand could prove to be to high as well.

I hope you had a good time reading this as I had doing it. Stay sharp!

[Sand dunes in desert wind. image source]