Atmospheric Vortex Engine

Frequently Asked Questions


8. Financial Considerations

8.1 What are the estimated costs of an Atmospheric Vortex Engine?

“The capital cost of an atmospheric vortex engine complete with electrical generators is estimated at approximately $100 million per 100 MW(e) of electrical capacity."

The cost of power production with the AVE is estimated to be under $0.03/kw-hr which is approximately half the cost of conventional generation alternatives.

8.2 What kind of “fuel” does the Atmospheric Vortex Engine use?

The AVE does not consume “fuel” in the conventional sense. Instead, the AVE uses waste heat as a fuel source. In some cases, there may a very small fossil fuel requirement during vortex initiation, however this would only be required for a brief period during initial vortex startup. During normal steady-state operation, no additional combustion of fossil fuels is required, only a steady stream of low temperature waste heat.

The AVE can use numerous abundant natural low-temperature heat sources including humid air warmed by solar radiation or even warm tropical seawater. An expensive solar collector is not required; the temperature of warm air at the earth's surface is sufficient. Heat from warm tropical seawater at 26°C or greater could also be used as a fuel source.

In addition to the abundant natural heat sources, there is also opportunity to use waste heat from the process industry or existing thermal power plants. All thermal power plants must reject heat to the atmosphere using either cooling towers or once-through cooling using water from rivers or lakes. The main advantage of these heat sources is that they are already concentrated, making it relatively easy to re-direct the waste heat to an AVE. An AVE would increase the electrical output of a thermal power station by approximately 20%. A 100 MW AVE would increase the electrical output of a 250 MW(e) power plant to 350 MW(e) by converting 20% of its 500 MW(t) of waste heat to electrical energy.

carnot heat engine High resolution version of the above figure - PNG 323 KB The figure below from US DOE shows the magnitude of the waste heat from existing thermal power plants which is now just discarded to the environment via cooling towers or once-through cooling to rivers or lakes. US DOE refers to this waste heat as “Energy Conversion Losses”, however, all of this waste heat could potentially be used as fuel for an AVE DOEHigher resolution version of the above figure - PNG (707 KB) 8.3 What is the Atmospheric Vortex Engine fuel cost?

The fuel costs for an AVE are near-ZERO (with the possible exception of a very small fuel requirement for vortex initiation required only during vortex start up).  The natural waste heat sources such as warm air at the bottom of the atmosphere or warm tropical seawater are abundant and readily available.

Waste heat from existing thermal power plants is also essentially zero-cost. Management of waste heat from thermal power plants is presently a large cost center since it is necessary to purchase, operate and maintain expensive cooling towers to discard this waste heat to the atmosphere. Alternatively, the waste heat from thermal power plants could become a profit center by redirecting it to an AVE, thus increasing generation capacity without any additional fossil fuel combustion.

8.4 How do Atmospheric Vortex Engine energy production costs compare with other conventional and renewable energy sources?

The following data from the Institute of Energy Research compares the total levelized costs of various power generation technologies, including both conventional fossil fuels and renewables.

The estimated costs of an AVE have been added to the graph for comparison. It is estimated that the total operating costs of an AVE will be less than half the cost of the lowest cost alternative.

levelized costs Higher resolution version of the above figure - PNG (179 KB) 8.5 What other factors will affect the AVE costs?

There are numerous design considerations which can affect the cost of an AVE. The cost of a cooling tower of a given capacity can vary by a factor of 2 to 4 for a variety of reasons such as:

  • Dry heat exchangers cost more than wet ones
  • Natural draft cooling towers are more costly than forced draft ones
  • Customer can trade off temperature approach (efficiency) for capital cost
  • The cooling system cost can include additional elements beyond the cooling tower itself for example: pumps, piping, and condensers
  • Cost estimates may or may not include the cost of sub-stations, transformers and transmission lines
  • For new plant construction, not having to provide a conventional cooling tower would reduce the cost of the AVE cooling system
  • Cost is affected by site conditions such as distance from the condenser and soil conditions
8.6 Why is the AVE power generation technology so inexpensive compared to other conventional generation technologies?

The AVE is relatively inexpensive compared to other conventional generation technologies because:

  • Waste heat from existing thermal power plants or other industrial processes is now normally considered worthless and discarded to the lower atmosphere (+15°C).  By using the colder temperatures (-60°C) available at the top of the troposphere as a heat sink, the AVE acts as a "bottoming cycle" to extract additional energy from abundant low temperature industrial waste heat sources or even natural heat sources.  
  • During steady state operation, an AVE requires no additional combustion of fossil fuels.  Existing low temperature heat sources such as warm sea water or waste heat from existing thermal power plants can be readily used.
  • The AVE structure itself is very similar to well-established conventional cooling tower technology.  The cost for the cooling system of a conventional thermal power plant represents only a portion of the total plant capital cost.  The main changes from existing cooling towers include a circular arena with tangential entry ducts and peripheral turbine-generator sets to generate electricity.