Energy SystemsPeak Oil

The Di Pietro Compressed Air Motor – Alternative Clean Energy, Today

Obama if you’re reading this – here’s the answer to your call for alternative energy.

The spill in the gulf… only underscores the necessity of seeking alternative fuel sources. We’re not going to transition out of oil next year or 10 years from now but think about it… we’re not going to be able to sustain this kind of fossil fuel use. This planet can’t sustain it. – President Barack Obama, May 26, 2010

Sure, it was the brute force of having the ugly truth of our thoughtless consumption of dirty energy thrust upon us instead of it being hidden from TV cameras and newspapers in the third world, but finally we’re talking publicly about the real costs of our energy use and where it’s taking us. Since a disaster of this scale was bound to happen anyway, personally I’m thanking God it happened where it did and when it did.

But am I sorry for using dirty oil to get where I have to? Not really. This speech sounded promising but Obama contradicts himself – “We’re not going to transition out of oil next year or 10 years from now….”

Why Not?

A few sentences later Obama says what the ‘crazy peak oil doomers’ have been saying for years. “We’re not going to be able to sustain this kind of fossil fuel use, This planet can’t sustain it.” As in, on our current path the end is near (environmentally and economically) yet we do not have the political will to get off the thing that will ultimately destroy us.

I repeat: Why Not?

The reality is at this point in history, the peaceful transition to true sustainability is a joint venture between educated individuals, responsible businesses and bold governments. Efforts at the individual’s level are hampered when profits and growth mentality rules. A lack of commitment to clean technology commits us to a turbulent return to pre-industrial life. There is no need for this.

We have the technology to transition now

Look at what we’ve achieved so far, it’s amazing proof that we are brilliantly creative, inventive, adaptable creatures. Better than that we can see the problems we’ve created and have the tools ready and waiting to transition us to a society where more people have access to first world comfort without the environmental destruction.

Yet if you think about what’s really being said in Obama’s speech, rather than acting swiftly to give the public access to existing alternatives, our governments’ and businesses’ lack of innovation and leadership are committing us to a bleak future where we are forced to use dirty oil to get around cities that are designed for cars, until life on this planet can no longer be sustained.

Solar, wind, ocean, geothermal, the energy is there for the taking but we also need to look at how we use the energy and our attitude towards it.

The world runs on motors

The Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) changed the world forever and is still changing our climate! However while it’s changed everything, at the heart of the change remains the same obsolete polluting technology from over a hundred years ago. It’s run its course.

To me, Angelo Di Pietro is a knight in shining armour and his compressed air motor is nothing short of amazing. I turned up on Angelo’s doorstep a few weeks ago to speak to him about the motor. To my surprise he let me in and made me a coffee. We talked for hours about the motorization of the world and this motor’s place in it. Then he agreed to let me make the above video.

Not to focus on the car, but people identify with this most – this motor is 94.5% efficient where a car’s ICE generally uses around 20% of the energy it consumes for motion with the rest exiting as wasted heat and noise through the exhaust and radiator. Similar waste occurs in most of the motors that do all the behind the scenes work such as in agricultural equipment and transport. This air motor is light, easy to produce, pollution free when the air is compressed from sustainable sources, inert in dangerous environments and with further development should be able to replace any motor in any application.

Most importantly it’s not an over-unity water engine with questionable claims that disobey the currently accepted laws of physics. Instead, it’s using patented technology which has had its efficiency verified. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and you can see it in the video as well.

It really is heartening to see this regular bloke from Melbourne spend every waking hour working on something he believes can change the world even though he seems to be getting limited interest from the very people that are making ‘bold’ statements about the urgent need for these solutions. Permaculturalist world-wide should be able to identify with this – in fact isn’t that where all real change has come from?

With full respect to the people that have lost lives and livelihoods from the Gulf oil spill disaster, I’m glad there is finally a spotlight on the reality of a fossil fuel economy and I truly hope Angelo’s technology gets the attention it deserves from the people that make the decisions that affect change.

Engineair is looking for financial partners to progress this technology further and make it a commercial reality. For more information please see


  1. This guy has been around for years, looks like he’s improved his concept vehicles though, good to see.
    I cant see many companies in Australia having the spine to back such a great piece of engineering myself, probably evident from the fact he’s still looking after such a long time.
    I’d love to see Engineair merge with the French company MDI who have more advanced air powered vehicles backed by TATA, the main Indian motor company, which last i heard was planning on opening a factory in Melbourne (yet to be seen), but i believe Angelo’s engine is special and possibly more efficient.
    I hope he and we get lucky.

  2. For over 100 years, advanced concepts in energy generation have either been ignored or actively suppressed due to the power of fossil-fuel based economic and industrial interests.

    Imagine a world where every home and village has its own clean source of electrical energy, free from the cost of fossil fuels, nuclear power or a centralized electric grid.

    Imagine every means of transportation running off of clean power plants, using no source of fuel and creating no pollution.

    Imagine the developing world blossoming with these new technologies and the equatorial rain forests protected from slash and burn subsistence farming and logging.

    This is NOT fantasy – they have the technology now – so why have they kept it from us?

  3. Hi Bradley,

    Couldn’t agree more.. it does seem to be a matter of luck doesn’t it!

    As I understand it, Angelo has had a number of offers over the years mainly from overseas companies but is waiting for the right deal where the technology won’t be locked up for one application as it really has the potential to be used in most motorisation. This means he’s waiting for a company that’s not driven solely by profit.

    We really need Angelo and he really needs a hand up to get this out there asap. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Federal & State Governments should back him rather than handing green-washed tax dollars to companies that already turn mega-profits.

    “Toyota won the first $35 million grant issued from the Federal Government’s $1.3 billion Green Car Innovation Fund to help bring production of the Hybrid Camry to Australia. The Victorian Government also contributed $15 million towards the Hybrid Camry project” –

    With Tata and MDI, it seems they aren’t that advanced at all and are stalling. This motor is 7 times more efficient than currently available air motors on the market.

    “In December 2009 Tata’s vice president of engineering systems confirmed that the limited range and low engine temperatures were causing difficulties” –

    As Angelo briefly mentioned in the video, anyone can build a car body but the motor is the only thing that really matters. The wider applications here are crazy. Imagine a solar powered compressed air genset, or a compressed air chain saw for sustainable firewood harvesting!

  4. Sorry, but this isn’t the first news about a vehicle driven by compressed air and it won’t be the last. Nevertheless laws of physics are still in strong opposition to a general introduction to this type of engine (entropy or efficiency respectively the formulas for ideal gas especially that for adiabatic (=fast) processes).

    The energy density of compressed air is much to low (i think it is lower than that of normal batterys). And if you want to use higher pressure you get greater losses (entropy).

    Perhaps it is useful as a backup solution for a stationary plant, but for sure it ist not suitable for mobile use. The same goes with hydrogen.

  5. Stephan – exactly.

    Unfortunately just explained the energy density of compressed air is very low, and by compressing it further (to store more) energy you are just going to create more heat, which will eventually dissipate to negate most of the benefit you were seeking to create.

    There are some heat recovery add-ons that can help here, but then we are adding more complexity and not necessarily gaining that much more.

    You would lose a LOT less if you stored your solar (or wind, or coal or whatever) energy in batteries and then used that to power your vehicle.

    Here is an old link on the oil drum that talks about compressed air storage:

    Just as climate change is not the problem (merely another symptom), changing what we power our vehicles with is just fiddling around the edges.

    Net energy is all that matters. I apologise if I sound pessimistic but a big part of the reason there is so much buzz around solar, wind and the like is not just an awakening of ecological conciousness, it’s due to the fact that the world keep demanding more energy, and the net energy of the conventional sources is declining, thus it is economical (or close enough) to start experimenting with other ideas.

    The reason to hold hope is the fact that we have the tools to create sustainable human settlements. Not just ecologically responsible but able to continue on our finite planet. But you mob already know that. =)

  6. The reason why alternative energy sources have not supplanted fossil fuels are because they far more expensive i.e. they have a much lower Energy Return on Energy Invested value (EROEI).

    Solar panels and wind turbines only appear affordable now because they receive a very generous subsidy from fossil fuels in the mining and manufacturing process. As the price of fossil fuels rise the price of alternative energy will rise in lockstep (or more likely the companies manufacturing them will be bankrupt).

    Ultimately the only “source” of energy we can count on will be the negawatt – the energy you don’t use.

    BTW – I highly recommend the book “The Long Descent” by John Michael Greer.

  7. Response to Stephan.
    It looks to me that it was very early in the morning when you Stephan viewed Engineair video.I don’t think you understood what I was saying, however some of your comments are valid, yet you are in the dark for a solution.I recommend that you watch the video again.

    This will be my only response. I apologise in advance as I do not have time to respond to everyone’s opinion.

  8. Nothing replaces the energy density of millions of years of sunlight stored in oil. We’re just cheating time, I get that.

    But then the laws of reality are increasingly in strong opposition of individuals thoughtlessly lugging 2000kg of steel to the milk bar with them every morning.

    Saying the density is too low is irrelevant unless you look at scale as well.

    Fossil fuels have allowed us to be very lazy. We ship meals thousands of kilometers, build building that rely on external heating and cooling, and drive heavy cars that can take us (and the 2000kgs of steel) 400 kilometers in one go when most daily trips are under 50.

    There are many many replacements for oil ready to go but there is nothing out there that can sustainably meet our current long term expectations of energy use. Nothing.

  9. My god!! Was that Patrick Blampied? or a very young version on the world famous TOP GEAR presenter Jeremy Clarkson from the UK BBC? All we needed was at test drive from THE STIG and I would have been sold.
    I have spent many years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars running vehicles and construction equipment. I could imagine a massive solar array sitting in a paddock on a Permaculture project, and having compressed air running all the equipment from a 20tonne excavator to site transport, all while emitting ZERO, That’s ZERO CO2.
    We could Swale the world.
    After he finishes that fork lift, tell him I have a 20 tonne excavator I’ll give him to work on next!
    Awesome work mate.

  10. Angelo has worked on this technology for half of his life. The concept of the technology has been approved to be a most efficient solution to replace fuel applications. It is a great innovation will change our live forever. We have been live in a much polluted environment for long time, and it caused so many health problems around world. What our government have been done? Really NOTHING at all. There is too much talking but no action, all the politician only know how to talk rubbish and try to protect their power. There are technologies available to help our environment but why not to use or support the technology?
    Angelo has write to the government and tried to apply the innovation grand, however, never hear anything back from them. Kevin Rudd is a very short vision and a very confused prime minister. A great innovation available in our country he does even know about it, or maybe he knows that but just don’t see the potential, don’t want to do anything about it.
    We are all talking here; we all know this is a great innovation. I encourage everybody come together and do something. Please pass this link around to support a great technology that truly changes our live.

  11. > I could imagine a massive solar array sitting in a paddock on a Permaculture project, and having compressed air running all the equipment from a 20tonne excavator to site transport, all while emitting ZERO, That’s ZERO CO2.

    Nick, I suspect that when you add up all the energy used and CO2 emitted to mine/manufacture/install the solar array to run the excavator you would have been better off using the fossil fuels directly.

    An increasing amount of studies suggest that the EROEI of solar PV is close to 1:1. That ratio might be higher for solar thermal and wind but it is unlikely to be enough to power excavators far into the future.

    Why EROI matters:

  12. As the price of fossil fuels rise the price of alternative energy will rise in lockstep (or more likely the companies manufacturing them will be bankrupt). – Cyrus

    Cyrus – you’ve hit the nail on the head. This is the issue that Bright Green Environmentalists (and most environmentalists of any slant) are rarely found to factor in. Last October I wrote ‘Heading into a Perpetual Recession‘. In it I shared the following projection:

    So, this is the roller coaster cycle we’re looking at:

    – Increasing demand causes a surge in oil prices, which causes recession
    – The resulting economic slowback then reduces demand and so oil prices sink
    – Reduced oil prices reduces investment in energy infrastructure (fossil fuel, alternative, whatever). We’re here
    – Reduced investment in oil exploration and development means reduced supply, which means increased oil prices
    – Increased oil prices mean more recession

    On top of the cycle above is another parameter as well. Where the recession has meant negative growth for many industrialised countries, it has merely meant a reduction in growth for others, like China, which ‘dived’ from a scorching 11 percent growth in 2007 to a ‘disastrous’ 7 percent in 2008. Recession or otherwise, international demand will inevitably overtake supply – regardless.

    The EROEI for fossil fuels has steadily diminished since the 1970s, and is now verging desperately close to being uneconomic. The impact this is having, and will have, on society is profound. The consequences will be inexorable. Adjusting society so it still functions in some form despite a significantly reduced EROEI (running from real time sunlight) is something that takes considerable time, and – critically – significant amounts of energy.

    It annoys me no end when people refer to solar, wind, electric vehicles, whatever, as ‘carbon neutral’. Visit cancer villages in China where hazardous runoff from energy intensive solar panel factories pollute rivers and groundwater and then consider what it would be like to try to produce those panels via their own sun-powered energy instead of the energy dense fossil fuels they currently enjoy. The reality is the factory would close.

    I see solar/wind powered electric or air cars having only limited ability to slightly cushion our fall into energy descent, and then only if we manage to fast-track the rollout of their necessary infrastructure via a WWII type mobilisation – actioned yesterday! As each year passes any window in time we may have had to make such preparatory transition seems to be closing. Indeed, it probably has already.

    It’s my belief that oil prices will peak again soon.

    I don’t know if it’ll be in six months, eighteen months, or a few years – but it will happen again. And when it does, there will be more bankruptcies and consolidations/mergers as industry seeks to strengthen what remains and monopolise it. There will be more unemployment, more strain on social systems, and thus more unrest. The cry “the economy must grow” will become louder but more hollow. The sight we’ve seen recently, of Greeks waving placards from gold-watch adorned wrists when protesting over austerity measures will become a more common occurrence, and governments will continue their trend towards fascism in an attempt to keep their demanding (and now largely specialised and incapable) populaces in check.

    In this environment, exploratory investments in research and development will become a luxury afforded by very few.

    My fear with people trying to be all warm, fuzzy, positive – and ultimately unrealistic – about the ability of new technologies to cushion our fall is that our already apathetic citizenry get further lulled into inaction. Just as our governments have taught us to do, such statements lead us to look to them, to industry, and to scientists to hold our hand and lead us out of this mess. We should not continue to plan or promote the Jetsons dream, but plan for and even embrace austerity. “Embracing austerity” sounds negative, but it is not. When you understand the relative EROEIs you realise it’s actually about embracing reality. The sooner we embrace that reality, and educate people about it, the greater likelihood we may generate the needed groundswell of cooperative effort to transition to a world that runs on real time sunlight.

    This evolution of thought will occur eventually. Ideally it would be sooner – hastened by large doses of practical realism via blogs and mainstream media – rather than later. Knowledge-based cooperative action in the present is far better than frantic reactionary activity further down the track.

    Hindsight is not such a beautiful thing.

  13. This is great – but like electric cars that need power generated to charge them – the power still has to be generated somewhere to compress the air.

  14. One difficulty is that air compression itself is a notorioulsy inefficient technology. As much as 80 to 90% of the electrical energy used by an air compressor is converted to heat. Air compressors in common usage run as low as 10% efficient. Power a 10% efficient compressor with a 10% efficient solar panel and you have a 1% efficient solar car. Then imagine how much food you could grow with the same capital investment instead. Maybe the air compressors he uses here are better – I only hope.

    I read a study on hydrogen fuel cells that determined the net efficiency to be 22% compared to 66% for a pure electric car, making the electric car, an already proven product, 3 times better. That said, using electric cars in the U.S. charged by 50% coal-fired electricity would cause no net reduction in GHG emissions over gasoline.

    Furthermore the fad of imagining a Hydrogen economy was pure rubbish I think, again due to the cost of hydrogen fuel cells and the poor conversion efficiencies. Some venture technology companies made scads of money on this Hydrogen pipe dream detour.

    I really hope we can get PV panels that make sense net-energy wise because PV is so simple and reliable with no moving parts.

  15. Patrick, do you know much electric energy (in kWh) does it take to compress air to fill a tank in the small car presented in the video? That would help to clear many issues ;)

  16. Hi Marcin & everyone else,

    The debate has been interesting so far hasn’t it!

    I don’t know the kWh to fill the tank. Unfortunately the information presented in the video is as much as can be shared at this point.

    I can’t speak on Angelo’s behalf nor do I pretend to fully understand his technology but he seems to have overcome many of the challenges everyone is talking about here and eluded to that in the video.

    He even hopped on the post and commented that everyone watch it again carefully!
    Angelo: “It looks to me that it was very early in the morning when you Stephan viewed Engineair video.I don’t think you understood what I was saying, however some of your comments are valid, yet you are in the dark for a solution.I recommend that you watch the video again.”

    Having talked to the guy in person at length, touring the factory, holding the motor and driving the vehicles, he’s on another level regarding comprehension of energy, and I believe he has something different to the other compressed air technologies – as he said in the above comment “you (all of us – myself included) are in the dark for a solution” but I don’t think he is… He’d have to be on to something to dedicate the last 10 years to developing the motor and no doubt he’s considered every point that has been raised here long ago.

    I’ll admit I struggled with whether or not to run with the car angle when interviewing him fully knowing it runs the risk of creating a false sense of security for those not yet wanting to deal with the reality of running on real time energy but at the same time cars seem to capture the imagination. People have a connection with them that they don’t seem to have with anything else. Even I suffer denial and despite revising my expectations, life goals, job, living arrangement and viewing the world through the permaculture lens, I am ironically restoring a 70’s cruiser as the only release from thinking, worrying, dreaming peak oil/climate change every single day and night since ‘I got it’ nearly three years ago now. Don’t ask me why I still do this, I don’t understand it, it’s so stupid but I love it.

    Especially in light of the gulf spill the masses seem to listen more and understand the need for change when you talk to them about their car and in turn I’d hoped that those who don’t see the whole picture just yet would watch the video and explore the site a bit more but for those here on the site that do get it I can only say forget about the car aspect while watching and you’ll notice Angelo keeps leading the conversation back to the motor itself, the way it uses energy differently and it’s broader applications.

    Anyway I’m sure the debate will continue… but I hope this explains a little further.

  17. Trompes
    It is interesting reading the debate about compressed air and how to do this. I was lucky enough to listen to Bill Mollison talk about Trompes and how to compress air by using falling water.
    A trompe is ancient technology that was used by the Catalonians and the Romans thousands of years ago to supply a supply of pressurised air for their furnaces. A trompe works by allowing water to fall over a vertical distance. If water is falling the speed it falls more or less is as free fall but slightly is arrested by the pipe that it is falling in. The bubbles of air are carried down much faster than they can rise because they are lighter than the water. As water falls the air bubbles in the water are compressed – the bubbles get smaller and smaller and eventually become a misty blueish dispersion in the water. The compression of air normally generates a significant amount of heat similar to pumping up a bike tyre – however in this process the heat of the compression escapes into the water so that the air is always a little cooler than the water. It is called isothermic air. When the air is released it is very cold so if it is released into a room – you have cold storage or into a box you have a refrigerator. The greatest advantage of compressing air using a trompe is that the air is not heated up by its compression and is therefore very cold, it is dust and contaminate free – it is ultra clean air. Chicago and Paris used trompes to power cars and industry in the early 1900s. One trompe built by miners generated 4600 hp and ran a lot of Paris’ buses, cars and workshops.
    This is a clean, sustainable energy source that could be adopted world wide. Check out the info on Trompes used at Ragged Chutes Mine or

  18. I believs compressed air has a future but we have been looking at it with too narrow a focus. Industry uses compressed air because it has some very good qualities, being so innefficient if there were easier cheaper more eficient ways then tey would and do use them. For a start compressed air motors are light simple and easy to make (comparativly)as are compressors. they are also relativly safe as say opposed to electrical devices ,compressed air also doesnt lose energy in transmission (ie as long asyou have a decent resivour at the end then you can send it hundreds even thousands of k’s with no energy lost(of course you have all that extra pipe to fill). A lot of the misconception comes from where compressed air gets its energy from. The suprising answer is its solar energy. Let me explain When we compress air it heats up thermodynamics tells us this is a result of work being done on it and that the heat caused by work done is exactly equivalent.But we also have heat in the air first from, as you guessed solar warming of the atmosphere. Now i didnt study physics at school so im going to generalise but ,say you have air at 25c and you reduce its volume by half ,the air at half volume is at 50c . This air gets shoved in our storage tank and cools to atmospheric temperature. Some time later you come along and use an air tool or motor to do work.The air tool gets cold depending on how efficient it is (and i suspect that the di Petro motor would get very cold due to its high expansion ratio) This is because the the expanding air which is at atmospheric temperature but higher pressure is absorbing energy as heat from the atmosphere as it expands, remember the reverse of the compression process will see this air halve in temp for every doubling in volume. The cold tool is the axpanding air absorbing heat energy out of the environment aroung it. This is why after heating of the compressed air is recognised as giving more bang for your buck. so in essence air at room temp and the air in a compressor tank have exactly the same energy content , it is only the kinetic energy of the compressed air that allows it to expand down to atmospheric pressure absorbing heat energy from the atmosphere and so powering the tool/ motor. As an aside many air tools are designed only to use the kinetic energy of the air to provide power, a true air motor allows the air to expand as much as possible and absorb as much atmospheric heat as possible hence the earlier comment about Angelo’s motor probably feeling very cold. Now there are ways to make compressed air very much more economic and as said earlier compressed air has some unique properties that can be had with very simple methods for example compressed air expanding through a Ranque/Hilsch vortex tube (basically some pipe and washers ) can provide cooling(down to well below freezing) and heating (hot enough to burn you)out of opposite ends . Or compressed air lift water pumps with no moving parts again made out of nothing more than pipes, dont forget those car jacks tipper hoists made out of air bags that you just fill to lift some surprising weights. weve just got to get the compression costs down and there are many ways to do that its just that nobody has yet put them all together in a system.
    Cheers Tim

  19. Firstly the business model was not mentioned. Compressed air cars are not sold, but instead you have to lease them, which is pretty weak. I imagine they will probably destroy instead of sell off the older models so you are ever enslaved to spending money.

    Next, as others said, the physics does not make sense in terms of efficiency.

    Thirdly, Sure Bill likes to sell the Trombe/Trompe. Do some research and see how many actually exist and what is required to have a practical one. Why doesn’t the PRI have one if they’re so great? It’s not a realistic way to create and store energy for the masses, and I challenge you to get one going. That technology dates back to before Roman times and I dare say we have learned a few things since then.

    Okay, that all said, if this sort of thing was available for small trips, you used an electric pump powered by solar, and you didn’t have to lease it, it would be great for short distances. What percentage of the world’s population does that really help?

    And one other thing to consider, compressed air, fuel cells, etc. are ways of STORING energy. The energy has to be sourced from somewhere else, so if we use electric pumps that are fed from coal/nuclear/(or debatable) wind turbines, we are just transferring the problem elsewhere.

    So, it’s a solution that could be beneficial to a small percentage of the population. In terms of toting it as the way forward? FAIL.

  20. Cyrus,

    I think I happen to know a little bit about classical thermodynamics, and considering what I have seen so far concerning discussions around the concept of “emergy”, I’ve come to the conclusion that pretty much all of what I have seen so far seems to be pseudo-scientific nonsense.

    If anyone can come up with methods that give “emergy” efficiencies which are (1) independently verifiable in the sense that different physics-wise competent people tackling the same problem will arrive at comparable numbers, (2) based on an internally self-consistent method, and (3) allow some sort of experimental validation at least for some simple problems, I would much like to hear about that.

    In particular, I would like to challenge the “Maximum Em-Power Principle”, which seems to be worshipped by some in pseudo-religious ways, yet not backed by experimental evidence.

    Now, this discussion may not directly be related to the topic of this post – but I sense an urgent need to take a deeper look at the “Emergy” concept, in particular as some “Permaculture Celebrities” like David Holmgren advodate it so strongly. If this should turn out to be a red herring (as it seems to me), we better should re-adjust our perspectives and evaluation models rather sooner than later.

  21. I wonder if the compressed air could be used to power a Sterling engine. If the air from the tank is so cold it could cool the cold end of the engine and fuel could be burnt to heat the hot end, creating a big temperature differential. It could be quieter than other compressed air engines.

  22. I have read with great interest all the comments above. I am saddened to the core to find thinking people with a goal of sustainable energy production read past or belittle the idea of the trompe as a source of compressed air for this motor. Please take a moment to look at this information page about Hoover Dam:

    Near the bottom of the page is a photograph of the discharge gates. Impressive show of power, isn’t it? Let me direct your attention to the last Q&A:

    “What is the maximum discharge capacity of the spillways, jet flow gates and powerplant?

    “About 500,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Each spillway can discharge 200,000 cfs. If the spillways were operated at full capacity, the energy of the falling water would be about 25,000,000 horsepower. The flow over each spillway would be about the same as the flow over Niagara Falls, and the drop from the top of the raised spillway gates to the river level would be approximately three times as great.”

    25 million horsepower being dumped into the river AFTER capturing up to 10 billion KWH per year of electricity. Even if the Hoover facility routinely dumps only 10% of that volume, that is still a continuous 2.5 million HP untapped going down river.

    The air entrainment compressor at Ragged Chutes Mine, linked in the comment by Jon Gemmell, was designed and built by Mr. Charles H. Traylor. That compressor produced 117 PSI in virtually limitless volume piped through 21 miles of large diameter pipe and several more miles of smaller pipe to supply the mines. The Ragged Chutes compressor was rated at 81% efficiency and 5500 HP. Got that? Roughly .002% of the energy released at full flow of the Hoover Dam.

    An hydraulic compressor runs with minimal maintenance for decades. Mr. Traylor’s first commercial installation was at Dominion Cotton Mills at Magog, Quebec. That compressor ran continuously for eighty years with only two shutdowns for maintenance. It was roughly 60% efficient and produced 550 HP at 51 PSI. It was retired in 1974 when the mill upgraded their equipment, rendering the compressor superfluous to their needs.

    One of Mr. Traylor’s compressors is in use today to power the gates of the Peterborough Lift Lock on the Trent Canal in Ontario. It has run maintenance free for over 100 years.

    The air entrainment compressor is not a perfect technology. It is expensive to build. There are environmental concerns to be addressed. It would take a lot of capital and an energy intensive effort to bring a large compressor on line. And, the air must be distributed. However, it is a mature and well understood technology that can be retrofitted to hydroelectric plants or planned as part of new construction. Once running the compressor will run for decades with zero fuel consumption. With a planned rebuilding program it could run for centuries.

    Rotary engines powered by air compressed by water; what is the down side?


    Story of Charles H. Taylor.

    Wikipedia entry for the Peterborough Lift.

    Google Books result for Taylor’s compressor.

    Description of the technology as used in German mines during the early part of the 20th century.

    A book preview of a more recent publication:

    Useful Google search phrases:

    frizell air entrainment compressor

    Taylor patent numbers 543,410; 543,411; 543,412, July 23, 1895 — 892772, July 7, 1908

    Experiments on the Compression of Air by Direct Action of Water, by J. P. Frizell, 1880

    air entrainment compressor norwich connecticut

    At Google patents or freepatentsonline, search for these men:

    J. P. Frizell
    Jens Orten Boving
    Paul H. Morton

  23. The main reason for the negative comments about this technology seem to be centred around where the energy comes in the first instance. By using a wind turbine to drive a compressor directly you avoid the losses of converting to electricity and then to motive power and gain the advantage of storing the energy for when you need it rather than limiting it to when it can be generated.

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