The Discovery Channel's Web site has an interesting story today on how the city of Vandergrift, Pa., plans to use plastic strips to generate electricity thanks to the strong currents of the Kiskiminetas River. Lisa Weiland, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, explains that Vandergrift is a steel town that is "reinventing itself and going for sustainability." The town hopes to generate between 20-40 percent of the city center's electricity using the technology. Here's how the plastic strips will work:
That sustainable power will most likely come from a grid of undulating strips made of polyvinylidene fluoride or PVDF, a material that generates a slight electrical current when it is moved, in this case, by the currents and eddies in the Kiskiminetas River. Such materials are described as piezoelectric and the resulting electrical current would pass to small substations along the river's edge before charging a group of batteries. ... The exact details about how dense the grid would be, how long the PVDF strips will be, or even when the grid would be laid down, are still being worked out. But whatever the final plans are, the researchers claim they will maintain the health and appearance of the Kiski, which is used for fishing, canoe trips and other recreational activities.Sounds like an interesting technology that, no doubt, could easily be duplicated elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if the project is really cost effective, which would make it truly sustainable.