Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/101

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91
THE AVAILABLE ENERGY OF NATURE.

wind will do man's mechanical work, on land at least, in proportion comparable to its present doing of work at sea.

Even now it is not utterly chimerical to think of wind superseding coal in some places for a very important part of its present duty—that of giving light. Indeed, now that we have dynamos and Faure's accumulator, the little want to let the thing be done is cheap windmills. A Faure cell containing twenty kilogrammes of lead and minium, charged and employed to excite incandescent vacuum-lamps, has a light-giving capacity of sixty-candle hours (I have found considerably more in experiments made by myself, but I take sixty as a safe estimate). The charging may be done uninjuriously, and with good dynamical economy, in any time from six hours to twelve or more. The drawing-off of the charge for use may be done safely, but somewhat wastefully, in two hours, and very economically in any time of from five hours to a week or more. Calms do not last often longer than three or four days at a time. Suppose, then, that a five days' storage capacity suffices (there may be a little steam-engine ready to be set to work at any time after a four-days' calm, or the user of the light may have a few candles or oil-lamps in reserve, and be satisfied with them when the wind fails for more than five days). One of the twenty kilogramme-cells, charged when the windmill works for five or six hours at any time, and left with its sixty candle-hours' capacity to be used six hours a day for five days, gives a two-candle light. Thus, thirty-two such accumulator-cells so used would give as much light as four burners of London sixteen-candle gas. The probable cost of dynamo and accumulator does not seem fatal to the plan, if the windmill could be had for something comparable with the prime cost of a steam-engine, capable of working at the same horse-power as the windmill when in good action. But windmills as hitherto made are very costly machines, and it does not seem probable that, without inventions not yet made, wind can be economically used to give light in any considerable class of cases, or to put energy into store for work of other kinds.

Consider, lastly, rain-power. When it is to be had in places where power is wanted for mills or factories of any kind, water-power is thoroughly appreciated. From time immemorial, water-motors have been made in large variety for utilizing rain-power in the various conditions in which it is presented, whether in rapidly-flowing rivers, in natural waterfalls, or stored at heights in natural lakes or artificial reservoirs. Improvements and fresh inventions of machines of this class still go on, and some of the finest principles of mathematical hydrodynamics have, in the lifetime of the British Association, and, to a considerable degree, with its assistance, been put in requisition for perfecting the theory of hydraulic mechanism, and extending its practical applications.

A first question occurs: Are we necessarily limited to such natural sources of water-power as are supplied by rain falling on hill-country,