Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/102

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or may we look to the collection of rain-water in tanks placed artificially at sufficient heights over flat country to supply motive power economically by driving water-wheels? To answer it: Suppose a height of one hundred metres, which is very large for any practical building, or for columns erected to support tanks; and suppose the annual rainfall to be three quarters of a metre (thirty inches). The annual yield of energy would be seventy-five metre-tons per square metre of the tank. Now, one horse-power for 365 times twenty-four hours is 236,500 foot-tons; and, therefore (dividing this by 75), we find 3,153 square metres as the area of our supposed tank, required for a continuous supply of one horse-power. The prime cost of any such structure, not to speak of the value of the land which it would cover, is utterly prohibitory of any such plan for utilizing the motive power of rain. We may or may not look forward hopefully to the time when windmills will again "lend revolving animation" to a dull, flat country; but we certainly need not be afraid that the scene will be marred by forests of iron columns taking the place of natural trees, and gigantic tanks overshadowing the fields and blackening the horizon.

To use rain-power economically on any considerable scale we must look to the natural drainage of hill-country and take the water where we find it either actually falling or stored up and ready to fall when a short artificial channel or pipe can be provided for it at moderate cost. The expense of aqueducts, or of underground water-pipes, to carry water to any great distance—any distance of more than a few miles or a few hundred yards—is much too great for economy when the yield to be provided for is power; and such works can only be undertaken when the water itself is what is wanted. Incidentally, in connection with the water-supply of towns, some part of the energy due to the head at which it is supplied may be used for power. There are, however, but few cases (I know of none except Greenock) in which the energy to spare over and above that devoted to bringing the water to where it is wanted, and causing it to flow fast enough for convenience at every opened tap in every house or factory, is enough to make it worth while to make arrangements for letting the water-power be used without wasting the water-substance. The cases in which water-power is taken from a town supply are generally very small, such as working the bellows of an organ, or "hair-brushing by machinery," and involve simply throwing away the used water. The cost of energy thus obtained must be something enormous in proportion to the actual quantity of the energy, and it is only the smallness of the quantity that allows the convenience of having it when wanted at any moment, to be so dearly bought.

For anything of great work by rain-power, the water-wheels must be in the very place where the water-supply with natural fall is found. Such places are generally far from great towns, and the time is not yet come when great towns grow by natural selection beside waterfalls,