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Huge Siphon Tidal Power Plant

By H. Winfield Secor, E.E.

How Sea Water is Siphoned into and out of Reservoir, Developing Electric Power Either Way

From time to time, some budding genius comes out before the world with a startling invention with which he proclaims that he intends to harness the power of the ocean waves or the power of the tides, whether these be created by ocean, river or lake action, primarily. Most of these schemes die a natural death while reposing in the vaults of the U. S. Patent Office, even tho the patents may eventfully be issued on the more or less successful looking inventions.

One of the most ingenious ideas that has been proposed recently in the realm of tidal power plants is the one illustrated herewith, and which has been invented and patented by Mr. Charles Herbert Talmage of New Bedford, Mass. The inventor certainly deserves a great deal of credit for the way in which he worked out the various details of this tidal power plant and the means for applying it in practice, especially in the clever construction of the collapsible dams, which are caused to rise and fall by water pressure.

The accompanying illustration shows clearly just how Mr. Talmage proposes to reap useful power from the gigantic tidal actions occurring along our great sea coasts and other locations such as along rivers. In brief, the principle underlying the operation of this tidal power plant is as follows:

By referring to the small detail illustrations herewith, it will be seen that as the ocean tide rises, for example, that the water within the large reservoir or tidal basin will be at a lower level. As the ocean tide proceeds to slowly rise, the sea dam is raised by hydrostatic pressure or water pumped into it by suitable means, while the turbine float with its two or more attached siphoning pipes rises correspondingly. All the while water is flowing from the sea up thru the siphons and out thru the turbines into the tidal basin as shown by the arrows.

In the first place, the siphon action is created by exhausting the air from the left hand siphon, thru the small pipe connecting the tops of the two siphons, and which is joined to a suitable exhausting apparatus or machine, not shown. This action keeps up until the sea tide has risen to its highest level and shortly after which period the level of the water in the tidal basin will have risen to a similar height.

As soon as the sea tide begins to fall or ebb, then the reverse action is set up by opening the valve at the basin siphon just above the turbine, and closing off the left hand siphon, as clearly shown in the second detail illustration. A vacuum is created in this siphon by the action aforementioned, and the water is caused to flow from the tidal basin, into the right hand siphon, down thru the turbine and into the sea again.

The pontoon containing the turbines and dynamos falls with the sea tide, and the basin or right hand dam is slowly collapsed by emptying the water out of it. In this way power is developt practically all the time, while the sea tide is rising and while it is ebbing, and useful energy is thus realized from the tidal power itself, without any expenditure of money for coal or other source of energy, the only actual expense being that for the operating personnel and the initial cost of the installation of the machinery and dams.

As the large perspective view shows, a substantial and adequately strong wall has to be erected along the sea front, to withstand the pounding of the waves and also to serve as a restraining wall for the impounding reservoir and the millions of cubic feet of water which would be siphoned into it from the sea. The inventor's designs call for siphon, turbine and generating units mounted in groups of five, which is a very good idea, and several of these units can be grouped along the sea wall in the manner illustrated.

At the present time, engineers and others are rather wont to scoff at what to them appear to be radical and impractical tidal power development schemes, but in another short span of years, when coal has become so scant that its cost will be prohibitive, at least for power house generating apparatus, and when the natural oil and gas resources of the country have become greatly diminisht, then you will see hundreds of these plants being installed on every sea coast, or wherever there is a useful rise and fall of the tide.


The turbines operated by the water flowing under a fairly high velocity thru the siphons in one direction or other, may be connected directly with dynamos generating electric current, which can be transmitted and distributed over hundreds of miles at a potential of 200,000 volts or more, or a series of turbines may be connected to common jack shafts, by a gearing or otherwise, and these shafts in turn coupled to a single large dynamo or two, mounted on the rising and falling turbine platform or pontoon.

In the illustration herewith, one method of conducting electric current from the rising and falling turbine-dynamo pontoon is shown. Here the pontoon carries a steel mast to which wires are brought from the dynamos located in the water-proof chambers of the pontoon and from this tower or mast, the wires lead over to another mast on the stationary wall, and thence they lead to step-up transformers in a distributing station where the current is raised to a very high voltage suitable for transmission purposes over long distances.

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