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Since earthquakes, typhoons, tsunami and many natural disasters were measured or calculated to release more energy than many H-bombs can produce every seconds, can we one day harness this powerful force of nature and perhaps even control it?

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I am going to expand this great answer a bit:

Natural disasters are really strong See this video where wind turbine encounters a tornado. Around 2 minutes you can see the tornado tearing up wind turbine.

So either you have to design your power plants to be extremly durable which is impractical (better to lose one "cheap" wind turbine than spend money on one expensive)

Or, you have to build power plant designed purely for this purpose. Your investment return then would be more than 50 years. Good luck in getting investor.

Power has to be consumed immediatelly: We have very limited means of storing electrical power. And harnessing natural disaster would produce a lot of electric surplus, which you have to get rid of and you have to do it now

Being from Europe and being involved a bit in energy business, I will give you two little bit specific examples:

In Nothern Sea, just above Germany, there is big farm of wind power plants. And even in "normal" days, it can happen, that wind blows too much, that you have to get rid of it at any cost. Thats why energy trading systems offer negative price, meaning that you are willing to pay someone for helping you getting rid of your surplus energy.

How much do you have to balance in electric grid?

My company (provider of trading system for energy in Germany) was announced by power companies, that power companies expected 10 Gigawatts of imbalance in grid during last solar eclipse, observed above Germany.

To give you reference, one standard nulear power plant provides about 1000 MW = 1 Gigawatt of power to the grid.

It was expected, that due lower light during the eclipse, the grid will lose imput of 10 nuclear power plants (less solar input during that day).

So, expecitng only five times more from any natural disaster will give you 50 gigawatts of surplus - as if you turned on 50 nuclear power plants in single point of time. Good luck in earning money on that.

Wrap up: While it could be done, there is no business scenario where you could profit on it

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  • $\begingroup$ Downvoted based on some rather arbitrary statements e.g. ROI of '50 years'. While I agree it currently isn't viable maybe go into the reasons it isn't a little more (e.g. it's cheap to generate power, expensive to store it - if this was reversed than harnessing energy from natural disasters may be more viable). It's also worth noting than in many ways we do harness and control natural disasters - we use volcanic ash for farming, dam waterways and turn floods into hydro-electric and in area's with fault lines we often find (and tap into) hotsprings and geothermal energy. $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 Mar 29 '15 at 12:22
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In theory, yes. There are systems to generate power from wind or tidal action. You could place rugged versions of these systems into the path of a hurricane or a tsunami.

In practice, no. A generator which can capture energy from a tsunami would be ill suited to get power from normal tides. The power plants would stand idle for most of the time, perhaps forever.

It would help a little bit if there were better ways to predict the disasters, but would you really want to go in and set up power plants while everybody else is busy to board up houses and evacuate? And would the energy from that disaster be more than the energy to move the power plants into position?

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We do already.

For example, I live in Tropical Far North Queensland. We occasionally get significant storms, including cyclones. These storms contain huge volumes of energy and can be very destructive.

These storms also bring a huge volume of a very precious resource - water! By damming local rivers we can not only maintain a year long water supply, we can generate hydro-electric energy to power the city.

This also applies to areas that often see flooding.

In addition to dams I'd look into Geothermal energy - which may have strong links to seismic activity. Furthermore while not 'energy' per say volcano's and some flooding (e.g. Nile) have been known to generate vast quantities of fertilizer - something that would be very expensive to generate manually.

I note that there's an inherent contradiction of terms between 'disaster' and 'control'/'harness' - a 'disaster' by it's very nature cannot be controlled - but a strong, infrequent and energetic environmental system sometimes can.

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  • $\begingroup$ do you mean that so long as there is more output of energy generated from these technologies you mentioned above than they normally do when a natural disaster strike, we have perfected the methodology of harnessing the destructive power the nature can throw at us? I really don't think that these technologies are designed for this kind of situation perhaps I'm mistaken. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Mar 29 '15 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ Disaster is a loaded term - by definition it is uncontrolled. But if you look at the actual phenomena that can sometimes cause disaster we can in some instances control/harness it's power. A 'storm' recently did significant damage including floods to Brisbane, a city to my south. Yet we regularly get far more powerful cyclones and face little to no damage - instead we reap the rewards. Why? Because we're used to this phenomena and have designed systems to work with it. $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 Mar 29 '15 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ Or in short, you bet that our dams, houses and infrastructure (especially drains) are designed to cope with cyclones! We harness practical resources in a practical way - also known as boring. Did you expect something exciting? $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 Mar 29 '15 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ A difference way of looking at things, I must agree with you this time round. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Mar 29 '15 at 13:26

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