# Using Snow to generate Electricity in Antarctica

So I had an idea for an emergency electricity generator that works like this: you fill a bucket up with snow, you pour it down a hatch and the snow spins some turbines which spin some generators to make electricity. Could this work in the polar regions of the world?

• Are you asking if the amount of energy generated is greater than the amount of energy it took you to scoop the snow, lift it to the intake, and clear the pile of snow from the exit afterward? – user535733 Jan 5 at 3:14
• No, just if the machine will work and be useful, people scoop the snow. – skout Jan 5 at 3:17
• If that can work in polar regions, similar generators should work in desert regions with sand, in mountain regions with rocks and virtually everywhere with water. – Alexander Jan 5 at 6:22
• You’d be better off filling the bucket with snow and attaching it to an elevated spool of rope fastened to a dynamo. Let the bucket drop to the floor, then lift and repeat. Saves energy gathering snow multiple times. – Joe Bloggs Jan 5 at 14:06
• If fact this already exists, though they planned to use rocks. Google ‘gravity light system’ – Joe Bloggs Jan 5 at 14:08

You are using muscular work of people to trigger extraction of potential energy from snow.

This is a poor working idea for several reasons:

1. snow is low density, so you harvest few potential energy per unit volume (1 liter of liquid water weights 10 N, 1 liter of snow weights about 2 N)
2. you are using more processes in series (shoveling the snow, have it drop down, convert the mechanical energy to electricity), multiplying their yields, thus lowering the overall yield

Just put the same people on bikes, connect the bikes to a shaft attached to a power generator and you have a better yield. It doesn't take too much effort for a person to generate about 100 W on a bike.

• yuck, stop being faster than me – dot_Sp0T Jan 5 at 9:09
• +1 for using actual weight instead of mass – user43712 Jan 20 at 9:30

it'd work about as well as using a funnel (or bucket) to catch rain to run a mini hydroelectric plant. in other words, not very well at all.

wind is probably a much better source, during antarctic emergencies it's usually very windy. if there's no wind then a conventiopnal generator is the easiest to fuel and run.

people power uses very bulky fuel at very low efficiency.

maybe the movement of a glacier could be harnessed, but their speed is, well, glacial, so some really steep gear ratio would be needed.

• See what-if.xkcd.com/23 for the numbers on generating electricity from a drainpipe using the rainwater collected from the roof - very uneconomical. Note that snow is (on average) 1/12 as dense as water and is a far from perfect fluid. – KerrAvon2055 Jan 5 at 4:04
• yeah, not even nearly as good. – Jasen Jan 5 at 4:09

No, the weight of the snow falling at the speed of gravity (optimistically) would produce less energy then what is used to lift the snow into the hatch. Your better off using electricity generating bikes.