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A present day society has had to relocate from their coastal community and have taken refuge at the top of a very high mountain roughly 10,000 feet above sea level. This mountain is the most prominent around and its profile is very steep, approx 45 degrees, from top to bottom on all sides, with a flattened mesa on top. Very long ago the local people constructed a stainless steel pipe of approx 1 meter diameter and 5 miles in length to carry holy water down from the mountain but now that they live on the mountain they seemingly have no need for this pipe.

The people are looking for different ways that they could use this pipe to generate electricity for their new colony on top of the mountain.

One of the suggestions was to exploit the natural atmospheric pressure differential between the ends of the pipe with an internal turbine. Is this feasible?

Note: They don't see electricity generation as a worthy sacrifice for their 'holy water', i.e. hydroelectric generation.

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    $\begingroup$ If there was water flowing through the pipe, why not just a water turbine? It's relatively low-tech and existing technology. How much electricity do you need to generate? $\endgroup$ – vcsjones Aug 10 '17 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ They don't see electricity generation as a worthy sacrifice for their 'holy water'. $\endgroup$ – user40828 Aug 10 '17 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ It's customary to wait at least a day before accepting an answer to encourage people from every time-zone to weigh in. You can un-accept and re-accept freely as many times as you want. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Aug 10 '17 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ Ok, I will wait for any additional answers before accepting one. $\endgroup$ – user40828 Aug 10 '17 at 19:42
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Those people can use the pipe as Solar updraft tower. Basically, it works by creating a strong draft of air from heated ground to cooler high altitude. Some sort of sun heat collector should be built at the base of the pipe to make it work.

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  • $\begingroup$ This will work with the slope as well. Great answer. $\endgroup$ – user40828 Aug 10 '17 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ A solar updraft tower needs to be larger than a meter in diameter be functional. It also doesn't benefit from being 10,000ft tall. Refurbishing the pipe would be just as costly as building a new installation. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Aug 10 '17 at 19:43
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The pressure differential between ends of the pipe isn't advantageous for power generation.

Imagine taking a 10m pipe and sticking it vertically into a pool of water. There is now about a 1 bar pressure differential between the two ends of this pipe. Yet there is no flow of water inside the pipe to drive a turbine.

The situation will be the same with your pipe in the air.

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Cut several lengths of pipe. File the top ends sharp or attach spikes. Raise them up on end over the high mountain. It does not need to be 5 miles high; 100 feet will do. You are already on the highest point anywhere around. Then capture the cloud charge collected as well as any lightning that might come down.

enter image description here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj8RdrZkW_c

Ideally the spikes would bleed off charge from the clouds slowly enough to protect against lightning strikes which might melt the pipe. Fortunately if one of the pipes melt you have 5 miles more worth of pipe to replace it.

This is a good idea even if you don't harvest the cloud charge, because I bet your people are getting hit by lightning all the time up there.

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In a word, Hydroelectric generator. I will skip the explanation of the fundamentals of the technology and ask you to see this linkTaum Sauk Hydroelectric station

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  • $\begingroup$ The Taum Sauk plant is a net consumer of electricity. Also, they don't see electricity generation as a worthy sacrifice for their 'holy water'. $\endgroup$ – user40828 Aug 10 '17 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Joshua34 - Taum Sauk sells electricity, and not only does not consume it, but generates enough to also pump the water back up the hill. If your question had designated "Too Holy for ...___" my answer would be different. Consider that a 1M pipe would carry a Lot of water, and like it or not- it will eventually run down the hill whether or not it is thought of as "Holy"... $\endgroup$ – Joe Aug 10 '17 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ Well as my people only used the pipe to bring the holy water down to them, and seeing as they are now at the source, they understandably no longer want to send all of their holy water down the mountain. $\endgroup$ – user40828 Aug 10 '17 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ Taum Suk is a pumped-storage hydroelectric plant. It works essentially as a large battery storing energy in the gravitational field of the Earth. As any rechargeable battery, it cannot be 100% efficient; the energy it gets back when water flows down is a little less than the energy expended to pump water up. It is economically viable because it uses cheaper electric power to pump the water up, and sells electric power at peak times when it is more expensive. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 10 '17 at 18:43

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