12-Year-Old Reporter on Assignment in the Redwoods of Big Sur

-By Alden Roosevelt

I went into the woods because there was a pandemic. When life changed for everyone, our family returned to our homestead, a redwood forest in Big Sur. To begin the expedition to our land, we cross 7 rivers and drive along a dirt road up the side of a mountain, to arrive at our off-grid, cozy cabin. Our land is a working model, (and sometimes a non-working model), of alternative energy, with solar panels, and a Pelton wheel that provides us with electricity. I have been dreaming of how a Pelton wheel could be utilized in NYC with all of our rain and tall buildings, since water and elevation are two of the key components in har-nessing electricity this way. The land has taught me so much. Nature is one of my best teachers. Another great teacher is my science mentor Geoff Von Saltza, so I decided to interview him about hydro-electric power. Now, without further ado, my interview.

Photo credit: Timothy Birchby 

Alden: Hello I’m Alden, what is your name?

Geoff: My name is Geoff.

Alden: For my first question you’re a biology and life scientist, what does that mean?

Geoff: So, biology is the study of living things also known as organisms, so things on the land, and so living things encompass all animals on planet earth, both land and sea in the air and in the water.

Alden: Cool, now I’ve been studying Nikola Tesla and he talked about the natural forces of the earth turned into power like a Pelton wheel, how hydro power works.

Geoff: So, hydro power refers to gen-erating power, normally electric power with the use of water. And that is almost exclusively by using water to fall through a gravitational field, like from a high spot to a low spot, that creates potential ener-gy to kinetic energy, and the kinetic en-ergy can be put to use for mechanicals. So, essentially, it’s water falling down a pipe or waterfall, onto a water wheel, or Pelton wheel, to capture the energy of the gravity, and water.

Alden: After hurricane Sandy many people didn’t have electricity for weeks, so how would it be possible to have Pelton wheels in New York so we can avoid this in the future?

Geoff: Well, that’s a pretty significant challenge. A Pelton wheel, is essentially a sophisticated water wheel. For the New York system you would have to have a tremendous flow of water. So, you would have to have multiple hydroelectric sys-tems throughout New York City. So as long as the gravity is doing the work, and each person would have a couple of Hy-dro turbines, it could be possible.

Alden: Thank you for this interview

Geoff: Thank you too. I wondered after our interview if each building could have its own small version of this system. If any NYC based scien-tists want to take this idea and run with it, please do! I’m preparing for my next article about facial hair, though I don’t have any myself. Thank you, and have a great week. 

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