Republic of Shalampax
An Inane Island in an Insane World
 

Electricity

Generating electricity in Shalampax used to be problematic. We have no rivers or waterfalls that we can use for hydroelectric generation. Fresh water itself isn't a problem; we get an abundant supply of drinking and washing water by collecting a small portion of the near-constant rain that falls on our roof, but we haven't figured out how to harness that flow to generate adequate power.

Because our island is so small, a nuclear, coal, oil, gas or any other large power plant was also out of the question. Erecting one would not leave room for anyone to live, which would eliminate the reason to generate electricity.

Someone got the bright idea of using photovoltaic cells. That sounds marvelous, and terribly virtuous in a green sort of way, but the winds here are so strong (see climate) that the cells have to be cemented flush with the roof to prevent them being blown off in the first gust. That meant that the cells couldn't be properly angled to catch as much sunshine as possible. We could have mounted them on the north wall of our building (being in the southern hemisphere, between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun is usually, but not always in the north), but the architect who designed our building wanted to put in as many windows as possible, which didn't leave room for mounting photocells on the sunny wall, or any other wall for that matter. (See architecture.)

The sunny wall? This brings up another problem. Perpetual deep cloud cover ensures that we rarely see as much as a hint of the sun. Nonetheless, we foolishly did place solar cells on our roof. On a good day, they produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of about three children's nightlights.

"Hmm," you say, "you've got strong winds, why not use wind turbines?" That's a fine idea in theory, but it doesn't work in practice because the winds are too strong. Anything heavy (like the blades of a wind turbine) sitting on a tall pole (like one that a wind turbine sits on) can't stand up for more than a minute or two in the Category 5 hurricane-force winds that come blasting through here every few days. Dodging large, sharp flying wind turbine blades is not our idea of fun. How our palm trees have managed to stay up all this time (Paahlm be praised, see religion) without being blown down by the winds or sliced off after our few attempts at putting up turbines bewilders us.

Weather might be our nemesis in this regard, but it also provided the solution. A huge cavern has been dug underneath our building (see architecture). The cavern is filled with enormous electrical capacitors and batteries. Thick cables lead from the cavern through well insulated conduits up to the roof. There, they attach to interconnected metal rods that lie between the near-useless photovoltaic cells. Massive electrical charges from the many lightning strikes that hit the roof almost daily travel along these rods to the cables and then down to the basement capacitors. The capacitors smooth out the jolts and use the conditioned power to recharge the batteries. We draw our electricity from the batteries.

The designers of this system feared that 4,242 people (see demographics) all drawing power from the batteries simultaneously may entirely deplete between some periods when lightning strikes are less frequent than normal. To solve this problem, our engineers installed stationary bicycles in every apartment. The bicycles have small generators that feed back into the batteries. The idea was that, if the batteries wore down, everybody could hop on their exercise bikes and pump their legs as hard as they could for as long as they could to recharge the batteries, while getting a good workout at the same time. The interval between lightning strikes has never been long enough to necessitate this, which is a good thing because few Shalampaxians have ever exercised a minute in their lives, and even fewer want to do so.




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Shalampax and Shalampaxian are trademarks of Klebanoff Associates, Inc.