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Published on September 22nd, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz


Forest Fire Warning System Derives Power from Trees

September 22nd, 2008 by  

Trees: they’re good for more than just shade, harboring wildlife, and carbon storage. A new sensor system developed by Voltree Power uses the energy produced by trees to wirelessly transmit signals  with information about forest fires.

The system is powered by off-the-shelf batteries that are slowly charged by the small amounts of electricity produced by trees.

Scientists only recently discovered that trees produce energy generated from an imbalance in pH between a tree and its surrounding soil. The forest fire warning sensor is the first real-world application of this knowledge.

The system wirelessly transmits information about temperature and humidity four times a day from sensor to sensor until the info reaches a weather station that beams the data by satellite to a forestry center in Idaho.

Voltree’s sensor is a big improvement over current forest fire warning technologies. Remote automated weather stations are expensive, and manually recharging batteries at hard-to-reach locations is also costly. In contrast, the Voltree system maintains itself and only requires cheap batteries.

With forest fires getting bigger and more out of control every year, fire-prone areas should welcome the arrival of the tree-powered sensor.

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.

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