Texas Tesla Tower Titillates

One of the nice things about a road trip is you often get to see something that really surprises you. A recent trip through Texas may have resulted in my second most surprising sighting. There’s a strange tower that looks oddly like a Tesla tower in the middle of rural Texas, right off the main interstate. What is it? Although Google did answer the question — sort of — I’m still not sure how legitimate its stated purpose is.

First Sighting

I was driving between Wimberly and Frisco — two towns that aren’t exactly household names outside of Texas. Near Milford, there’s a very tall structure that looks like a giant mechanical mushroom on top of a grain silo. If the mushroom were inverted or pointing towards the horizon, it would be easy to imagine it was some very odd antenna. This dish, however, is pointed right down its own odd-shaped mast. The top of the thing sure looks like the top of a Van de Graf generator.

So What Is It?

Of course, Google found a wealth of information on it. I’m not sure if I totally believe it or not, though. But the Van de Graf generator guess might not have been far off. The tower belongs to a company called Viziv Technologies. They claim they are doing experiments to transmit energy wirelessly — very much what Tesla was trying to do with his Wardenclyffe tower.

In fact, pictures of Wardenclyffe look suspiciously similar to the Texas tower. Here’s where it gets interesting though. While it might be ironic to read this on a web site: don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

On the Internet

The internet is a wealth of information. Some of it is true. The problem is sorting out which is true and which isn’t. Sometimes that’s easy in both directions. I can’t tell you the exact years Ronald Regan was in office, but I remember enough that if I read it was from 1981 to 1989 that sounds about right. If I read he started in 1820 or he was president for 30 years, I’d probably realize that was inaccurate.

Then there are the things that are just clearly not true. The Earth is flat. Nazis escaped to the dark side of the moon. But the real difficulty is the stories that seem outlandish but could be true.

Consider the time-traveling story about John Titor. His predictions didn’t pan out — not exactly — so probably a hoax, but at the time it could have been plausible. Cold fusion’s initial claims sounded good and many people still think they are able to produce it, but it is just fringe enough that it is hard to tell serious science from chicanery.

Wireless power transmission is pretty squarely in that camp. Like cold fusion, it isn’t a totally outlandish idea. Tesla thought he could do it and he was a pretty smart guy. However, the topic is also surrounded by a lot of crackpot free energy conspiracy theorists. The lumping of wireless energy with perpetual motion, cold fusion, and torus generators makes it hard to sift fact from fancy.

In particular, Viziv’s tower claims to use the Zenneck surface wave, traveling along the curvature of the Earth. Tesla also talked about Earth resonance, so it seems likely that the company is trying to finish what Tesla started at Wardenclyffe. You can read their technical brief as well as their take on the Zenneck wave.

I found a pretty good video from [tvecourse] about the tower. At least, it has some good video of the site, although it has some hints of conspiracy theory towards the end.

Failing to Draw a Conclusion

Is it legitimate? Beats me. I had never heard of a Zenneck surface wave before, but it does seem to be a thing. Viziv’s chief scientist mentions having done research on Zenneck waves. However, I also found an MIT paper that said that at least some Zenneck waves are impractical because they’d require an infinite source. Then again, a lot of engineering approximates impractical theories.

What I do know is there is a whopping big tower in the middle of Texas. Like I said earlier, it is now my second most interesting road trip drive by. The most interesting? A giant nude Belgian cyclops off the E17. Don’t ask.

Telsla envisioned fleets of airships powered wirelessly. We’ve sort of seen that done a different way. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone try to duplicate Tesla’s wireless power transmission work. Probably won’t be the last time, either.

But check out the science, and let us know what you think.

82 thoughts on “Texas Tesla Tower Titillates

  1. Whoa, this is pretty cool. I might drive over there and check it out sometime. Not too far away.

    I, too, have to wonder how much of it is legitimate science and how much of it is alternative energy conspiracy being pursued by some very wealthy Texas libertarian type. But hey, that’s their prerogative. I’m glad it exists either way.

  2. I don’t get it.

    If anyone were to realize Tesla style wireless power transmission
    – it would be horribly inefficient.
    – it would induce electrical currents in conducting objects that were not meant to be electrified (local farmers in the vicinity of Tesla’s projects had problems with their metal water troughs)
    – and it would have to be given away for free

    That’s the hardest part of all for me to understand. How does anyone expect such a service to even pay for itself let alone make any profit? Anyone and everyone within range would receive electricity with no way to control or meter who uses how much.

    Is the idea to get bought out by a government agency and socialize energy? Would everyone’s energy bill be paid by tax money? And I say energy, not electricity because no one would pay for gas when they can run electric cars, furnaces, stoves and water heaters for free.

    With no way to monitor individuals use few people if anyone would do anything to limit their use. Turn things off when not using them? Why? Go for long frequent trips with little or no purpose? Why not? Replace outdated or aging equipment that has poor energy efficiency? Not if it isn’t broken!

    What an environmental nightmare!

      1. Every other form of energy invariably becomes heat. If you have unlimited free energy and a reason to use it (I am sure people will find reasons) you end up with a lot of heat, and then have to figure out what to do with the heat. On a grand scale, this is how the universe ends. People will probably be content with just ending the part they can get to.

          1. So is the day sky, as long as you aren’t being illuminated by the sun. That’s a pretty hot spot in an otherwise very cold background, regardless of the colour of the sky.

        1. We can not continue to increase our use of energy at the rate we have been doing historically (about 3% per year) for very long.

          Exponential Economist Meets Finite Physicist

          If we had unlimited environmentally less damaging energy “sources” we would still cook ourselves in a few hundred years.
          (Radiation to the sky just isn’t efficient enough to sink that much more energy.)

    1. ” it would be horribly inefficient” – please aquatint yourself with what is the meaning of “wireless” power transmission as Tesla stated is, because, an that is for sure, has nothing to do with what we commonly conceptualize today as wireless transmission. Tesla’s “wireless” power transmission has nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, to do with transferring any meaningful type of power through the air, his transferring medium was the ground. Just read Tesla’s Colorado Springs Notes 1899-1900 (if you can understand it as for sure it is a very different 19-th century engineering language) and his patents, and only after that allow your self to comment on the efficiency of the idea.

        1. No. Only in remote country areas where we use SWER (single wire earth return) lines… and it’s pretty inefficient.

          If you can see three (or four) lines, that’s your usual three-phase (with neutral) power. All the power is carried by currents in and fields surrounding those 3 wires.

          1. SWER can be less efficient than a normal distribution line, but I would not consider it “pretty inefficient”. I think reliability and safety at conditions of dry ground are the main issues.

      1. And my understanding : some of the processes seriously infringed on T.A. EDISON making profits on his power transmission system, which started a lawsuit stopping wireless transmission.

          1. I don’t even know “gaggle”. And you do not need a lawsuite to stop wireless large scale power transmission. It jsut doesn’t work and the laws of nature do not need a judge or jury, they just show you your limits.

      2. If the energy is transmitted through the ground, how come there’s that big shiny dome up high in the air? And that long arc, again, through the air?

        I’ll agree that PART of the transmission path is through the ground, but the other part is definitely through the air.

        And for energy transfer, current must flow. So there will be resistive losses,

        1. “that big shiny dome up high in the air” – look at the original Tesla patents and Colorado Springs Notes, that is very important. The top part is technically a huge collecting plate of an air capacitor, with a lot of small semi-spheres on top of it ( to increase the curvature and subsequently the capacitance of the top structure ) . The arcs coming from that part of the systems are just expression for inefficiency. In an efficient ground transmission there should be absolutely no arcs ( maybe just humming). The best description for the process outside of Tesla’s writings and patents is probably found here: http://amasci.com/tesla/wardenclyffe.html

      3. I can only assume that energy would be lost to the ground, it will have a finite resistance, in fact, they speak of the earth as a lossy medium. I haven’t studied Zenneck waves beyond a Wikipedia article, but every article I’ve read about Tesla’s wireless power transmission talks about resonance. I suspect that the electrical resistance/lossy nature of the earth’s surface would lower the Q of the resonant tank enough that it would be almost, if not totally useless.

        1. Been a few decades, but the way I remember it, Tesla thought i possible to charge the planet, like a huge capacitor, and anyone, anywhere could tap into it with a simple apparatus, they could build themselves. The mushroom top is a capacitor of sorts. Not sure how it relates to the wireless power scheme, but need to do fun lightning exhibitions (experiments). There was a lot more to Tesla’s idea, than passing electric over or through the earth or sky. Most people seem to stay focused on the parts they are most familiar with. A Tesla coil produces high voltage, at a very high frequency, which travel over the surface of conductors, even your body. Kind of creepy, feels like thousands of bugs crawling all over you. I’ve got a small 250,000 volt Tesla Coil, which hasn’t been used in a very long time. Noticed TVs and Computers seemed to fail often, when I play with it a lot. Could have been my electric service too, brown outs. Stopped using the Tesla Coil, invested in UPS backups for everything, and most of my electronics last a long time. Had my high voltage fun, not curious enough to know if it was the Tesla coil.

          1. When I played with a tesla coil in a garage, it was about 60cm high made sparks about 0,5m long. And it radiated enough power to make the fluorescent tubes on the ceiling light up (not full power and quite flickery). You can be sure, that this kind of electricity can damage electrnic components.

        2. Ground *is* a lossy medium.

          How did he plan to go around that? By using very high voltages, just like present-day transmission lines.

          In his system, energy is transferred through the ground to another tower, using the SAME resonant frequency. He explicitly stated that air-transferred portion is a loss.

    2. As RW says distribution of clean stuff is fine. If everyone is being that wasteful and yet reliant on it then it will end up browning out or even in full blackout which should quickly lead to better habits.

      And its well worth noting the energy invested in creating a object is often a bigger component of the energy used in its lifetime than actually running it is! Not always of course, but take as examples items spend lots of time idle or off – that big shop vac you rarely use (assuming you manage to clean up as often as I do) might be a relatively huge 20% less efficient than its modern brethren. But 20% more of only a few KWh over the year pales into insignificance just to the energy used to deliver/collect the new one. (I’d reckon in my tiny workshop it might just get up to 10KWh in a year giving 2KWh in this example to make and deliver a more efficient replacement)

      If wireless power is actually viable I have doubts about, at least over any real range for any meaningful load. But its certainly not impossible it could work efficiently enough for some tasks. Infact there are wireless powered projects taking energy from the RF, all low energy but if the world really is going stupid internet of ruddy annoying things then not needing to invest huge energy in making/recycling batteries for all the connected junk would actually be a huge gain even if the efficiency is rather low. (Try to work out the efficiency of distributing and collecting back up then recycling lots of batteries – followed by the inevitable leeching of battery gunk from the ones that get dumped somewhere)

    3. Assuming it isn’t a total crock, this is just another mode of EM radiation and can probably be steered using a phased array. That helps partially deal with power going where it isn’t wanted.
      It probably wouldn’t be too different from how new WiFi systems work.

      As to why, infrastructure is expensive. It’s cheaper to install cell towers than wire every home with a POTS connection in places that never had phone service before. Or look at broadband in the US and how many people don’t have access to broadband because of how expensive it is to run wires and/or fiber.
      The value proposition here is the same thing.

      1. I have a tendency to believe that it is a crock, not perhaps from the article viewpoint, ie., the article is probably reporting the existence of a real thing, but from the perspective of those behind the project. Providing the tower is associated with the company and website mentioned, it is probably some investment scam or a nutcase. Who knows what drives these water into gasoline carburetor or desktop cold fusion guys? The simplest 2 antenna phased array would be about 15 Km between the elements. Does anyone know the coordinates? We could do a tower data lookup on FAA TOWAIR and geosearch on FCC database.

        1. Quarter wave should work. But I doubt the speed of propagation of a Zenneck wave is really at c.
          I don’t know if there are more advanced phased arrays that can do something to get tighter spacing. But it is all worthless unless the idea here even works.

          I doubt Viziv has more than one tower. IF this is a real endeavor, they need to solve the transmission problem before taking on the directional problem.

    4. That’s a pretty succinct outline of what’s wrong with wireless power transmission. Point 3 seems like a self correcting problem – either the power plant finds a business model or the money to keep it going runs out. I’m more concerned with point 2 on the list myself – broadcasting power to things that should not be powered, whether it’s metal water troughs or people and animals. That sounds like a definite environmental disaster in the making.

  3. This source (I don’t know how credible it is) indicates Zenneck waves at the earth’s surface operate best at VLF or ELF (Under 35 kHz). In the video, they use an “RF Analyzer” with a frequency range of 800 to 2500 MHz. If the Viziv tower is emitting Zenneck waves, that analyzer will not detect them. Viziv is likely using Wi-Fi or other types of wireless for their operations, and that is what the “RF Analyzer” is picking up.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps they should consider the old-fashioned wire loop, diode, milliamp meter to detect the ELF field. If the field is strong enough to transmit power, that should work. Of course, the investigators made an even bigger mistake, in that they assumed that the coil was running while they investigated. Since security knew they were there, the operation was probably shut down at least until they left. It might only be on intermittently in normal circumstances anyway.

  4. It seems like if Tesla were to try his wireless power experiments today the interference with today’s more widespread, sensitive, and complex electric and electronic infrastructure would cause significant disruption (though not as much as a major geomagnetic storm like the Carrington event).

    I guess all else aside I have doubts that something like this could be done successfully without requiring a lot of existing infrastructure to be retrofitted defensively against unwanted interference.

  5. Apparently there are two very similar things you encounter in a Texas cow pasture. Engineering is well aware of the transmission characteristics of VLF frequencies and they don’t work anything like portrayed. The transmission power decays exponentially (20 log distance) which means at any significant distance the source power has to be almost infinite to provide power to an endpoint. Even if you could do this, you will need to radiate through a whole lot of folks which is limited to extremely low power levels by ANSI/IEEE C95.1-2005 prohibition of RF Radiation Hazard. The claim that it is power going to a distance which is not being radiated, see cowpasture reference, above.
    The claim that the power is transmitted through the ground through establishing a ground plane is also prohibited. What happens to buried copper pipes? I remember in Kansas as a kid we used to harvest fishing earthworms by creating a ground plane with an electrode rod into the ground connected to the power line.
    The use to replace GPS without satellites?
    The Russians are doing this today on these frequencies. Their accuracy / positional error is 2.6 to 7 km.

    Maybe a good idea to keep your hand on your wallet around these guys.

  6. Such a dome can be used to detect lightning events planet-wide which then can be used to determine global-wide average temperature. Useful monitoring for our global environmental concerns. There was a HAD article featuring this technique some years back, and other scientific publications make mention of it as well.

    1. Most lighting is observed by weather satellites. Any AM rx will pick them up from a few miles if you want to build your own counter. Temp can be (and is) observed by IR weather satellites as well as every airport and weather station on the planet. Never mind the numerous crowd sourced and hobbyist weather logging projects.

    1. License required if they radiate a field density above 240 uV/m at 10 KHz. (47 CFR sec 15.209). Yeah, that “u” means microvolts. To “harvest” power from the air you have to have the power to start with. This is a complete fantasy in the category of other technobabble like finding the magic frequency, perpetual motion and unlimited free energy.

      1. We walk around in electricity every day. There is about a 300 volt difference between your feet and head. We are born of it and don’t notice it in day to day life! It’s always been there and hopefully always will be.

  7. I go around Waco on my way up through Hico pretty often. I doubt anyone would think twice if this dumb redneck went up north via Corsicana, and stopped in Waxahachie to ask a few ridiculious questions. I’ll add something if they have anything to say, but it will probably be after the holidays.

  8. Surface wave propagation exists. Mostly in the long wave and medium wave (AM) frequency range. There was also a big AM transmitter (~600kHz and 600kW) in Vienna (dismantled in the meantime), where some people from near small gardens taped some power with resonant coils to illuminate their garden houses. So wireless energy transfer is possible. At some point some strange drops of signal strength in some directions were discovered and then it became explicitly forbidden to do this. Of course the overall efficiency was bad – a 600kW transmitter for some light bulbs. But the main purpose was radio transmission anyway.

    1. What is called the ground wave. It’s called a ground wave not necessarily because it has anything to do with the ground, but to differentiate it from the coverage achieved from ionospheric reflection. The thing about running lighting off of RF radiation isn’t really what it seems and they weren’t really getting significant power from the station. The trick is to use flourescent tubes where the gas in the tube ionizes very efficiently at RF frequencies at a level of milliwatts. Very common trick in ham radio and it can be done with transmitter power in the 30+ watt range.

      In any case, the guy that invented microwave ovens connected the dots after a candy bar in his pocket melted while working around a feedhorn. Any time you are around light bulbs that light up because of RF, or your teeth hurt cause you’re around a transmitter, word to the wise. If things around you are receiving power, you are too and excessive RF causes all kinds of very bad permanent things like sterility, cancer heart disease and burns.

      1. Yes, ground wave was the word.

        Of course in these days, were many people have the fear of “electrosmog” and even fear 5G data transmission, it would be quite ridiculous to believe, anybody would license large scale wireless power. But don’t be paranoid: RF radiation is non-ionizing, so at least it can’t give you cancer and probably not heart disease, though it can give you sterility and burns.
        What gave people (technicians) cancer was the x-ray emission from pulsed high power radar tube transmitters.

        1. One of the triggers of the RF radiation hazard standards was back in the day, the US FCC required on site transmitter duty operators (engineers) to be located at inaccessible sites. There were meetings of the Society of Broadcast Engineers in Albuquerque where the duty engineers from the primary broadcast site at Sandia Crest started comparing notes. These guys would rotate staying at work dorms at the site. Most of these guys were in their early 30s yet most looked much older with white hair and balding, weird diseases, blood problems, bone problems, cancer, compared notes about how some had been trying to have families and none had success, etc.
          RF radiation standards completely shut down a 1000 foot height 9 transmitter FM site in Houston on one shell plaza with the construction of another building with some of the floors within the elevation sidelobes of OSP.
          Used to be they would put major broadcast sites on building rooftops (one trade center, Sears tower,). Now they do it very carefully with strict controls on areas where workers who are unaware they are being radiated are protected.

          1. The described symptoms still sound like x-ray exposure to me. At that time that were for sure tube transmitters and the high power transmitter tubes used really high voltages. But I don’t know what it was. Too much RF power for sure is also dangerous.

          2. Nope, no X-rays. ANSI C95.1 has a really good rundown of the weird medical stuff that can get you from radiation. Not only what we consider RF but also heavy 50 and 60 Hz magnetic fields. They are now developing medical devices that focus low frequency fields in the brain to treat depression. If I’d known this I might have stepped a little farther away from those reel to reel bulk tape erasers.

          3. 12AU76L6GC. Transcranial magnetic stimulation has nothing to do with RF radiation. And non-ionising radiation has not been proven to increase the risk of cancer at all beyond the extreme heating of *extreme* exposure causing chronic tissue damage (the repair of which increases the risk of dangerous mutations).

            I have never heard of your anecdote but I find it hard to believe the industry knows about dangers we have never heard of, as that would involve a huge conspiracy and efforts to keep it secret – there is no reason to try and hide something like this, and it couldn’t be hidden even if someone wanted to.

            I’m sure there were many other hazards at the site, although it may have had nothing to do with the working area at all. Correlation is not causation, and it’s amazing how quickly we all jump to obvious conclusions despite evidence to the contrary. Its a human thing.

        2. Buriedcode: Correct. Some studies say there is a link to cancer and some don’t, but current standards say inconclusive. In the US the FCC and other agencies NIOSH(OSHA) regulates radiation levels to ensure that when we are around high power RF transmitters and when we use RF devices that the general public is safe.

  9. Leithoa

    I was not referencing a simplistic “lightning counter” that can only detect individual lightning events within your particular locality. That only takes the AC audio output of cheap AM radio. The device HAD published an article about gave a dc voltage related to the average global temperature as higher temperatures spawn more lightning storms globally. The warmer the planet, the more thunderstorms are occurring, giving a measure of the average planetary temperature.

    The construction required a metallic dome as the basis for the detector. The circuit extremely simple and the output a dc voltage that needs be monitored over a period of years, not minutes. A stainless steel wok lid worked well enough in my case, and you can watch it for months and see little change. Eventually I needed the Wok lid back as it cost more than the circuit components used.

    If that is what these people have built it is of laboratory quality and in 2 or 3 yrs we will be hearing of their early results on the subject. It will take an instrument of this quality providing data to convince governments to take the situation seriously. The science behind this measurement technique is good.

    None. Yes. Please do stop in.

    If it’s something Tesla related… well… my interest is gone.

    1. We have to convince governments, not to attack our current lifestyle. All these climate-change hysterics want nothing less than to change our lifestyle – which is not acceptable. We just happen to have nice weather, there is no significant human influence on the weather or climate.

  10. Just a WAG: experimentation on some kind of potential military communications. The Tesla power transmission idea would never have worked for reasons already posted above by others.

  11. But… we already have wireless power receivers. They’re called LTO batteries charged by solar panels.

    Tesla was great but I just don’t understand how sending huge amounts of power through the air or ground is a good thing or would have been back then. Current is going to go where people don’t want it.

    Cool experiment though!

  12. There’s a lot of questions as to how this would work. Can you transfer electricity? How would it get paid for? What’s in it for us? The answer is that Tesla discovered a different type of wave energy. Not electromagnetic like radio waves, and not magnetism either. But rather scalar waves, which are longitudinal in nature versus the transverse nature AM radio waves. Skylar waves can carry electricity, and a lot of it, but modern science shuns the idea of its existence. They call it the near field, me or scattering of energy near a transmission antenna. But Tesla learned how to harness it through resonance. And resonant standing scalar waves along the surface of the Earth, something Tesla also calculated, is now called the zenick propagation wave. But it’s all Tesla’s technology. Tesla transmitted successfully thousands of Watts over distances. The technology works. And he was envisioning a world global transmission system which is exactly where Texon is picking up. How will they sell the electricity to you? They will not. It’s to be transmitted and sold to the utility companies who will then use the matching receivers to derive the energy and distribute it to paid customers on their own grits. Unfortunately you will still be on a grid and you will still pay. Nothing for you will new wireless nor free. But, if you study Tesla’s work, or you can build a receiver and receive free energy once their system is operational. The one in Texas was only a test. Visions initial launch will be in Dubai.

    1. Technobabble BS. Funny thing is each one of these words and phrases has a specific meaning, such as near field, resonance, scalar, etc. There is no discovery of a new non radiating method of energy coupling that has magically escaped the knowledge or practical application of modern science.

      It’s like some explanation that because of a special hydrophilic osmotic synthesis of exponential chemical molecular reaction a special carburetor can burn rainwater instead of hydrocarbons, but the scientific research community has been manipulated by big oil to suppress the simple and obvious technology. There is a single working example and it is spectacular, though never peer reviewed. But what is really needed is further investment for scaling the technology and manufacturing and the obvious sources of money aren’t available because the scientific community (and all the investors in wall street) are actively suppressing the technology, so only inexperienced investors are developed. There are a number of these schemes running around. The key is the time delay or geographic separation between the required investment and the promised return on investment.
      Maybe the lack of an extradition treaty between Dubai and the U.S. might have bearing on the next steps.

      1. Actually met a crazy lady who claimed Wi-Fi was making her ill – she spoke of wearing colander hat.

        Quite distracting as was giving a lecture when she piped up full of paranoia!

  13. If lifestyle isn’t something that is changeable for the better, why aren’t you living in a cave with lice in your hair and worms in your gut?

    Brown energy shills and climate change deniers are basically terrified of human progress. They don’t want anything BETTER because they fear anything DIFFERENT.

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