Big solar tower coming to Arizona

At the New Energy event in Vancouver in April, an attendee wanted to talk Big Solar. I’d heard about a prototype solar tower in Spain that proved you can generate electricity from the power of rising heat that way. But now I know why the gentleman in our audience was so hot on the subject. He must’ve heard what’s coming to the Arizona desert in 2015.

A generous promoter of Breakthrough Power who calls himself Nighthawk sent me a link to Loz Blain’s article today on Gizmag . It’s about the Australian group EnviroMission negotiating to buy a spread of land in Arizona and doing engineering work toward building a tower that would be more than twice the height of the Empire State Building and just 30 meters short of topping the height of that monstrous building in Dubai, the world’s tallest.

Why do they need all that land for the Arizona project? The answer is that it’s for one huge greenhouse circling the tower, radiating out for a few hundred meters all around. As the sun heats the air inside the greenhouse, the confined hot air would head toward the center where it can move up into the tower naturally (hot air rises). As the air speeds upward through turbines inside the tower, electricity is generated without buying any fuel or using any uranium. It’s a big engineering project to build, but would operate with elegant simplicity.

Simple and sustainable: I like that in a power plant.

EnviroMission CEO Roger Davey says the tower would send enough renewable electricity into the grid to power 150,000 American homes. I think that if they can get any water out there on the desert, they could also grow a lot of food, especially farther out from the tower where it wouldn’t be quite so hot as the more-than-170 degrees Fahrenheit around the center, near the tower. You don’t want to dehydrate a plant before it gets started growing.

Blain reports EnviroMission’s estimate of around US $750 million to build the tower. “It will generate a peak of 200 megawatts, and run at an efficiency of around 60% – vastly more efficient and reliable than other renewable energy sources.”

Such a solar tower isn’t exactly a small-is-beautiful energy solution for your neighborhood, but it’s vastly better than power plants running on coil, oil, gas or uranium.  Go for it, EnviroMission!

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Comments

  1. Thanks, Jeane. I would think the EnviroMission tower is fair and reasonable at this time. After checking for any indigenous people’s land rights, and knowing that people don’t tend to reside in a 170-deg-Fahr. environment, the energy is badly needed for agriculture right now, particularly for irrigation with thermal-desalinated water. Food prices are going through the roof because of droughts and floods in the traditional “breadbasket” areas like western North America, and Australasia, and increased
    demand from the new middle-income groups in China and India. So, we have to return to producing somewhat more than we need. But it can only be done, at the very least, with irrigation into drought-sticken areas, which should go a long way to ease the problem of food scarcity.

    For a better world,

    Hal Ade

  2. I have looked into the solar tower a fair bit and the problem that keeps cropping up is that the ROI on the infrastructure isn’t there. In addition to this, the energy required to build the plant (in the concrete alone) is massive and the environmental pay off is minimal or non existant.

    Although I would still like to see it built as it would be a beacon for others to take up the challenge for better and cleaner energy.

    -LS

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