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Massive Solar Tower Planned For Arizona

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the i-can-see-my-house-from-here dept.

Power 407

inkscapee writes "It's simple, clean, low-maintenance, and cost-effective: using hot air on a large scale to generate electricity. No, this not a plan to use Congress to generate power, though that would certainly be an endless supply — EnviroMission will use air rising up a tall tower to generate 200 megawatts of electricity. The concept is simple: a giant greenhouse at the base of the tower warms the air. The warmed air rises through the tower and turns turbines, which generate electricity. The taller the tower, the faster the air moves, which increases power output. This structure will be a monster at over 2600 feet tall. It works in all weather, and if there is a feasible water source, food could be grown in the greenhouse."

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Sounds great in theory (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36873818)

But too bad - the greenhouse effect is a myth, as we all know.

Re:Sounds great in theory (3, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874008)

That's not the only myth they are tackling

Put this tower in a hot desert area, where the daytime surface temperature sits at around 40 degrees Celsius (104 F), and add in the greenhouse effect and you've got a temperature under your collector somewhere around 80-90 degrees (176-194 F).

It emits absolutely no pollution - the only emission is warm air at the top of the tower. In fact, because you're creating a greenhouse underneath, it actually turns out to be remarkably good for growing vegetation under there.

Hmmm... What plants grow at those temperature?

Maybe in cooler climes it can be used to grow stuff colder climes (or seasons), however at the locations where it'll be warmer and have more stable temperatures, it's gonna get awful damn windy... That means, amongst other things, rugged plants, lots of soil loss (going straight into the turbines or filters that will need to be replaced!) , and lot of moisture loss.

It's looks like an interesting concept for an energy source, but as for green growing space... doubt it.

Re:Sounds great in theory (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874046)

You grow plants at the periphery of the collector where it's warm, not hot and less windy. At least, that is the plan. Nearer to the turbines will serve as a training ground for Arrakis.

Re:Sounds great in theory (3, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874086)

the problem is, at those locations, it would only be useful in moderate climes anyway, that don't need greenhouses much.

Also, if you are doing this in the desert, the problem is water, which the greenhouse will not serve to conserve, since there is a constant airflow.

Re:Sounds great in theory (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874244)

Awesome Dune reference. Frank Herbert would be proud.

Re:Sounds great in theory (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874306)

lots of soil loss

Where's that soil end up? On the greenhouse glass, of course. If the wind flow is enough to toss heavy rocks 2500 feet up (size and weight of hailstones?) then they'll make quite a dent when they hit the glass below.

Re:Sounds great in theory (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874496)

Hmmm... What plants grow at those temperature?

Locally mix in some cold air during the winter, it'll be nice.

Kind of like asking, if my natural gas furnace burns a 2500 degree blue flame, how can I use it to keep my house at 72 degrees in the winter?

Tower design (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874026)

So you are saying the tower is constructed only by increasing carbon dioxide in an open chamber?

Odd, I thought it used heat trapped by passing through glass.

McCain! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36873820)

McCain: How do we solve our energy generation problems? A series of tubes, my friends!

Bob Dole: Bob Dole agrees.

Of course (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36873832)

using hot air on a large scale to generate electricity.

Hence the "DC" in Washington DC.

2600 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36873872)

This should make the back page.. over 2600 feet tall you say?

Re:2600 (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874132)

One of the engineer on this project is obviously an Atari fan.

"Twice the hieght of the Empire State" (4, Funny)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873886)

The mammoth 800-plus meter (2625 ft) tall tower will instantly become one of the world's tallest buildings.

Compensating for something there, Arizona?

Re:"Twice the hieght of the Empire State" (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874196)

Well, we felt that the Washington Monument wasnt big enough to express how hot women are in Arizona.

Re:"Twice the hieght of the Empire State" (2)

pinkushun (1467193) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874272)

Don't be ridiculous.

It's an Australian based company erecting this thing.

Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36873888)

There is no water left in Aridzona, so much for growing food.

Decent idea. (2, Informative)

Lance Dearnis (1184983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873894)

This is, by far, the kind of tech we need to be investing in, preferably starting a decade ago. Genuine renewable, reliable power - are deserts hot? Yes? Let's make power from it! It'll be terribly uneconomical at first, of course, but it can improve given time. And it's worth trying out. It might not pan out, but it's sure as hell a better investment then 1.1 million in legal fees trying to surpress video games or whatever other legal action is popular at the moment.

So even if it's silly, go for it, Arizona - this is a much better investment then your immigration laws. In fact, triple your budget for this.

Re:Decent idea. (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873936)

Seems like a reasonable idea. The wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] has more info than the TFA. There have been a couple of much smaller systems build world wide but little info on how well they work or stand up. I'm a little concerned about the 'limited maintenance' claim. It's a big structure in a hostile environment and has lots of moving parts. One wonders just how optimistic their financial spreadsheets are and how far they will diverge from reality.

Re:Decent idea. (5, Informative)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874104)

lots of moving parts

Maybe in absolute terms, but virtually any other means of electrical power generation has more. The only moving parts here are the turbines. Not only do we have plenty of experience with running turbines (since every other power source uses them), but they should all be independent from one another, so a failure of one doesn't lead to damage or require a shutdown, it just means you're putting out a little less power.

Re:Decent idea. (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874448)

The problem is that those turbines are a couple thousand feet up over top a giant inverted funnel.

Re:Decent idea. (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874458)

Scratch that. I thought they were installing them inside the tower, not in a ring around its base.

Re:Decent idea. (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874472)

I was under the impression that the turbines surrounded the base of the tower at ground level. Every diagram of systems like this show the same layout.

Re:Decent idea. (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874246)

This was my thought too. An 800m tower is a pretty big target for winds, but I'm pretty sure Arizona isn't all that hostile an environment, though, when I think about it. Very few/ no storms (dustorms maybe), I don't think it gets earthquakes, next to no rain. And the only moving parts, as far as I understand it, are the turbines, which isn't really "a lot". Any power plant is going to have maintenance costs of some kind. This needs no fuel, and supposedly can work at night. It doesn't use rare, expensive, or toxic chemicals in production like solar panels generally do (its basically a giant metal tube on top of a glass greenhouse). Dust collection on top of the greenhouse is probably the biggest issue I can see, and you could probably create some sort of automated cleaning system for that. Payback is estimate at 11 years, which is pretty short, and this should be able to last twice that at the very minimum, so it seems like a pretty good idea for empty deserts like this.

Re:Decent idea. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36874462)

I'm kind of annoyed when people say "empty desert." The problem with this is a desert isn't empty and the animals that do live there need more area to hunt out edible plants and other creatures than more rain prone climates.

Don't get the idea that I'm some cactus hugger, it's just I live in the arizona desert and people think it's all sand when there is quiet an abundant variety of life that can only be found in an area that's already relatively small.

Re:Decent idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36873954)

Can they ever generate enough power to compensate for the cost of building it?? I doubt it.

Re:Decent idea. (3, Informative)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873986)

FTA:

The output has already been pre-sold - the Southern California Public Power Authority recently signed a 30-year power purchase agreement with EnviroMission that will effectively allow the tower to provide enough energy for an estimated 150,000 US homes. Financial modelling projects that the tower will pay off its purchase price in just 11 years - and the engineering team are shooting for a structure that will stand for 80 years or more.

Re:Decent idea. (2)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874234)

FTA:

The output has already been pre-sold - the Southern California Public Power Authority recently signed a 30-year power purchase agreement with EnviroMission that will effectively allow the tower to provide enough energy for an estimated 150,000 US homes. Financial modelling projects that the tower will pay off its purchase price in just 11 years - and the engineering team are shooting for a structure that will stand for 80 years or more.

Financial modelling at the rate they're getting--which will be above market rates for electricity, via government subsidies/mandates that a certain percentage of power generation be green. It's still good, but their financial modelling won't reflect true cost.

Re:Decent idea. (0)

korean.ian (1264578) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874490)

Yes but would you rather your government subsidise renewable energy projects or racist immigration laws? Obviously that is a gross simplification of the situation, but it's pokes at the gist of the problem.

Re:Decent idea. (5, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874364)

Sigh... I have a pen, anyone have an envelope?

The tower is rated for 200 MW, with an estimated utilization of 60%. So the average power output is about 120 MW.

Wholesale electricity prices in the United States are 40-100 $ / MWhr. This should be able to provide most of its power during peak usage, which is great from a business model. Plus they can command a bit of a premium from the California ISO because it is renewable, and California has a 33% renewable mandate. Let's assume 60 $/MWhr.

In each year there are 24 * 365 = 8760 hours. So the company's annual revenue should be in the ballpark of $65 M/yr.

The estimated cost to build the thing is $750M, and their estimated payback period is 11 years. That doesn't quite jive with the numbers I've come up with, and doesn't take into account net-present-value calculations, financing costs, operating expenses, etc. But, even so, you should certainly be able to pay for the thing over its many-decades-long lifetime.

Re:Decent idea. (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874304)

Agreed. It has moving parts (turbines), and needs some architecture on a vast scale, but if done right, we (meaning scientists) may learn some technological abilities from this to make it useful in other areas.

I wonder how this compares by price compared to just taking the same amount of area and laying down photovoltac cells either actively tracking the sun, or just passively facing south. Passive tracking gets less sunlight, but doesn't require the presence of moving parts.

Re:Decent idea. (1)

pinkushun (1467193) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874344)

I like this tech too, really look like it has solid potential!

This was in the works since 2001 so a decade seems about right. [enviromission.com.au]

They should catch it on the way back down (0)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873946)

The idea is interesting, but it seems to me that a substantial portion of the solar energy is going towards gravitational potential energy - that is, lifting tons of air mass hundreds of feet in the air.

At some point, that air mass cools off, the air will want to drop back down towards the earth because of gravity. Seems like, in addition to generating 200MW on the 'exhaust' stack, they could build a second "cool air return" stack that generated power from the force of gravity pulling the cooled air back down to ground level?

Re:They should catch it on the way back down (1)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874088)

I like that idea, but how would you cool the air at the top?

Re:They should catch it on the way back down (4, Insightful)

TehCable (1351775) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874182)

The idea is interesting, but it seems to me that a substantial portion of the solar energy is going towards gravitational potential energy - that is, lifting tons of air mass hundreds of feet in the air.

At some point, that air mass cools off, the air will want to drop back down towards the earth because of gravity. Seems like, in addition to generating 200MW on the 'exhaust' stack, they could build a second "cool air return" stack that generated power from the force of gravity pulling the cooled air back down to ground level?

-1 parent. The exhaust air at the top of the tower is going to keep rising because it will still be hotter than the ambient air. The cold air that falls to offset the rising mass is called the atmosphere. It's big, it's going to be moving slower than the air you just used to spin a turbine, and it's not cost effective to try to make electricity from it until it enters the greenhouse, gets heated, and funnels into the turbines that are already in the design (the one place where air is moving fast in the whole design.

Re:They should catch it on the way back down (5, Informative)

adonoman (624929) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874250)

They aren't "lifting tons of air mass" against gravity. Gravity pushing down on the surrounding air is what is pushing the air up in the first place. This tower is a way to focus that downward push of cool air onto a narrow tube of hot air that then floats up and runs the turbines. This isn't any different than boiling small amounts of water at the bottom of a lake. The bubbles will rise quickly and that energy could be harnessed, but it would be pretty useless to try and harness the energy of the resulting water vapour eventually drifting back to the bottom of the lake.

Not a new idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36873948)

Weren't they going to build this in Australia a couple of years ago?
What happened to that project?

Re:Not a new idea (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873998)

FTA:

In the video after the jump, EnviroMission CEO Roger Davey explains the solar tower technology, the Arizona project and why he couldn't get it built at home in Australia.

Hmmm. Transporting relatively hot air (2)

imric (6240) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873958)

into cooler air, higher up. I wonder what the weather will be like near that tower after it goes into operation? This could be a neat experiment!

Re:Hmmm. Transporting relatively hot air (3, Funny)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874002)

It's in Arizona, what do they have to lose? :-P

Re:Hmmm. Transporting relatively hot air (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874378)

Just Arizona itself. I consider that a win/win ;-)

Food and efficiency (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873962)

At "176-194 F", I'm not familiar with any plants that grow well.

The efficiency of a heat engine depends on the difference between input and output temperatures, so this can't be very efficient, though efficiency is less important when the input is so cheap.

Some can (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874102)

Yellowstone has some bacteria that grow at those temperatures, perhaps they could be molded into colorful bacon strips.

Re:Some can (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36874210)

Yellowstone has some bacteria that grow at those temperatures, perhaps they could be molded into colorful bacon strips.

At those temperatures, we can just put pigs in the bottom to get bacon strips.

Re:Food and efficiency (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874374)

At "176-194 F", I'm not familiar with any plants that grow well.

The sad part is that is well done for beef. I prefer medium well, myself, around 155 F.

Perhaps on a cloudy day you could stampede cattle under the greenhouse, and have a rather large steak dinner a couple hours later.

How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (0)

Krakadoom (1407635) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873974)

My initial question would be what happens when a hurricane lands near a 2600 foot tower perched on a giant greenhouse? Somehow the mirrors (concentrators) and water/oil tank configuration of solar power seems like a more resilient structure, if only for the fact that the mirrors are smaller and closer to the ground and you dont need a massively tall tower.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (2)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874040)

This is in the middle of the desert, so no chance of hurricanes there. Also, its just a hollow tube, you could easily reinforce it to withstand high winds like that. Because is is hollow you have the option of putting louvers all over the sides. If a storm pops up, open them all and let the wind pass through the tower, problem solved.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36874052)

Between the lack of water and abundance of sand in the desert a hurricane would be torn to shreds very quickly if it ever got there. Granted it would be a concern for other locations but Arizona is not one of them.

ARIZONA (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874056)

We're talking Arizona. Not much threat of hurricanes there.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874070)

My initial question would be what happens when a hurricane lands near a 2600 foot tower perched on a giant greenhouse? Somehow the mirrors (concentrators) and water/oil tank configuration of solar power seems like a more resilient structure, if only for the fact that the mirrors are smaller and closer to the ground and you dont need a massively tall tower.

I rather doubt that Arizona has seen a hurricane in quite some time.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874074)

I wouldn't be too worried about a hurricane in the middle of a desert.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874078)

I don't think hurricanes are much of a concern in Arizona.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874314)

But it could happen! See, you smarty-pants engineers calculate what could happen based on what happens around Arizona in the past, but what happens if the San Andreas fault lets go and most of California sinks into the ocean? Then Arizona ends up right next to the coast and could be affected by hurricanes! What then, Mr. Smarty Pants?!

(The above is sarcasm, by the way)

Seriously, though, I assume the GP meant "tornado" as hurricanes tend not to "land," though they do make land-fall. Tornados "touch down" which is somewhat similar to landing. Of course, the answer is that you reinforce and weigh down the tube so that the tornado won't pick it up, carry it hundreds of miles, and drop it on a church.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

buback (144189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874084)

not many hurricanes in Arizona, but seeing as this is as tall as the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, I can't seeing this being economical at only 200 MW.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874436)

It's just a hollow tube with some minor reinforcement. Hell you can use guide wires like they do for radio towers. There's very little cost compared to an occupied office building/residence like the Dubai tower.

Because a chimney is a hotel? (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874498)

Because the dubai tower is a hotel with needs lots and lots of cooling and other luxeries compares with a hollow tube that generates power not consume it and needs to compete with other powerplants that need fuel or hydro plants which needs enormous lakes...

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874094)

When was the last time a hurricane hit Arizona?

I really don't know which type of solar plant is better, I have looked strongly at solar concentrators with a heat reservoir and they are an excellent option, but I don't know that much about these passive solar towers.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36874108)

Hurricanes in Arizona? Did you sleep through geography?

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874112)

Hurricanes don't end up in Arizona.
What does happen is that a Hurrican travels up the Colorado River and loses steam as it comes inland.
By the time it reaches Arizona, the hurricane is, at most, a tropical storm with gusty winds that are manageable.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874116)

Hurricanes hit coastal area's and sometimes a little inland before they die, but there is no way in hell that Arizona is going to be hit by a hurricane.

For a hurricane to hit Arizona it would have to traverse the gulf of Mexico, pass over both Texas and New Mexico. Moving across land seriously diminishes a hurricanes strength, there is no way a hurricane would even reach New Mexico let alone Arizona.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874154)

Dude, this is Arizona. In the middle of a desert. How, pray tell, is a hurricane going to hit there?

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36874226)

Maybe he's not well versed on the size of the country and thinks that the entire US is the size of other countries like France/Spain...etc.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (3, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874186)

For this specific case: not many hurricanes in Arizona, nor in most every desert.

More generally: site selection and engineering for the weather are surely taken into account before they break ground. The tower is freestanding and attached to the ground - the greenhouse is built around it, not the other way around. Even if the company glosses over stability in inclement weather, it should be caught in the permitting process. And even if it isn't accounted for during permitting, you can bet the insurers and underwriters will want good answers. Even so, this probably isn't ideal technology for, say, coastal Florida.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874256)

There are not too many hurricanes in Arizona. Even when hurricanes move inland from the Gulf of Mexico their resulting weather systems don't go that far west.

Tornados are also extremely rare in that part of the US. Here is a map of tornado occurrence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tornado_Alley.gif [wikipedia.org]

However, they do have haboob wind storms with wind speeds up to 30 mph and lots of flying sand. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haboob [wikipedia.org] I guess these and thunderstorms are the most extreme weather that the structure would have to survive.

I'm certain that the people planning the project are well aware of the extreme weather conditions in Arizona. Why are you raising this queston? It implies that you have an insight that they have overlooked, which is extremely unlikely.

Re:How stable is that 2600 foot tower? (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874302)

My initial question would be what happens when a hurricane lands near a 2600 foot tower perched on a giant greenhouse?

If there are hurricanes reaching Arizona, I think there are far more things to worry about then what happens to some 2600 foot tower in the middle of the desert.

2600 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36873976)

I'm not sure how 2600 did this, but it is a nice hack!

Good old Slashdot (1, Troll)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 3 years ago | (#36873990)

No, this not (sic) a plan to use Congress to generate power, though that would certainly be an endless supply

Yep, another old, tired, stupid and vacuous panning in the summary that you'd expect from a 14 year old who thinks he's massively clever. This is is what Slashdot has become.

Re:Good old Slashdot (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874090)

Only the editorial board.

Re:Good old Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36874146)

But Slashdot actually is about 14 or 15 years old. So what are you complaining about, exactly?

Growing food in this system? (1)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874032)

I would see that growing food would be counter productive to generating electricity. In order to make maximum use of the facility, you want as much energy as you can to heat the air. And you want an air path with as little turbulence as possible to facilitate flow through the tower. Plants in the greenhouse would a) consume some of the captured solar energy, lowering the amount of heat imparted to the air and; b) provide obstructions to the flow of air. Certainly you can mitigate some of these effects. However, the constant influx of fresh air would take away a lot of the captured heat, which is the point of having a greenhouse to grow plants.

All of that aside, I wonder about the necessity of a greenhouse keeping plants warm in Arizona. I don't think warmth is as much a problem in Arizona as it is elsewhere but that's just me.

Re:Growing food in this system? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874230)

Not sure why they even bothered mentioning growing food in the greenhouse, they stated the temperature may hit 176 to 194 Fahrenheit.

Environmental disaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36874042)

So there's no concern about moving vast amounts of hot air into the upper troposphere where there's ordianarily cold air? This will surely have a negative impact on global warming.

Re:Environmental disaster (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874208)

Upper troposphere? The height of this is nothing compared to any atmospheric layers. I'd be surprised if any climate effects will be measurable outside of the immediate vicinity.

The only thing taller.. (4, Informative)

molo (94384) | more than 3 years ago | (#36874058)

This is a ridiculous idea. The only structure that is taller than 2600 ft is the Burj Khalifa (Burj Dubai), which is 2717 ft.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_structures_in_the_world [wikipedia.org]

The idea that we would build the 2nd tallest structure in the world for 200 MW is ridiculous. This doesn't even come CLOSE to being a top producer of energy per power plant. The top 10 power plants in the world all produce more than 6000 MW. Even the largest biofuel, geothermal and tidal plants currently exceed 200MW.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_power_stations_in_the_world [wikipedia.org]

-molo

Re:The only thing taller.. (5, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874238)

Taller doesn't necessarily mean more expensive. It's a big metal tube, not the same as a full building. It doesn't even need to be habitable. Structures of similar heights have been built for radio transmission you know.

Re:The only thing taller.. (1)

foodnugget (663749) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874252)

Nobody is living inside the tower.

It will be significantly easier to build this than any building for occupation at half that size.

Re:The only thing taller.. (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874312)

This is a ridiculous idea. The only structure that is taller than 2600 ft is the Burj Khalifa (Burj Dubai), which is 2717 ft.

The complexity of a giant hollow tube doesn't really compare well to an office and apartment building designed to safely hold tens of thousands of humans at a time.

As for the cost, the average US nuclear power plant puts out very close to one gigawatt, and costs on the order of 6-9 billion dollars to build and another 30 billion in expenses over its lifetime. This tower has an estimated construction cost of 750 million dollars, and although I can't find any estimates of the maintenance cost, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say "a hell of a lot less than completely rebuilding it every 3 years of its spec'd lifetime".

Sounds like at the very least a better-than-breakeven proposition vs nuclear, IMO - With no waste or risk of disaster.

Re:The only thing taller.. (1)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874372)

Agreed. You could get the same amount of power from about 30 standard wind turbines [wikipedia.org] .

Re:The only thing taller... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874382)

It's not habitable. With a payback period of 11 years, it's doing pretty well, particularly for a renewable energy plant.

Re:The only thing taller.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36874478)

Plus there is no direct sunlight after dawn. How will this produce 200MW at night? Oh. It won't.

I thought they were building the molten salt solar power plant down there. That sounded great. WTF?

PS) Shit I get it now... it's going to double as the world's largest guard tower; overseeing the Mexican't border!

Thermocouple? (1)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874136)

Anybody with knowledge on the topic: is there a way to add a Thermocouple element to this to increase the potential for power generation? Or is that an insanely expensive proposition or just a flat out bad idea?

Re:Thermocouple? (1)

foodnugget (663749) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874276)

This *is* a giant thermocouple.
Aside from being stupidly expensive, anything you took out via thermocouple at the base wouldn't come out as power through the top.
Moreover, the heat differential wouldn't be nearly the same.
In essence, you'd be spending much much more money to make much less power.

Re:Thermocouple? (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874282)

What would the thermocouple be doing? Facilitating the opening/closing of vents?

Re:Thermocouple? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874380)

the efficiency of a thermocouple is very low, under 7%. A heat engine will produce many times the power of a thermocouple in the same situation.

The Jetsons (1)

Chetti (1959778) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874152)

It looks like the base of the buildings in The Jetsons... sounds to me like we will soon be selling real estate at the top of these towers... all the power for the building will be supplied by its own structure...

Other Heat Islands? (1)

DougF (1117261) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874242)

Would this work in the heat islands created by cities?

Re:Other Heat Islands? (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874260)

Yes, but it would also make the heat worse.

Re:Other Heat Islands? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36874418)

How? Care to explain?

Re:Other Heat Islands? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874466)

Part of the solar tower system is a greenhouse at the base that traps heat (over your city's heat island) and funnels the hot air into the tower.

Thanks for the free market move. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36874258)

Ya'll got taken for a ride.

Stock opened at .66 this morning, it's now at .72 cents. Up 9.09%

Ya'll helped someone make a nice trade..

Thanks guys!

Rain, etc. (3, Interesting)

MSesow (1256108) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874278)

I know this is in a desert, but it will rain on rare occasions; what will they do with the water that falls on the structure? I imagine it would not be worth while to collect it and transport it somewhere, since it will be so rare. I feel like they probably have considered this, and I just want to know what decision they came to. Put it all in a big gutter, feed it into a huge sump (or a lot of little ones), or what? Also, what about dust buildup - will it get cleared by wind (like the Mars rovers' solar panels) or will someone have to go up there with a giant squeegee to clean it off every now and then? Again, I bet they have thought of it, and I am curious about what ideas they came up with. Maybe they only clean it when it rains? Maybe every time they do clean it, it rains the next day? Who knows?

Re:Rain, etc. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874388)

Well the tower being dirty shouldn't cause any problems, the greenhouse roof being dirty would reduce efficiency, I don't know if it's self-cleaning. Rain would be no problem at all, when the desert sun comes up the water will disappear reeaall fast...

Re:Rain, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36874430)

I was wondering what they do with all the dirt that will be picked up and carried by the constant wind along the ground under the glass. Up the stack I guess to land 20 miles away (hopefully).

Also they say they are going to grow plants. How does constant wind affect that? Will it need more water due to more evaporation?

Neat idea though.

Greenhouse (1)

kehren77 (814078) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874280)

From the images in the article it appear that the radius of the greenhouse will be greater than the height of the tower. How can that possibly be cost effective?

Re:Greenhouse (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874346)

Are you talking land value? In the desert, land is cheap. Are you talking about the amount of glass needed to make the "green house?" What would make the size of the base a deterrent?

Re:Greenhouse (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874402)

What does the relationship between the radius of the greenhouse and the height of the tower have to do with anything? More of either one is better.

They failed to predict the future before (1)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874292)

In 2005 EnviroMission said that the first solar tower would be up and running before year 2008 in Australia. That never happened.

Now in 2011 they say that it will be ready at the start of 2015 in Arizona. I hope they succeed this time.

I'm sure it would work (1)

fafaforza (248976) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874410)

to generate electricity, but isn't a major hurtle for projects like this one the distance from where the electricity will be consumed? They're confining this to the desert, because of the daytime temps, but most power is being used on either coast, thousands of miles away.

They won't be able to grow food anyway. (1)

theillien (984847) | more than 2 years ago | (#36874456)

Who would tend the crops? They're kicking all the migrant workers out.
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