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Twice the height of the Empire State - EnviroMission plans massive solar tower for Arizona

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July 21, 2011

EnviroMission's solar tower: coming to Arizona in 2015

EnviroMission's solar tower: coming to Arizona in 2015

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An ambitious solar energy project on a massive scale is about to get underway in the Arizona desert. EnviroMission is undergoing land acquisition and site-specific engineering to build its first full-scale solar tower - and when we say full-scale, we mean it! The mammoth 800-plus meter (2625 ft) tall tower will instantly become one of the world's tallest buildings. Its 200-megawatt power generation capacity will reliably feed the grid with enough power for 150,000 US homes, and once it's built, it can be expected to more or less sit there producing clean, renewable power with virtually no maintenance until it's more than 80 years old. 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.

How Solar Towers Work

Enviromission's solar tower is a simple idea taken to gigantic proportions. The sun beats down on a large covered greenhouse area at the bottom, warming the air underneath it. Hot air wants to rise, so there's a central point for it to rush towards and escape; the tower in the middle. And there's a bunch of turbines at the base of the tower that generate electricity from that natural updraft.

It's hard to envisage that sort of system working effectively until you tweak the temperature variables and scale the whole thing up. 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). Scale your collector greenhouse out to a several hundred-meter radius around the tower, and you're generating a substantial volume of hot air.

Then, raise that tower up so that it's hundreds of meters in the air - because for every hundred metres you go up from the surface, the ambient temperature drops by about 1 degree. The greater the temperature differential, the harder the tower sucks up that hot air at the bottom - and the more energy you can generate through the turbines.

EnviroMission's solar tower: coming to Arizona in 2015
The advantages of this kind of power source are clear:
  • Because it works on temperature differential, not absolute temperature, it works in any weather;
  • Because the heat of the day warms the ground up so much, it continues working at night;
  • Because you want large tracts of hot, dry land for best results, you can build it on more or less useless land in the desert;
  • It requires virtually no maintenance - apart from a bit of turbine servicing now and then, the tower "just works" once it's going, and lasts as long as its structure stays standing;
  • It uses no 'feed stock' - no coal, no uranium, nothing but air and sunlight;
  • 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.
EnviroMission's solar tower: coming to Arizona in 2015

The Arizona Project

While this is not the first solar tower that has been built (a small-scale test rig in Spain proved the technology more than a decade ago) EnviroMission has chosen to build its first full-scale power plant in the deserts of Arizona, USA.

The Arizona tower will be a staggering 800 metres or so tall - just 30 meters shorter than the colossal Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world's tallest man-made structure. To put that in context - it will stand more than double the height of the Empire State building in New York City, and it'll be as much as 130 meters in diameter at the top. Truly a gigantic structure.

Currently undergoing site-specific engineering and land acquisition, EnviroMission estimates the tower will cost around US$750 million to build. 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.

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.

EnviroMission's solar tower: coming to Arizona in 2015

Considering that a large city like Los Angeles requires total power in the region of 7,200 megawatts, you'd have to build a few dozen solar towers up to the same size as the Arizona project if you wanted to completely replace the existing, primarily coal-based energy supply for that city's 3.7 million-odd residents. So it's not an instant solution - but then, its short projected payback period and virtually zero operating costs make it a very sound economic proposition that competes favorably against other renewable sources.

Under the terms of the pre-purchase agreement, the Arizona tower is due to begin delivering power at the start of 2015. Watch this space!

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
83 Comments

That's fantastic. This is the best green power source I've seen yet.

venusvegasvada
21st July, 2011 @ 01:23 pm PDT

"it actually turns out to be remarkably good for growing vegetation under there"

At 194 degrees F, really?

danBran
21st July, 2011 @ 01:23 pm PDT

The land is not useless for the dessert creatures that live there.

Nelson
21st July, 2011 @ 03:17 pm PDT

Build 50 of these in Australia's deserts and it'd power all the houses we have :D

37.5 billion dollars should cover it. Get Bill Gates in here!

Jacob Shepley
21st July, 2011 @ 03:21 pm PDT

just hope the tower doesn't collapse as the wind comes along lol

Waiel Jibrail
21st July, 2011 @ 03:23 pm PDT

I believe it's only super-hot (~194 degrees) closer toward to the tower. Further out to the edges of the canopy, or collector, it's not so hot. That means is could produce the right environment for crops.

BankerBobby
21st July, 2011 @ 03:24 pm PDT

Lets not beat around the bush... get it built and producing power ASAP.

Dana Lawton
21st July, 2011 @ 03:52 pm PDT

If you were to add a combustion heat source at the bottom it would be able to continue to produce rated power in conditions of prolonged heavy cloud cover.

Adding a chilled water plant for remote air-conditioning would allow you to dump the waste heat under the glass, and driving the heat pump directly off the turbine would also greatly improve the efficiency.

Slowburn
21st July, 2011 @ 04:21 pm PDT

Perhaps if the massive tower were built up the south side of a mountain, even if it was less efficient, the construction costs could be much less.

pwdober
21st July, 2011 @ 04:51 pm PDT

What do they do about sandstorms sand blasting the mirrors? Anybody know?

sonic
21st July, 2011 @ 05:13 pm PDT

"The land is not useless for the dessert creatures that live there" - or the main course variety either.

Eideard
21st July, 2011 @ 05:28 pm PDT

This looks really good. A standard wind turbine is about 1.5Mwatts. So it's about 133 wind turbines as a single unit. And it's relevant to areas that may not be suited to wind generation.

It has similar storage issues as wind and solar, but that is ok - at least it will be able to offset a lot of base load. A huge amount in fact.

What a pity we didn't give it a go here in Oz.

SamD
21st July, 2011 @ 05:49 pm PDT

But will it produce baseload power at night?

Is it 24/7 baseload power?

Probably part of the Green solution but not the complete answer.

Cappra
21st July, 2011 @ 06:10 pm PDT

According to this article, the desert surface is already 104º F. That's already above optimum for most crops. Add in a greenhouse effect and it could easily hit temperatures that will kill crops.

Gadgeteer
21st July, 2011 @ 06:33 pm PDT

I hope it gets built. I've heard about this thing for many many years...nice to see it might actually get built...and in the US...awesome.

Howe
21st July, 2011 @ 07:16 pm PDT

Slowburn - that's mental. Why add a combustion heat source to a perfectly clean energy source? Do you not understand the beauty of clean, renewable energy with ZERO emissions?

Regarding the other questions about cloudy days and baseload power at night, the principle is not necessarily direct heat or sun, it's about temperature differential. So if the ground is 20 degree Celsius at night, the temperature will be much cooler at 800m. So the tower still acts as the engine which will drive the turbines. It's damn near perfect technology that uses ZERO water.

BankerBobby
21st July, 2011 @ 07:17 pm PDT

TYpical Australian Government,walking around with it's head up its arse so it can't see the woods for the trees. SO SO TYPICAL...that's why this country is just going NOWHERE!

paulgo
21st July, 2011 @ 07:49 pm PDT

@sonic Mirrors? What mirrors? I'm not sure you understand how it works.

@Cappra Yes, it is 24hr power. Output probably tails off towards dawn, but not by much.

I think they're underestimating the tourist revenue this thing is capable of. It'll be world famous, at least until they build another one. Put a cafe / restaurant up on that observation deck selling beers and coffee at $10 a pop, souvenir shop with t-shirts, acres of advertising space, nightly laser shows, base jumping contests - it's a license to print money. This thing could pay for itself in much less than 11 years.

Hoodoo
21st July, 2011 @ 07:58 pm PDT

Nelson and Eideard enjoy your dessert, I shall enjoy mine after dinner, BURP

Bill Bennett
21st July, 2011 @ 08:39 pm PDT

Good idea but doomed I suspect. The US government is broke now and will probably kill off the mandates that make this deal viable by 2014-15. If the IPCC lasts another year it may decide to back this technology properly but its been ignoring it so far. It could be made smaller and thus cheaper by adding a vortex generator to the top 3 meters of the tower to get the air spinning out the top. Rotating fluids flow faster out nozzles. It even works for wine bottles.

The Spanish prototype, 17 MW, has been out of action since the 1980's because nothing is maintenance free. Dust and UV degraded the plastic and the gear box failed. The Spanish municipal government that owns it wont foot the bill to fix it or allow anyone else to fix it or buy it. Newer plastics and a gear-less system will help with the Arizona design but its highly probable that they're underestimating the maintenance cost by 50%. I hope they can survive and figure out how to match coal in price; this is the oldest and best hope for a solar energy grid.

Wesley Bruce
21st July, 2011 @ 09:25 pm PDT

@paulgo:

I love people that blame their government for their county's woes.

Like buying a car and then complaining that it's the wrong colour.

Neil
21st July, 2011 @ 10:12 pm PDT

Hmmm simple convection - low pressure - huge mass - large surface areas - used to generate power.

Fire place chimney = same thing.

Stupid Australians with stupid politicians, lobbied by stupid people in stupid multinationals = Australia, we lose again.

Mr Stiffy
21st July, 2011 @ 10:21 pm PDT

BankerBobby - July 21, 2011 @ 07:17 pm PDT--- Try reading for content. The combustion system I suggest is solely to keep it operating at power when sunlight is unavailable for longer than its thermal mass will keep it operating. The chilled water plant is part of an industrial sized air-conditioner.

What do they do about sandstorms sand blasting the mirrors? Anybody know?

comment sonic - July 21, 2011 @ 05:13 pm PDT

This system as designed does not use mirrors, and scratching in a haze into the glass of the "greenhouse" wont significantly reduce the light getting in; just like the frosted glass bathroom windows.

using mirrors to put more energy into the system, would increase the available power but not necessarily enough to pay for the mirrors and their upkeep.

Wesley Bruce - July 21, 2011 @ 09:25 pm PDT --- Given the foundation level, fixed axis ducted turbines they can be linked to generators without need of gearing.

Slowburn
21st July, 2011 @ 11:20 pm PDT

Growing plants inside the "greenhouse" is not a sound option here and proposing it raises questions about the depth of the design study in this respect. First, the required irrigation water for plant growth will evaporate in the greenhouse atmosphere. In greenhouses in desert environments this evaporation will take as much as halve the solar energy entering the greenhouse. In effect this will reduce the power output by 50 % because only half the trapped solar energy will be used to raise the greenhouse temperature. Second, the greenhouse floor has to be insulated and be designed to heat up in order to give its thermal energy to the greenhouse atmosphere. ( Direct heating of the air inside the greenhouse by solar radiation will not contribute significant to the temperature rise of the greenhouse temperature. Air will be heated by contact with hot surfaces ). It will be interesting to know how the designers will shape the greenhouse interior in order to get all the trapped energy in the greenhouse atmosphere raising the air temperature and not making the greenhouse construction very hot, radiating and transmitting energy to the environment.

kaspark
22nd July, 2011 @ 01:05 am PDT

800m tall and 130m diameter, plus a giant greenhouse for only....$750 millions?

NL
22nd July, 2011 @ 02:01 am PDT

I don't buy the "virtually no maintenance". At 750 million for 200 MW, that's 3.75 million per megawatt - not exactly cheap for a technology that isn't proven. An engineer would also have to consider how much heat the tower will conduct and radiate along the vertical path and thus possibly reduce the temperature differential. It can also get bitter cold in the Arizona desert at night and even snow, so the idea that it would be impervious to weather conditions is highly doubtful.

jbc-923
22nd July, 2011 @ 02:05 am PDT

Hey enthusiasts, not one of you has inquired about the feed-in tariffs for the power generated by this monstrosity. $800 million for a 200MW generator! Plus the acreage (there is no such thing as useless land, there is always an opportunity cost.) And they even dare talk about a fast payback of 11 years. Set the rates at twice as high, and it's just 5 years. Even better? Basically this is a taxpayer-funded demo project, not scalable at that - as there are practically no cost items here that would go down with scale. And no clear technology improvement path there is little to improve (maybe the generators, by just a little, but they are not a major cost item, I am sure). Pure politics.

citicrab
22nd July, 2011 @ 03:37 am PDT

There are a lot of "geniuses" here based on this short article, second guessing gentlemen who have been working on this project for the last 5 years at least. I think these chaps would have thought of every little whine that's been mentioned and a hundred more again.

As for 3.75 million per megawatt not being cheap, well certainly if that was for 1 year but if it is for 80 years as they plan and break even in 11 years then it's a bloody bargain!

Simon
22nd July, 2011 @ 07:10 am PDT

I remember holding my hand over the "chimney" of a termite mound in my youth in Kenya - hot, moist air constantly "blowing" out the top of it... an excellent cooling method for those critters, and one I've always thot would be employable in home design, but never this! Its a great idea!

I would think that it could be substantially supplemented by other solar and wind generating methods employed, e.g.: strategically placed solar cells, vertical axis turbines mounted to the main tower... such might not add much to the output, but the electrical delivery infrastructure is already there, so that helps. Lets build a bunch of these in the sahara to power Africa!

MzunguMkubwa
22nd July, 2011 @ 07:19 am PDT

Has anyone concidered the effects on weather that this unit will probably create?

dickylobster
22nd July, 2011 @ 07:21 am PDT

I assume they have addressed the effect of the wind on this tower. We had to install curved wind vanes on the round legs of jack-up rigs to keep the rig from swaying when the wind speed reached a certain velocity. They were also used on the tall brick chimneys back East.

Les Ply
22nd July, 2011 @ 08:22 am PDT

Let keep the advances coming..!!

Ptah Suide III
22nd July, 2011 @ 09:37 am PDT

Well, I have to agree with Simon. Read before you comment. If you look directly below under "related articles you will find: http://www.gizmag.com/go/1886/ a previous gizmag on this project. They operated a test facility in Spain for five years to validate the proof of concept. The current proposal is not a proof of concept but a production facility as the prior facility proofed the concept.

The prior article also addresses Sonic's concern. This is not an active heliostat facility but a passive solution as such it uses no mirrors. The ring around the tower is a glassed in area designed to capture the heated air and force it to the tower not a mirror farm.

The prior article also covers the fact that the area under the mirrors is covered with a thermal absorption material to store heat that is released at night. They have been using this in renewable housing for some time to even out the temperature of homes so it too is a proven technology.

750mil is a huge amount of money but doing the math: 200MW*$0.11(US avg KWH)*24hours (assuming they are correct about production) = $528,000/day or $192M per year. Since California broke their power laws and can not meet the power needs of it's citizens most CA residents pay more than that. I can see the 11 year contract paying the 750Mil easy.

Since there isn't one up and running already from an investors stand point this is a risk if they fail to make the stated targets the roi could be much longer but it has a built in safety net in that the facility will produce power much longer than the 11 year contract so you wouldn't lose money just earn it allot slower than expected.

VirtualGathis
22nd July, 2011 @ 10:25 am PDT

Doing the math at peak performance is valid either!

does the thing produces 200MW per hour? 120MW at 60%. I guess it must!

120(MW)*24(hrs)*1000(kw)*0.11*360(lets give them 5.25 down days a year)= $114M

6.6 years initial investment $750M

4.4 year maintenance costs $500M

11 years seems reasonable

renedez
22nd July, 2011 @ 11:44 am PDT

There are a few issues with this. It's basicly just a very tall smokestack, with a glass roofed area below it, and a turbine fan connected to a generator at the base of the shaft.

I am an Engineer living in Arizona. The dessert heat will make it impractical to use this to grow crops in the greenhouse area. Better to just paint the structure black under the roof, and insulate below the brickwork floor. Bricks (like adobe) have a high heat retention capacity, and so will provide some input at night.

The weather here in Arizona may be a problem for this project. Direct sunlight heats very effectively, indirect sunlight not so much. Wind speeds vary greatly, with building code listed levels of around 60 MPH (90 KPH), but gusting and microbursts are common, with local wind speeds of well over twice that. It is common in many areas for wooden power poles to be broken by the wind during microbursts.

Weather is also a problem with the Monsoon season (We are in it right now) sand and dust blown at over 60 miles an hour can and do cause damage to glass surfaces. Sandblasting of cars is not unknown in exposed locations. Also, this is thunderstorm season. At 800 Meters (2400 feet) the top of this tower might be near cloud layer a couple of times a year. Thunderheads are violent. High winds and hail can be expected in some areas, even in July and August if the storm is intense. Because of the mountains, tornadoes touching down are rare, but the heavy rain, wind and hail associated with them are things that any part of the desert can expect to experience at least once a decade.

Like most 'renewable' energy sources, this tower cannot be relied on as base power. It can replace some base power much of the time, but the Utility buying power from them will have to retain base load capability to replace this load for those times when the plant is off line or not able to provide peak power.

I hope that the designers of this project consult local experts before finalizing the design. It'd be a shame to have this big tower topple in a storm.

As an Engineer, I know right away when I see a design done by Engineers from out of state. They include freeze protection, and never have enough AC tonnage. Locals know that we don't freeze, except in the mountains, and that the 'average peak temperature' of listed 110 Farenheit is exceeded every day during June for several hours per day.

This looks like a wonderful concept. It will take some careful engineering to make it real.

YetAnotherBob
22nd July, 2011 @ 12:53 pm PDT

Slap some fresnel lens material on that bad boy and generate some serious heat under here.. and dont worry about growing things.. thats a "whole nother concept"..

Kharmachanic
22nd July, 2011 @ 02:33 pm PDT

Perhaps you could grow something inside, a few years back at the height of the oil price rise, there was a company that built a prototype greenhouse in El Paso TX, that grew algae inside in a vertical closed system, and harvested the algae to produce biofuel. It used very little water because the system was a closed loop. I am not a expert on Algae, but I think perhaps it can withstand the warmer temps that would be inside this system.

Rkt9
22nd July, 2011 @ 03:43 pm PDT

Living in AZ myself I wonder why would they build in desert instead of at the bottom of a closed copper mine or at the bottom of the Grand Canyon or similar. Use the walls that exist already as supports? No?

Chris K
22nd July, 2011 @ 04:16 pm PDT

I like the idea, but if you look at the other solar tower projects they produce much less power with similar characteristics. For example Suidad Real project in Spain is supposed to generate only 40MW with a chimney 750m tall.

Jinshawan Updraft Tower will generate 27MW with the cost of USD 208M, which is roughly twice as much per 1MW as Arizona project. Given the fact that technologically the idea is very simple, these differences look suspicious. But I hope I am wrong.

Check other projects as well:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower#cite_note-28

Dmitry Kryuk
22nd July, 2011 @ 08:00 pm PDT

I am sure the investor knows what they are doing. Anything is possible if you are willing to pay. The thing worked in Spain, it will probably work here too. Still what's the feed-in tariff? Is it really $.11/KW, as assumed in a post above? Or is it twice as high? Is it a secret? If there is public subsidy involved, it should not be. Don't you think this is THE most salient aspect of the whole arrangement?

citicrab
23rd July, 2011 @ 02:41 am PDT

If you watch this old clip at 2:30:



the area under the canopy area has very luxuriant plant growth because of the condensation during night time. That's one way to green the desert

marv13
23rd July, 2011 @ 09:22 am PDT

I do believe that the engineers of this technology have not fully thought out the additional technology that could be integrated into this to enhance efficiency, and actually push the boundaries of applied electrical engineering. The Heat differentials that are being explained here are awesome. The Tech behind that is truly awe-inspiring. That being said, what about static electricity? The surface area alone of a structure of this magnitude is certainly going to build an ENORMOUS static electrical charge. If harnessed correctly, should this power source also not be overlooked?

If this tower is high enough to actually reach thunderheads cloud heights, why not incorporate Tesla's atmospheric charging and discharging technology into it? We could not only provide a HUGE power source, but we could WIRELESSLY attach those stations together using the ionosphere!

Raymond Johnson
23rd July, 2011 @ 05:53 pm PDT

Just a thought. It might be better to construct an insulated tube up the side of a mountain. Windmills could pump brackish water from a desalinization plant to the base of the tube. The heat from the sun would turn this salty water into humid air that would condense on the otherside of a mountain to provide a source of fresh water for consumption and hydroelectricity. The dried out salt might be converted for use as a solar heat sink for large concentrated solar towers placed nearby.

Gary Richardson
23rd July, 2011 @ 09:14 pm PDT

I remember they were going to build one of these in Australia. I have a feeling this will never get built, somewhere along the line. A large grant or loan will given and someone is going to cash-out before it is built.

Michael Mantion
23rd July, 2011 @ 10:59 pm PDT

What a great idea. We should build them all over the planet and start producing lots of super heated air and make the atmousphere even warmer than it already is.

I would have thought people would have woken up to the realisation that we need to live in harmony with the planet and stop doing things that change the environment.

The term clean means no polution, that includes heat.

Foxy1968
24th July, 2011 @ 08:25 pm PDT

Re: Foxy1968

I think this would actually cool the lower atmosphere because the heat would escape faster than it normally does. And considering that heat rises, I don't see a convective greenhouse effect happening especially if the towers rise above the cloud layers on overcast days. A couple of things convinces me of this cooling effect, tornado and hurricane weather causes the lower atmosphere to cool down. But hey, I'm not a weatherman just an armchair scientist.

Gary Richardson
24th July, 2011 @ 09:04 pm PDT

I'm a little skeptical of how efficient this tower could be. 200MW of air movement sounds like alot of moving air, enough movement to limit the greenhouse warming at the base platform. I'd like to see some Computational Fluid Dynamic data show how much the air movement retards regeneration of greenhouse heat.

GRich
25th July, 2011 @ 06:01 am PDT

That's a wild idea. No mirrors to worry about, no "death ray" focused on one spot. If you could use it as a shopping mall you'd have it made here in the US. Somehow I doubt a superheated shopping mall would be popular.

Certainly much cheaper than nuclear.

Intrinsically safe, no carbon emissions, essentially one moving part, non-polluting.

Interesting possibilities for industrial chilling.

Having spent time in the desert, it seems that the hotter it gets, the more power folks use, so peak generation being during peak insolation is also a benefit.

Large turbines, we KNOW how to manufacture and operate; not so with nuclear reactors, as we have proved countless times.

Very impressive.

TAO
25th July, 2011 @ 06:12 am PDT

the tower should be constructed as a work of art to attract tourists who could visit a lookout near the top, this would add more profit and bring down energy costs. I suggest a tower shaped on the outside as Real life superhero Sustainable energy Man @sustainablehero on twitter.

sustainable energy Man
25th July, 2011 @ 07:03 am PDT

"What a great idea. We should build them all over the planet and start producing lots of super heated air and make the atmousphere even warmer than it already is.

The term clean means no polution, that includes heat."

Basic high school physics reveals your hypothesis to be incorrect.

There is no additional heat input from this tower, simply a redirection of existing heat from solar influx. So conservation of energy would dictate that this does not create any excess heat and therefore does not contribute to global warming.

Got it?

Darren Humphrey
25th July, 2011 @ 12:09 pm PDT

The scary thing is that I'm currently listening to "Freedom" by Daniel Suarez (fiction) wherein he describes a world with a "daemon" controlling things and the main character is with some Native Americans in New Mexico building something a lot like this. I guess he perhaps researched this and decided to build it into his fictional book.

Anybody else think ~ $1billion for a meager 200 megawatt is a bit expensive? How much does a regular power plant supplying 200 megawatts cost?

Andrew DeFaria
25th July, 2011 @ 12:26 pm PDT

I've had this idea...

http://inteoria.com/?p=150

but unfortunately I can't made it.

steeve443
25th July, 2011 @ 02:55 pm PDT

Another useless green idea.

It will use way more land and steel than a Nuclear plant. It will be only a low baseline power source that will peak at 200MW, whereas the two or three nuclear units that could occupy the same land and use the same or less resources would produce 3 GW of baseline power.

Now maybe one built up the side of a mountain would be cheaper to build and use land unavailable for other uses. The resources used by either of these will be far greater than a nuclear plant that produces more power, 24/7 much cheaper than this idea.

Robert Gehrig
25th July, 2011 @ 03:57 pm PDT

I do not know where they got 60 percent efficiency from but if you go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower you will see that a huge area (some 38 square Km) is required to get 200MW of power out of this. The REAL efficiency (the solartower output/the total insolation if the area) is indeed miserable. The difference is two orders of magnitude(!) (60 percent vs. some 0.5 percent).

If you covered the area with just 10% photovoltaic panels you got twenty times more -

4 GW (peak power) output. But they would instead assert to you how competitive they are at "60 percent" against all other reneweables!

I love other aspects of this project: cooling of lower atmosphere (less hurricanes and other weather events if built on a massive scale), [in comparison] simple engineering, the financial numbers seem to work right...but com'n 60 percent!?

nehopsa
25th July, 2011 @ 04:33 pm PDT

Congratulations to Environmission for getting this grand concept together.

On the other hand, the atmospheric vortex engine is arguably a step or two more advanced than the solar updraft tower. Check out the concept on www.vortexengineer.com

cooperdon0
25th July, 2011 @ 06:34 pm PDT

Would't this air start to spin as it rose? Basically, you'd have a vortex that stayed together for a couple of hundred meters (at least?) above the top of the structure, meaning the temperature delta would be even larger than designed. It just seems natural that the air would settle into some sort spiral somewhat as it goes upward.

There are designs that place the inlets at an angle specifically to take advantage of that. Some designs ditch the tower almost entirely and hope to use the vortex as the whole tower. http://vortexengine.ca/index.shtml

Got any links to the tests in Iberia? Did the test device settle into a vortex and did the vortex hold together beyond a few meters?

Bryan Seigneur
26th July, 2011 @ 10:54 am PDT

Don't waste your time building this, the Rossi e-cat device is coming. Google it.

jarocco
26th July, 2011 @ 01:44 pm PDT

This is a very excellent project. I worked on a prototype of this technology at Delft University of Technology back in 2005 and I was quite impressed. My friends and I upon returning to our country, Cameroon wrote a paper to the ministry of scientific and technical research recommending a variation to this technology which includes passing hot exhaust gases from a conventional gas turbine (non aero-derivative) plant through underlying pipes at the collector base. With a sufficient waste gas mass flow rate and temperature (%u2248 560%u2070C), we would be able to maintain the thermal efficiency of say 60% while boosting the power output by about 40% compared to the above design which makes sole use of solar energy.

Asango Agharih
26th July, 2011 @ 05:06 pm PDT

@Seineur: vortex engine is a great idea...and as usual there is no seed funding for the proof of concept scaled up model. Conservative risk averse energy business as usual...at least you would save costs of the kilometer towers..and get a LOT of atmospheric "tornado" energy if it worked. Also good for cooling the planet/climate change mitigation on mass scale.

@Agharin: with exhausts and tower you are indeed boosting the [real] efficiency, not (eating up huge area for 0.5 percent.)

@Jarocco: fascinating if only true...cautious optimism. If true this is THE game changer and we are losing time here.

nehopsa
26th July, 2011 @ 10:20 pm PDT

Again to e-cat and Rossi: please be extremely cautious and ...forget "hope" See: http://www.newenergytimes.com/v2/news/2011/37/Report2-372-EnergyCatalyzerScientificCommunicationAndEthicsIssues.shtml

Rossi behind e-cat has all the "best" [I mean worst] character features of a snake oil salesmen. History of questionable activities if not fraud. Not to be trusted. This is update on my previous enthusiastic comment @jarocco. Forget e-cat and its 99.9% false Messiah.

nehopsa
26th July, 2011 @ 11:35 pm PDT

Living in Arizona, I too would like to see this happen. But I agree with yetanotherbob who lives in Arizona and the concerns he has raised. This thing better be well built, maybe even over engineered. The use of inadequate construction and cheap materials, as with the project in Spain would have the same end: catastrophic collapse. Better this should be built in the Mohave dessert where the wind is not so extreme and there is not as much desert life to impact. As for this thing of building alongside a mountain, it wouldn't be allowed around here. Nearly all the mountains are in protected preserves, public land or within national parks or forests. Little if any commerical enterprise or activity is allowed, nor would something like this. Even mining, which had largely been given a pass for many years, has been severely restricted of late. Whether one agrees with this is not the point. It's the reality. As for covering up large areas of the land, what would one call the construction of several U.S. Air Force bases, massive numbers of shopping malls, houses and roads? The expansion of building into the desert these last 20-odd years has been nothing short of phenomenal, and not a little disconcerting. But now that it's here, the covering up of a little more dirt to serve these people and businesses wouldn't be much in comparison. At least there are no emissions - like with coal - and no spent radioactive material to dispose of.

Neil Larkins
27th July, 2011 @ 10:14 am PDT

Kharmachanic - A Fresnel lens will focus the heat into a small area but not provide any additional heat and a few small hotspots would lower the efficiency of heating the vast quantities of air this will eat.

Anybody else think ~ $1billion for a meager 200 megawatt is a bit expensive? How much does a regular power plant supplying 200 megawatts cost?

comment Andrew DeFaria - July 25, 2011 @ 12:26 pm PDT ---Now add the cost of a lifetime supply of fuel.

Don't waste your time building this, the Rossi e-cat device is coming. Google it.

comment jarocco - July 26, 2011 @ 01:44 pm PDT--- waiting for perfection is very expensive. Should we build more coal plants in the mean time?

If you covered the area with just 10% photovoltaic panels you got twenty times more -

comment nehopsa - July 25, 2011 @ 04:33 pm PDT---Photovoltaic panels have a far shorter service life, only provide power during daylight, and are much more expensive to 'repair' after a hail storm.

Slowburn
28th July, 2011 @ 03:38 pm PDT

The Rossi e-cat device is ready now, and cheap.

Two 1 MW E-Cat Plants Will be Ready in October 2011 - One in Greece, One in the US

The Arizona tower is NOT due to begin delivering power until the start of 2015, and yes very expensive.

jarocco
29th July, 2011 @ 07:09 am PDT

If the government can clear land to build a highway or power lines it can clear land to build a tube up the side of a mountain. Besides who says this can't be built on existing clearings. Perhaps a cut and cover construction similar to the tunnel proposed to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle, Washington may be considered as a one of many upgrades done to existing claimed land. Afterward, the tube is covered and other upgrades take place as well (such as smart grid, superconducting/graphene power, reservoir expansion, etc...).

Gary Richardson
30th July, 2011 @ 05:16 am PDT

Here are a couple more issues I see with this.

1. It is a long way from the end user, transmission line losses are substantial.

2. The grid system needs to match demand, this is why you see so many wind turbines idle when there is still plenty of wind blowing, because it is easy to turn off the wind turbine, not so easy to throttle down the traditional power plant.

Since I don't see who is paying for this, I will have to assume that they are in the process of lobbying politicians. Since the politicians are more than willing to spend your money to get your vote it may well get built.

I am quite sure if this thing had an 11 year payout as the article claims there would be less talk about it and more construction -you would have to beat back the investors!

CleverName
4th August, 2011 @ 11:09 am PDT

I love all of these pithy, inane comment from people who have no idea what they are talking about. No one as come up with a viable criticism of this project. Do you really think the engineers who designed this didn't consider every comment made here, and a thousand more. Your just yacking to hear yourselves yak. Grow up.

stxflyer
8th August, 2011 @ 09:35 am PDT

I've seen this before for Australia - What I'd do is only build a 200 meter tower out of solid materials the other 600 meters of the tower would use lifting rings and be lighter than air

billybob222
8th August, 2011 @ 10:06 pm PDT

@jarocco: e-cat will NEVER work. not in three months, not in a year, not in five or ten years. If you do not believe me now come here and post your updates in designated intervals. NEVER EVER EVER it will work.

(By the way, I found a forum from January 2011 in which the question should have been ultimately settled "within 3 months" either way (that is by March or April 2011 at the latest). Was it settled? NO...just empty promises and excuses...just WAIT three more months ... this will go on and on and ON...)

Why do I know?

....just look at your "hero" If there ever was a prototypical snake oil salesman, it is Rossi. This guy has professional criminal/con artist history behind him. No scientific credentials whatsoever. Just intimidation of anybody who has credentials and is critical of his work (experts do not want their names published to avoid trouble with this criminal type).

I would be only SOO happy if I were wrong... (I also like the dream of having cheap fusion energy for free...MOST pressing problems solved!) Never going to happen with this prototypical... kook.

Please...use common sense. If something is too good to be true.... (??)

nehopsa
9th August, 2011 @ 10:34 pm PDT

and how exactly is this going to boil down to cheaper energy for the masses... anyone?

Michiel Mitchell
10th August, 2011 @ 10:09 am PDT

It would be awesome if w'll use them PEER TO PEER Worldwide.

Earthquake free! Thanks for AntiNuke technology!

Mark MyClose
10th August, 2011 @ 02:55 pm PDT

There is always someone who believes the designers of a device or concept have thought of everything and no more ideas can improve on it. Until someone does improve on it and did so based on comments made on posts such as this. Don't believe me? Just ask those who believed the world was flat.

Gary Richardson
17th August, 2011 @ 10:33 am PDT

Fantasy land again. No emissions!? What about the huge amount of energy needed to manufacture this quantity of steel and glass? Where does the energy come from: conventional stations probably. I would like to see the real energy balance here: how much produced compared to the amount needed to build it. Make no mistake, nobody is buiding this for the environment, it's to make maoney. Manufacture it with 'cheap' conventional energy and sell it back at subsidised feed-in rates. Ignore the the pollution from steel and glass manufacture. You don't get anything for nothing!

enviro_gerry
21st October, 2011 @ 12:33 am PDT

Youre a typical greeny Enviro_gerry. So whats your answer then? Build more traditional power plants that cost more to build and continue to pollute the world???

Aussie government needs a good kick in the ass. Push push push for carbon tax and all that to improve the environment and then they ignore a brilliant idea that would employ people in the construction process and go towards their goal of lowering green house emissions.

Vaughan Barton-Johnson
3rd November, 2011 @ 12:59 am PDT

Since it's just 30 meters shorter than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, might as well make it 31 meters taller, so it will be the tallest man made structure... At least we'll have the ...est of something again... hah

Jerry Delos Reyes
7th November, 2011 @ 04:12 pm PST

Enviro_gerry: ...So, are you saying that because a completely green construction value chain doesn't exist, emissions-free power plants shouldn't be built?

Hmm
8th November, 2011 @ 11:20 am PST

Yes this is very sad that the Victorian and Australian Federal Governments didnt have the courage to do this first. Congratulations to the folks in Arizona. I hope they have great success.

This just highlights the biggest issue in renewables - if you dont have the money, go home. The forces aligned against clean energy around the world are simply to strong.

I suspect that the Swan Hill project will be recharged after the Arizona plant comes on line. Australians love winners...

Stephen Sturrock Peters
11th November, 2011 @ 04:05 am PST

From an engineering standpoint there is a glaring problem: the tower's height means it can most likely only be built (cost effectively) from one material: concrete.

Concrete, as reliable and cheap a material as it is, is very carbon intensive to produce (A quick google search identifies it as responsible for ~5% of global carbon emissions) and given the height and structural requirements of the tower the volume of concrete required to build this thing is staggering. This, of course, also means the amount of carbon emitted in building the tower and its materials will also be staggering, and likely vastly more than the tower will ever offset. (I don't have the numbers so it is hard to calculate this accurately, but the accounting makes sense). Why should we build it if it costs enormously more carbon than it ever will save?

It is a brilliant concept (we need more of this creative thinking) and would be an engineering marvel if it ever goes ahead, but in offsetting carbon emissions it will be a complete failure even if its operation is as efficient and effective as the concept illustrates. There are low-carbon concrete manufacturers popping up (like http://www.zeobond.com/products-e-crete.html for example) but I suspect costs would make this option prohibitive.

I suspect that is a primary reason why it never got off the ground in Australia, combined of course with the classic NIMBY attitude (Not In My Back Yard for those unfamiliar).

JaCaEng
29th December, 2011 @ 05:58 am PST

200 MW for such a gigantic building? I am not impressed at all! You would need to build at least five Burj Khalifa equivalents to match one average size conventional nuclear plant

ugosugo
30th December, 2011 @ 05:28 am PST

due to the scale of this, this project cannot be somewhat successful. it will either be a success spectacular failure.

and any time someone tells you that their plans to build the worlds tallest building and turn it into a giant turbine for hot air requires little to no maintenance---theres a reasonable chance theyre full of a whole lot of hot air themselves.

i love the green movement. if it weren't for batshit crazy ideas like this that are more than likely destined to fail at a spectacular scale---and give the movement a bad name, i'd be a full scale cheerleader.

the CORRECT way for taking risk is to fund lots of small projects all the time. and see which small scale projects show promise through the duration of their performance. putting so many eggs in one basket like this, claiming to guarantee success in building the worlds tallest building as a power station seems like total stupidity to me. even for all the greenies out there, who among you would take your whole savings and put it into a project with a risk profile like this?

zevulon
30th December, 2011 @ 08:44 pm PST

@zevulon : risk profile ? the capital markets are bursting-at-the-seams with liquidity, i% are 1%, Uranium fuel for reactors was NOT sufficiently met by mining last year, that leaves Oil, Gas and Coal - not enough, too weak, and too dirty.

Zafar Bukhari
17th January, 2012 @ 05:44 am PST

as the only moving parts are the turbines the tower should last a long long time.

this project could produce power for a lot longer than people are giving it credit for.

if you accept that its designed for 80 years it could in fact last a lot longer and with the right maintenance program could keep on going, making the original investment/pollution seem tiny in comparison to the profits over a longer time frame

think about Victorian engineering and how a lot of that is still going strong.

maul
11th February, 2012 @ 11:54 am PST

E-cat supporters in this thread were gullible.

People who recognized in E-cat, in advance, the characteristics of failure, were smart.

http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-end-of-e-cat-story-andrea-rossi.html

KellyRW
19th March, 2013 @ 01:34 pm PDT

Fascinating project in the desert. I took a snapshot from 39,000 feet.

Alvin Reed
26th October, 2013 @ 08:39 pm PDT
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