Tuesday, August 08, 2006

VoW: Australia Builds 1,600 ft. Solar Tower

Video of the Week - Australian power company EnviroMission, is set to become the world's leader in renewable energy technology through their proposed Solar Tower project - a $225 million green power experiment to construct a 1,600 foot tower with enough generating capacity to fuel 100,000 homes.

Instead of relying on solar cells, the tower acts like a giant greenhouse. The sun's energy is harnessed to create warm air currents that will drive a series of power generating turbines inside the tower. Located under the glaring sun of the Australian outback, the 50 megawatt pilot project will stand taller than Chicago's Sears Tower and sit 260 feet in diameter at the base. The capacity for the technology is far greater though, and has gained the attention of Chinese investors.

In 2002, Xiang Jiang Industrial became EnviroMission's second largest shareholder and plans to build a 200 megawatt tower in Shanghai, China.

Below is the demo video for the project.


macadavy said...

Gotta admit I'm pretty skeptical of such save-the-world mega projects. Tidal power, anyone? Humungous solar panels in space microwaving megawatts to Earth's surface? Cold fusion, perhaps?
Show me a human scale backyard model that can power my home and I'll take another look! :-)

Jim said...

Ha AS IF you would put a big, ugly, expensive solar panel in YOUR OWN BACKYARD instead of throwing this actually planned and funded mega project in the Australian OUtback? Get real!

Odiyya said...

I can see your point on mega projects. But don't you think this has a bit to do with North American resistance to change?

I recently chatted to a friend in the energy marketing business who was in portugal witnessing a massive new tidal power facility. And when china is moving ahead throwing large dollars behind the solar tower, in addition to developing cutting edge wind power, and Europe is making substantial progress on Kyoto goals, Canada and the US look like a bunch of laggards by comparison who are incapable of actually doing something.

JIltedcitizen said...

There was a prototype in Spain.

Anonymous said...

...and how are they going to build this? Using Portland Cement, of course!

Rick Barnes said...

Macadavy has point: If more individuals took personal responsibility for creating the energy for their own needs, such megaprojects wouldn't be necessary, however, individuals rarely do and such projects ARE necessary. Besides, it seems kind of silly to poo-poo such ideas when you know full well the oil will inevitably run out. It's either megaprojects or personal responsibility. I don't see any other choices. This one has the virtue of being clean and sustainable and, if the Aussies are successful, no doubt the rest of the world benefits from having most of the research and problems already ironed out before they build similar towers of their own.

Leo Freeman said...

This tower will certainly look spectacular, but I can't believe that updraft technology is a very efficient use of all that solar radiation falling on the Australian outback. Plus, you will have transmission-line losses between the generator and the consumers. And what about at night? We have to come up with smarter and more affordable ways of using and storing solar energy, such as solar generated Hydrogen gas.

Anonymous said...

I think that Solar Tower is a bit of a white elephant. I understand they may have scaled down their ambitions from a 1 kilometre height tower to a 400 metre tower, finally realising they had bitten off more than they could chew, given available construction technology. The company has been loosing shareholders money for years. They have also been in the final feasibility stage for years.

As much as I like the concept, I think their project management approach has been extremely poor. I would have thought it much better for them to build a much smaller tower with off the shelf construction technology, prove the and refine the technology and the scale it up as required or simply repeat it more rapidly.

Instead they have built nothing since launching the concept over 5 years ago. A very poor effort for all the shareholders funds they have raised and as mentioned the balance sheet loosing money year after year paying for expensive directors fees etc...

Their web site is here;


Competing Powerstations Story

Competitors web site

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree the Spanish one actually works. The Australian one has not been built in its 5 years since inception. If we had approached it on a smaller scale, it would be much farther conceptually advanced by now. Instead Australia still does not have a solar tower and its still in final feasibility. Wherever that is. It was supposed to be built by end of 2009, but at the rate things have been going, I'm finding that hard to believe.

See this TreeHugger article on it

But yes lets hope they get their act together soon with a dose of common sense !

loqk said...

Backyard power is very nice in principle and is nice for personal responsibility.

However, the ability to change millions of independent power producing systems to newer efficient systems is less effective than legislating that a few mega projects must change to new more efficient mega projects.

The combined environmental footprint of millions of independent power units is also larger than the combined environmental footprint of a few large centralised power units.

Cars are a good example.

The wealthy can change their vehicles on a regular basis, and keep up with emerging efficiency and safety standards.

The middle and lower classes buy one new car every few decades, or more often, the hand me downs of the rich or middle classes with the poor efficiencies of previous decades. Your personal change of your cars efficiency will not save the world if you simply sell your car to me… you will have increased the overall output since you now have a nicer car and I now have a car.

A taxi company that is required to become efficient by law has the buying power of the rich, with the mass impact of changing many cars at once to the new system. Many of the cars will end up as scrap rather than on selling to private individuals. It is possible that all of them will as on selling may violate the new emission standards. This type of law seems much more reasonable for companies than individuals and can be implemented with fewer civil rights concerns.

In a similar way, although the large corporations will resist change for longer than the average consumer, once they are forced to change, they can change in much greater volume than the average consumer.

This will mean that the rich and will change first, then the middle class, then the power companies, with a long tail of us multitudes of poor people maintaining cars that we can afford to buy, but cannot afford to run. The biggest impact will be from the large companies and the middle class.

A similar effect will occur when fusion power becomes available in one of its potential forms.

All of the people who changed to micro generation and left the grid will be the new polluters as all the major power providers switch to the new clean energy source. The poor who are still connected to the grid will become green at exactly the same time at their power providers do.

Personal responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean personal power generation. A better way is to use your personal responsibility to convince your governments to enforce laws to make truly green mega projects that centralise and shrink the overall environmental footprint for the whole population.