Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Site Agreed for Australian Solar Tower, Plans for Solar Tower in China

The firm behind the plan to build a power-generating solar tower (also described as a solar chimney) - touted as the world's tallest structure - in Outback New South Wales is to sign an agreement to buy the site.

Melbourne-based Enviromission will buy a 10,000ha slice of Tapio station at Buronga, 25km northeast of Mildura, to build the 1km tower.

Enviromission chairman Roger Davey confirm the purchase price was in excess of a million dollars (USD). The agreement will be signed in Mildura, about 350 miles northwest of Melbourne, before an audience of community leaders.

"It confirms our commitment to the site and the Sunraysia region for the first solar tower."

The mammoth project, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, will be built by the end of 2009.

The reinforced concrete tower will cover approximately one square kilometres at its base and will be surrounded by a "greenhouse" of glass, polycarbonate and polymer. Air at 30C at the edge of the glasshouse is heated up to 70C at the centre, where the tower draws it through 32 turbines to the cooler air above.

The power station will produce up to 200 megawatts of electricity and can generate 24 hours a day.

EnviroMission and SBP estimate the cost of their first 200-megawatt solar thermal tower at $670m, and say the cost of subsequent towers would fall. An engineering infrastructure, materials manufacturing plants and trained workforce would be in place and the design and construction would have been refined.

The initial cost is comparable with the $600m cost of building a new 200MW brown-coal power station and a drying plant for the coal, which is nearly 70% water by weight. A 200MW black-coal power station in Queensland would cost $440m. These prices ignore the unknown environmental and health costs of greenhouse gas, sulphur and particulate emissions from coal-fired power stations.

Each solar tower would abate between 920,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually from fossil fuels. Solar towers would help lessen Victoria's heavy dependence on brown coal-sourced electricity.

Enviromission floated on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2001. Its major investor is the owner of the solar tower technology, US company SolarMission Technologies.

Enviromission has the exclusive Australian rights to the technology, first developed on a much smaller scale in Spain in the early 1980s, using a German design.

There are also plans to invest a further US$8 million for development of a solar tower in China.

Enviromission will be a part owner of a global intellectual property company that will benefit from solar towers built around the world, Davey said.

The pre-feasibility study was completed successfully in February last year.

actual photographs (as far as I can tell) of the demonstration project in Manzares, Spain:

Solar Tower Spain

Inside the Spanish Solar Tower

Solar Tower Turbine in operation

more info:

February 2005 Wired Article on Australian Solar Tower

Solar Chimney in California?

Enviromission Website

Solar Mission Website

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if they've considered capturing the heat output for something, like a heat exchanger at the top of the chimney? Some conventional power plants have started doing this to boost their efficiency.

3:45 am, February 14, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love this thing to work for them, but even though I'm no expert on energy I just look at the price-tag of say, $400 million dollar construction costs per 200 MWe plant (and who knows yet the O&M costs), and I just can't do back flips.

It's an engineering kick in the pants to contemplate, sure, but I mean these massive plants would just offer a pin-prick of supplemental power to giant consumers such as China in the next 10-15 years and US.

I'm cheering for the fusion R&D to hit gold, myself... but anything is better than more Fossil generation - absolutely.

11:16 pm, February 14, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

could the solar chimney concept be scaled down to power a single residence or small neighborhood?

4:36 pm, February 17, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

still, hard to determine what the O&M of a solar tower would be as this is unprecedented. So all costs are hypothetical for sure. But i guess my point was: I only hope the $2 million capital cost/per 1 MWe estimated power output can be decreased for this tech. (I'd like feel the $1 million - $1.25 million ratio that Wind Turbine farms can go for are good investment)

Yet obvious capital expenditure is critical to do some serious offset of fossils which i readily cheer.

And we can assume the engery companies cheer either way as they ALWAYS try and sell a new investment or rate increase, by saying: "Oh, in the long term, your costs will be reduced overtime.. just we need some upfront funds short-term, etc.."

Seems like every 5 years they are saying this and when have rates been reduced? ;)

12:45 am, February 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think you missed something in the article. A coal plant costs $400 million to produce (that's what we're paying now). This plant costs $670 million to produce.

Remember, O&M of a coal plant is MUCH higher because they have to buy coal to burn.

2:47 pm, March 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


One more thing:

Rates would be going down in a static market. Population is rising, making demand increase, keeping rates high.

2:48 pm, March 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UK is leaning towards nuclear again, in an attempt to solve the fossil fuel dilemna. Unfortunately, 15 years of zero research funding has limited the know-how available to go beyond old mistakes

Fusion power is where it is at, or rather where it will be at. After seening entire engineering careers go into a 1 second micro-burst of fusion at JET Culham, Oxford. It will take a few more lifetimes still, I fear. Maybe my grand-children.


11:34 am, March 03, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question-
the idea sounds great. What I cannot figure out why did they fall is a short period of time 2 years behind original plans? When I first came across this the plan was to build the first tower by 2005....

6:16 pm, July 08, 2005  
Blogger James said...


It looks like they had some financing and siting issues. It looks like now they've found the site and hopefully they've solved their finance issues and they can get going with construction.

Alternative Energy Blog

1:36 am, July 09, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The planned Power Tower in the Australian outback can produce more than electrical power. It can also be used to provide much needed fresh water. In the outback area the ground water is plentiful but is too salty for drinking or for irrigation. This salt water can be evaporated in troughs under the solar collection surface. In this area the air will be very hot and able to quickly evaporate all of the water leaving behind only solid salts. The value of the salts can be increased by using long troughs arranged like the spokes of a wheel for evaporation. This will result in individual salts crystallizing out in different areas of the troughs depending on their solubility. The salts can be collected separately and sold for high prices because they will have relatively high purity. A large amount of water can be treated since hot air can hold much more moisture than cold air. As the hot humid air rises up the stack, it cools by expansion and some of the water condenses out and is captured inside the stack using drip nets.
The addition of the desalination component to the project will require a larger solar collector area but will also increase the amount of energy that can be produced. This is because the moist air rising in the stack will not cool as fast as dry air would since the water condensing out will release heat. This is the energy that drives hurricanes and should substantially increase the output of the turbines.
As the air leaves the stack at the top it will still have considerable moisture in it. This moisture will fall as rain downwind of the stack as the plume of hot moist air continues to rise. Thus a large area around the stack will become productive farmland. Some of the fresh water collected in the stack can be used for growing vegetables under the periphery of the solar collectors. This water will be recycled back into the system.
Two additional benefits of this addition are that the water filled troughs will provide heat storage and, in the long term, the salinity of the aquifer will be reduced since salt is constantly being removed.
William Isecke
541 Queen Anne Road
Teaneck, NJ 07666, US
201 836 8403

3:01 pm, November 07, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

omfg, this thing is gunna be huge. i dont know much about power output, but 200,000 homes doesnt really seem like that much, oh well at least its clean. its gunaa be cool to have the tallest structure in the world in the land down under too, lol

8:13 am, November 29, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cost estimates have risen from original of $600 mil to $1000 mil. Diameter has risen from 5 km to 7 km. Glass roof alone on steel supports from 2.5m rising at normal roof slopes to discharge roof drainage would cost more than $ 1000 mil alone.

Efficiency in Spain in literature is quoted from various sources as 0.2% or 2%. Not real flash.

Is their a better way. Yes. There are from first principles a major flaw. Can correct this. Anyone interested in funding a small pilot of a better method.

6:25 am, February 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Enviromission, the Company in control of the Solar Tower project near Mildura announces impovements in forecasted operational output.

8:59 pm, April 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much as I've been very positive and excited about this project, it's not sounding healthy.

The projects has been scaled back to 25% of it's original scale, their construction contractor, Leighton, has pulled out, they announced a Heads of Agreement with a new contractor in January, but it's been three months now without a further peep. AND they're suddenly staking it on being awarded another $80m in Government funding.


6:02 am, May 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just wondering.. how much would a typical consumer pay every week (for generating electricity) once the solar tower is in use?
Please help

1:42 pm, October 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how much they will charge for the power, but someone above calculated $.015 per kilowatt hour. Multiply that by your weekly consumption.

Also, has anyone experimented on a small scale? Will a 50 or 100ft tall stack work? This would be cool for a single home.

6:45 pm, December 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spain now has a working commercial example, see

2:07 pm, May 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could this be combined with a desalinisation plant using sea water to generate steam and condensing the output steam as fresh water?

2:11 pm, May 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You showed us an example of solar oven, not solar chimney. The difference is significant. See details on the net. Bye

3:22 am, May 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

could the solar chimney concept be scaled down to power a single residence or small neighborhood?"

My friend and I have done primitive experiments with the same idea for a house. However, we have a few ideas that are different and would appreciate you guys' opinions :

On top of the solar chimney, why not put an ADDITIONAL CONVENTIONAL or EGG-BEATER TYPE wind turbine on that, harnessing wind from outside, and that height usually means more wind.

Second, we figure a Pyramid type house construction will be most appropriate --- We envisioned 4 transparent tarp riding on 4 tetrahedronal rails to pull up for hot air generation, and pull down in high winds [where the egg-beater wind turbine on top should help picking up the slack of generation --- plus the slopes on the pyramid sides should be sending the wind up toward the egg-beater.]

This could be mass-manufacturable ... What do you guys think ?

1:14 pm, June 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Concerning scaled down adaptations, you might want to look at

2:16 pm, December 17, 2007  
Blogger Andrew Sheldon said...

It would be inaccurate to say "a 200MW black-coal power station in Queensland would cost $440m. These prices ignore the unknown environmental and health costs of greenhouse gas, sulphur and particulate emissions from coal-fired power stations". Actually all Australian coal-fired plants are designed to remove the sulphur & nitrous oxides emitted, and they have little consequence on health. Yeah, you can argue their could be a greenhouse effect, but the science is not yet convincing.

9:05 pm, February 07, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:19 am, May 13, 2008  

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