Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Smaller More Efficient Solar Energy Tower Now Able to Provide Base Load

ABC News Australia reports that planned modifications to a proposed green energy solar tower (also known as a solar chimney) in north-western Victoria might mean the tower will no longer be the world's tallest man-made structure.

The tower - to be built north of Mildura - was to have been one kilometre high, producing enough green energy to power up to 200,000 households.

Enviromission chief executive Roger Davey says two new technologies may mean the tower could be made smaller, but perform better in terms of energy production and economics.

"If it was smaller it's still going to be very, very large - it will still be one of the largest structures, it will still be a renewable energy icon, it will be one of the most high yielding renewable energy projects if we get these two technologies right," he said.

UPDATE (taken from the Enviromission website):

Initially proposed at 200MW, the original Solar Tower concept required iconic design dimensions to achieve the necessary output for commercial development. Continuous improvement of the concept during project feasibility has involved the investigation of methods to increase power station efficiency and capacity in parallel to reducing design dimensions for greater commercial feasibility.

Enhancements identified with the potential to improve the efficiency of the collector zone of a Solar Tower, if successfully adapted to the concept, will result in design changes that will facilitate the delivery of smaller scale, commercial power plants; typically ranging in size from an installed capacity of 25MW upwards.

The two stand alone, proven enhancements, proposed for adaptation to the concept will introduce the ability to dramatically improve the performance of the roof area of the collector zone and introduce a method of storing heat (previously unavailable to the concept) creating greater base load generation.

Successful adaptation of the enhancements will enable an array of power plants to be built with vastly higher output at a much lower capital cost.

“The business case is significantly strengthened where capacity and revenue is increased from a substantially reduced capital cost base” said executive chairman Roger Davey.

“These inroads now mean a Solar Tower can be designed with installed capacities ranging from 25MW to 200MW adding unprecedented flexibility for the commercial development of Solar Towers in more diverse locations.

Plans for Solar Tower in China

Solar Tower for California?

Large Visualisation of How the Solar Chimney will Look

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know what the new proposed height is? I read rumors on that the tower has been cut from 1000m to 500m for cost reasons. Interesting to see the possibility of new technology to make it more efficient at a shorter height. Wonder if this is mostly spin, to make a cost cutting move look like a positive, or if there is real substance behind it.

Anyway, thanks for the report.

10:30 am, June 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:13 pm, June 03, 2005  
Blogger James said...


If the world wants to consume energy at the present level, or indeed increasing levels, power stations are going to have to be built somewhere.

Would you prefer a coal powered or nuclear powered generator in Mildura instead?

Or do you generate all the energy you consume using renewables sources (e.g. home solar panels and/or a wind turbine?)

Alternative Energy Blog

2:01 am, June 04, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the update, but I've been all over the EnviroMission website, and can't find the passage you are quoting. Would it be possible for you to post a direct link?

Thanks again for providing this information. I'm an Econ student who is very interested in alternative energy and I am a big fan of your site. I'm currently working on a preliminary cost-benefit analysis of the solar tower, but my research up to this point has all been done with the assumption of a 1,000m tower. So I'm very interested in seeing what the height reduction would do to costs and efficiency.

1:42 pm, June 04, 2005  
Blogger James said...

Hi Reid,

The direct link is (pdf alert):

When it's ready please share your cost-benefit analysis with us.

Alternative Energy Blog

5:14 pm, June 04, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks James for the link. I'm hoping to have my paper done by the end of this summer. I'll certainly stop by and let you know my results when I have them. This latest news seems promising. I wonder if cutting the height can effect things like capacity factor. (I wouldn't think so, but I'm no engineer.)

9:21 am, June 06, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Having a tower built in Mildura will be a boon to the economy. That means jobs for locals, money from tourists coming to see the "glass thing" and as a bonus it will help the environment. If you don't like the look of it, shift your vision 5 degrees to the left or right.

I won't give the aboriginal lands comment the honour of a reply...

6:13 am, June 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Solar towers would be excellent to develop but it is unlikely that our government leaders in Washington ever heard of one. We need government leaders who see our energy problems as they truly exist and are willing to take action. A solar tower is one way of generating wind in a windless area which does have good sun light. There should be some coordinated development of wind, solar tower, photovoltaic and even ocean power. Would it be possible to develop two or more technologies more efficiently in the same area??? For exmple, could the land space serving a solar tower also be used to collect energy for photovoltaics at the same time? In the collection of energy from the sun, would it be less expensive and a wiser use of land to do this? The problem is that it is sufficiently difficult to develop one technology at the present time but in the future, energy development of renewable energies should be thought of in terms of wise land use. We have to think ahead. God gave us this ability and we should be using it.
Adrian Akau
Pahala, Hawaii

11:45 am, June 14, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the artist concept anywhere near accurate as to shape of the system? Seems to me that a shape somewhat like an inverted trumpet would allow a higher heat content of the air meaning more energy to trap by the turbines. This would allow a longer residence time in the heat collection area while not changing the volume heated. Just a tinkers comment.

10:31 am, June 17, 2005  
Blogger James said...


Thanks for your comment. Your idea may indeed increase the efficency, I'm no engineer, but I suspect having curved panels rather than more standard flat ones might substantially increase the cost of construction.

Any expert opinions?

Alternative Energy Blog

11:54 am, June 17, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also live in Mildura, open your eyes mate. This is the best thing that has ever happened in Mildura. It certainly may help ease the the environmental pain Mildura is inflicting on the River Murray presently. By doing something environmently right, they can probably keep stuffing up the aquatic ecosystems in the area but feeling a litle less guilty for it. Look at your own back yard Jai, before you pass comment on something that has such great potential for

10:02 pm, October 24, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Solar Tower concept concerns me. It is being touted as renewable energy in the face of Global Warming. However, collecting heat at the surface and pushing it 1km into the atmosphere simply makes the problem worse. It is all atmosphere and that heat at 1km will certainly add to the overall warming of the globe. Perhaps the government should ensure this technology passes all the ticks for being Greenhouse friendly.

7:06 pm, January 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The solar tower won't be pushing any more heat 1 km up than would already get there naturally. Thermals ( ie. large pockets of upward welling hot air) occur over land in the sun naturally, and rise several thousand meters. It's what glider pilots use to maintain altitude for hours at a time. The Solar tower is just creating a trapped thermal in a specific spot - within a tower so the energy can be captured and converted to electricity. if it wasnt there, the land would still heat up and huge pockets of hot air would still rise well over 1 km high.

8:23 pm, July 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>if it wasnt there, the land would still heat up and huge pockets of hot air would still rise well over 1 km high.

But the difference is that with the tower you're taking the air that would be rising from a large area and concentrating it into a tube, forcing that air upward at a much higher velocity than it would go on its own. It's like comparing the flow of a gentle stream and the flow coming out the end of a firehose; they both might have the same volume flowing through them, but the effect each has on whatever is on the receiving end is vastly different.

You can't dismiss the potential havoc this could create in the atmosphere by saying heated air rises anyway. There is absolutely no precedent by which to judge what unintended concequences a project like this might have.

8:24 pm, August 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the inverse idea of utilizing the pressure of cooled air has much more potential.

10:31 pm, August 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be better use of floor space to cover up the floor underneath the flat glass panes with photovoltaic cells? Planting trees there would reduce the air temperature instead...

4:24 am, November 05, 2007  

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