The Solar-Meets-Wind Renewable Superpower

Written By Brianna Panzica

Posted July 26, 2011

Solar panels and wind farms seem to be the most likely renewable power sources lately, as both crop up more and production companies expand in the United States.

Both are good power sources, but each is still difficult to make extremely efficient, not to mention cost-effective.

But imagine these two powers were combined into a sort of renewable supergiant that would actually pay itself off in just less than 14% of the time it will remain functioning.

One Australian company is doing just that – with the Solar Tower.

It’s not a brand new technology.  A small-scale solar tower is already in existence in Spain.

But EnviroMission (ASX: EVM) has perfected the technology and plans to build the first full-scale model – right in Arizona.

The solar tower will be located in La Paz County, 130 miles from Phoenix, and will stand as tall as two Empire State Buildings, reports

In fact, its height of 2,625 feet will put it just behind Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in the rank of world’s tallest buildings.Solar Tower

The tower is structured like this: a giant base, extending 2 miles, serves as a greenhouse canopy. In the center of this is a tall, chimney-like structure, the width of which is actually the size of a football field.

Air under the canopy is heated by the greenhouse effect.  The hot air is inclined to rise, and it does so through the tall chimney, moving turbines in the base along the way, Gizmag explains.

The large amount of hot air enabled by the size of the base, as well as the temperature differential enabled by the tower’s height, pushes the air up fast enough to turn the turbines to create a maximum of 200 megawatts of energy.

And Gizmag gives more details, estimating that the project will cost $750 million to construct, an effort that will create about 1,500 construction jobs.

Once it’s up, only the turbines will require occasional maintenance throughout its 80-year life.

And by selling the power, the structure should pay itself off in just 11 of those years.

To aid this, a 30-year power purchase agreement has already been agreed upon with the Southern California Public Power Authority, an agreement that estimates the operation date for 2015.

CEO Chris Davey has expressed that the location in Arizona is much more effective than in his native Australia.

The United States offers incentives unlike any available in Australia, making the idea a reality. And the environment in Arizona will benefit the tower much more than anywhere in Australia.

The tower is expected to be able to power 150,000 homes for 80 years.  The only byproduct created will be hot air.

It has even been suggested that vegetation can be grown underneath, in the greenhouse environment created by the canopy.

Who knows what the success of a structure like this could mean for the future of renewables?

It’s surefire production rate and ability to pay itself off would mean good things for investors.

That’s all for now,


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