A new solar power project is scheduled to begin in the Arizona desert. The energy company EnviroMission has announced plans to build a massive solar tower. The tower, which will be 2625 feet tall, will be twice the height of the Empire State Building, automatically making it one of the tallest buildings in the world upon completion.
The proposed tower will have a capacity for power generation equaling 200-megawatts, enabling it to power 150,000 U.S. homes. Once the tower is finished, it will produce a clean, renewable source of energy with essentially no maintenance until it is at least 80 years old.
Solar power is a clean and renewable source of energy that is especially effective in an area with abundant sunshine, such as Arizona. Solar power even works at night because the heat released by the sun during the day sufficiently warms the ground, which will allow the tower to work around the clock. After completion of the tower, there are no other requirements to generate solar power except the sun, whereas other power sources need a continuous supply of environmentally-harmful sources like coal or uranium. Because of this, solar power emits no greenhouse gases, unlike other conventional energy sources. The solar tower’s proposed location in the Arizona desert is an efficient use of space, because the hot and arid climate is not conducive to housing developments or urbanization, but will be a prime spot for a solar power project.
The production of solar power comes in several forms. Conventional solar power uses panels to convert sunlight to electricity. Solar thermal power uses both sunlight and mirrors to heat water. The idea of a solar tower is a unique and innovative idea that EnviroMission actually owns the rights to. EnviroMission’s solar tower will essentially collect energy from the sun in a way similar to a greenhouse. After the sun hits the greenhouse-like structure at the bottom, the air is warmed underneath it. The hot air will the rise through the center of the tower. The rising of the air will be aided by turbines at the base of the tower that will generate power from the updraft of the air.
Because of the tower’s location in the Arizona desert, where daytime surface temperatures average around 104 degrees, the tower will be generating an extremely large amount of hot air. The height of the tower will also make a difference in its efficiency. Because air temperature drops as it moves away from the surface of the earth, the difference in temperature from the base of the tower to the top will differ. As the difference in temperatures increases, the tower is forced to work harder to suck up the hot air at the bottom. This allows the tower to work at a greater efficiency to generate energy.
EnviroMission has estimated that the tower will cost approximately $750 billion to build. After the tower is built, however, there will be essentially no costs to maintain it. The tower will run at an efficiency of 200-megawatts and at 60% efficiency. EnviroMission is currently in the process of acquiring land for the project. In October 2010, the energy output of the tower was sold to the Southern California Public Power Authority, who signed a 30-year power purchase agreement with EnviroMission. The agreement will allow the tower to provide enough energy to power 150,000 U.S. homes. It is estimated that the tower will pay off its purchase price in eleven years, which is especially efficient given that the tower will be standing for at least 80 years.
If all goes according to plan, the construction of the Arizona solar tower will be completed in 2012. In early 2015, the tower will begin to generate power.
Photo Credit: epa.gov/region9/waterinfrastructure/images/thornydale_panels-sml.jpg