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August 02, 2006



I wonder whether they will get the money. The Australian government is so conservative and pro coal that it wouldn't surprise me at all for them to pull the plug just to ruin something promising (perhaps I am too cynical). I believe one of the reasons not mentioned here as to why Enviromission have delayed so long is that the Federal Governments Energy White paper was very dissapointing as far as renewables go compared to coal or natural gas.

Kirk Sorensen

Here are some relevant figures for the capital costs of various energy options -- these figures are from a presentation done by Dr. Per Peterson of UC Berkeley on "material inputs". How does this "solar chimney" compare?

Nuclear: 1970’s vintage PWR, 90% capacity factor, 60 year life [1]
– 40 MT steel / MW(average)
– 190 m3 concrete / MW(average)

Wind: 1990’s vintage, 6.4 m/s average wind speed, 25% capacity factor, 15 year life [2]
– 460 MT steel / MW (average)
– 870 m3 concrete / MW(average)

Coal: 78% capacity factor, 30 year life [2]
– 98 MT steel / MW(average)
– 160 m3 concrete / MW(average)

Natural Gas Combined Cycle: 75% capacity factor, 30 year life [3]
– 3.3 MT steel / MW(average)
– 27 m3 concrete / MW(average)


1. R.H. Bryan and I.T. Dudley, “Estimated Quantities of Materials Contained in a 1000-MW(e) PWR Power Plant,” Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TM-4515, June (1974)

2. S. Pacca and A. Horvath, Environ. Sci. Technol., 36, 3194-3200 (2002).

3. P.J. Meier, “Life-Cycle Assessment of Electricity Generation Systems and Applications for Climate Change Policy Analysis,” U. Wisconsin Report UWFDM-1181,
August, 2002.

Paul Dietz

I've been wondering why this idea has been getting traction, but the converse idea, a tower that generates a downdraft from evaporative cooling, has apparently not. The cooling tower has the advantage of not requiring the large 'skirt', since it exploits the presence of natural hot dry air produced by sunlight hitting the general neighborhood.

Michael Lawson

Minor typo -- that should be the "CN Tower in Toronto", not the "CNN Tower in Toronto"!

glynne jones

I frequently see this error regarding temperature and temperature rise.

Whilst a temperature of 38 oC is equivalent to 100 oF... a rise of 38oC is only a rise of 38 x 1.6 = 60.8 oF


I hope they do build it. My thought would have been a smaller (100m) dia. dishes w/ a more highly reflective surface. A collector could then redirect the energy toward a high quality heat storage unit.


Apologies for typo.. my brain was stuck in miles/km?? It should read:

I frequently see this error regarding temperature and temperature rise.

Whilst a temperature of 38 oC is equivalent to 100 oF... a rise of 38oC is only a rise of 38 x 1.8 = 68.4 oF

So which is the correct temp rise for this project... the oF one or the oC?


PD, I have also wondered about the cooling tower concept. I haven't heard much about it in recent years. Please share whatever you have heard lately.

Paul Dietz

Please share whatever you have heard lately.

Essentially nothing, which is why I was wondering.

Jim from The Energy Blog

Both mistakes were mine and have been corrected in the text. The temperature rise is 68 F and it is the CN tower.

BTW I use the Shaw-Stone & Webster report found here for all my reference data on costs of generating power. This is the latest comprehensive report I have come across. It may be biased towards nuclear, but all forms of energy seem to get some sort of subsidies and everyone has an agenda.


This is a very interesting reappearance of the saltwater ponds concept.  I was aware that they were developed in Israel some time ago, but I'd heard nothing recently.  Using them as ultra-cheap thermal storage for this tower is damned clever, and I'm glad the principals made the connection.

(For the uninitiated, the ponds use a black bottom to collect solar radiation and heat beneath several feet of water, and a stratified concentration of salt to keep the heat from rising due to convection.)


PD, they are still talking about it:


Jim, sorry for the OT discussion, but consider doing something on this concept.



4.5 cents\kilowatt in Australia, with construction costs amortized over 30 years assuming 10% interest in optimum locations. Even better numbers in Baja California


Look here under Sharav Sluices:


Northern Mexico:


Lots of info:



Seems to have a huge footprint, but if anyone has uninhabited room for something like this it's australia

Ronald Brak

Unless they've changed their plans, most of the land underneath it won't be going to waste, it will be farmed, so you don't need vast areas of uninhabited land to build them. In fact they could be built close to population centers and the area underneath them used for market gardening.

Jeff Olney

I don't see these going up near population centers anytime soon. If people scream and whine about wind turbines destroying their view, the outcry will be ten times bigger over these solar towers.


Are you kidding?  Imagine the view from one!  If you could somehow keep the shadowing from impairing the operation of the tower, the sides could become prime real estate.


I love this idea, and frankly I feel that visual pollution is just an excuse people that fear change use.

People travel to see windmills for goodness sake now suddenly white spinning towers are supposedly comparable to a coal burning smokestack dumping black greasy smoke into the sky.

The first time I read about this technology I was thinking that they should build it with an outer ring at the top coming down for cold downdraft production.

Hot Air up, Sprayers at the outer ring outside edge create a down draft that's a bit out. It seems like this would open up a bit of air space and reduce the pressure letting the air flow up easier. The hot dry air would help the down draft too.

I know it's hard to visualize and I'm not suggesting having the two sharing the same wall or turning the air 180 degrees to flow downward.

It seems like a cycle of hot air up and cold down would work to me with some difficult design involved.


30 years is an awful long time to amortise, but even so if 4.5c/KWh is real, that is a very good number for a technology which is only at the start of the experience curve. That should lead to a halving in long term costs, if the experience of wind energy is anything to go by.

The real problem with renewables seems to be not their costs, but the fact that they are intermittent - half the day (or more)the sun does not shine, and some of the time the wind does not blow - and Oz and Baja (and windy mountains) are a long way from most energy consumers. Long distance power lines are part of the answer, but they have heavy losses. There is a need for chemical energy storage which is carbon-free. Hydrogen is not the answer (too many problems) but ammonia may be, although the energy density is only 40% of oil. It is also a very good fuel for internal combustion engines and turbines. More on this at http://totalissues.blogspot.com/2006/08/ammonia-economy.html
and the subsequent post

Paul Dietz

I wonder if it would be possible to dispense with the turbines in this scheme and instead generate power electrostatically. That is -- inject charge into the upward flowing air, and have the ions so formed be dragged 'uphill' against a strong electric field. I recall a similar scheme being proposed for use with natural wind, but the fixed geometry here could make the idea more practical.


Looks like I was right, they didn't get the money. Instead they've given money to a solar concentrator power plant and a brown coal pilot plant that captures and stores CO2. No surprizes regarding money for coal in Australia.



I hope Enviromission has a backup plan (they should have knowing the Howard government).

young witha future

Are there some nuclear concerns benifitting here, or is it more obvious ... everybody benifits from beating down the real hero, typical.


I'm wondering, with Howard out, a the new prime minister handing over a ratified Kyoto protocol in Bali, will this project start moving again in Australia?

Cyril R.

Here's a good backup plan: go to CA as well. More solar thermal competition in the Mojave would be a good thing, and the... political environment... for solar is probably much better in CA even with Howard gone in Australia.

Or Spain perhaps?


Best wishes for 2008

NOBODY has a better Solar Tower Update since august 2006?

In Spain, in ciudad real there was also a projet of solar chimney 750 m high, but no news since more than one year...

Please : a 2008 update is necessary!


Best wishes for 2009

Has anybody a better Solar Tower Update since august 2006?

In Spain, in ciudad real there was also a projet of solar chimney 750 m high, but no news since more than two years...


Please : a 2009 update is necessary!


There are news about giant "solar towers"
Two new websites are dedicated to them and they are very complete!!!
Please have a look on:
and www.tour-solaire.fr
(and next month www.torre-solar.es)


There are news about giant "solar towers"
Two new websites are dedicated to them and they are very complete!!!
Please have a look on:
and www.tour-solaire.fr
(and next month www.torre-solar.es)

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