Sometimes you have to think big. That’s certainly what Dr. Phillip Carlson would say. He’s the guy that invented the “energy skyscraper” back in the ’70s. It was a colossal tower that would reach up into the sky to create what you might call artificial weather, which would deliver consistent 50 miles-per-hour winds to the base where an array of wind turbines would convert that wind into electricity.
The principle is basically the same as the chimney effect in which hot air rises and cool air descends. In order for the effect be sufficient to produce significant amount of power, you need a very tall chimney. Spraying water enhances the effect, especially if the air coming up is hot and dry.
Carlson was clearly ahead of his time. After the Arab oil embargo of 1973 came and went, interest in energy went back to sleep as oil had become abundant once again. But the idea was picked up by Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology. They proposed construction of a full scale version in the Southern Arava Desert that would be close to 4,000 feet tall and 2,000 feet in diameter. It’s worth noting that the tallest building in the world today, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, is 2,700 feet tall. Needless, to say, the cost of constructing such an engineering marvel would be prohibitive, which is why the Technion project did not proceed.
But now, an American company called, Solar Wind Energy Tower (SWET) is moving forward with plans to build one of these in Southwest Arizona, outside the town of San Luis, Arizona, and another one across the border in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico. Their design is only 2,250 feet tall, practically a miniature version of the original. The company has purchased land and received approval from the city council for the Arizona project. The town has also agreed to provide the water necessary to run the tower for 50 years.
The SWET tower, as designed, is expected to produce some 4 million MW-hours per year; that’s more than the Hoover Dam. If this seems unbelievable, it’s not. The underlying science is sound. That doesn’t mean there won’t be unanticipated problems with these if they ever get built. (See Video below.) Click to continue reading »
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