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Massive Solar Updraft Towers Planned For Arizona

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the juice-and-a-tan dept.

Power 572

MikeChino writes "Australia-based EnviroMission Ltd recently announced plans to build two solar updraft towers that span hundreds of acres in La Paz County, Arizona. Solar updraft technology sounds promising enough: generate hot air with a giant greenhouse, channel the air into a chimney-like device, and let the warm wind turn a wind turbine to produce energy. The scale of the devices would be staggering — each plant would consist of a 2,400 foot chimney over a greenhouse measuring four square miles. The Southern California Public Power Authority has approved EnviroMission as a provider, although there’s still plenty of work to be done before the $750 million, 200 megawatt project can begin."

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A better location (4, Funny)

n0tWorthy (796556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676928)

They should build it in Washington DC

Wet toilet seats a problem? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677026)

Do you suffer from MUS (Multiple Urine Streams)? Are your trips to the bathroom blighted by UPTs (Unpredictable Piss Trajectories)? Well, fear not, you are not alone. Research has shown that in 99% of cases, MUS and UPTs are caused by two factors; either debris trapped in your glans, or a poorly configured foreskin. Well, your toilet seat soaking days could now be over, as a revolutionary GIMP plugin written by prolific rock-ballad artist Meatloaf will solve *all* your bathroom carpet dampening needs.

Simply use your favourite digital camera/camera phone to take a photograph of your penis before you are about to urinate, transfer it to your Linux-based laptop, and Meatloaf's incredible software processes the image using advanced techniques like Neural Nets, Stochastic Sampling and Genetic Algorithms to analyse the configuration of your bell-end, and give advice helping you to avoid both MUS and UPTs. The software is also written in 100% x86 assembly language, taking advantage of Meatloaf's decades of experience working with Intel's modern processors, to deliver accurate results in seconds.

Order it now, and banish piss soaked carpets from your life forever.

Re:Wet toilet seats a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677320)

Your post is why I read at -1 but it would be better modded Funny followed by 2 Overrateds

Thanks, Wiseguy (3, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677436)

Do you suffer from MUS (Multiple Urine Streams)? Are your trips to the bathroom blighted by UPTs (Unpredictable Piss Trajectories)? Well, fear not, you are not alone. Research has shown that in 99% of cases, MUS and UPTs are caused by two factors; either debris trapped in your glans, or a poorly configured foreskin. Well, your toilet seat soaking days could now be over, as a revolutionary GIMP plugin written by prolific rock-ballad artist Meatloaf will solve *all* your bathroom carpet dampening needs.

Simply use your favourite digital camera/camera phone to take a photograph of your penis before you are about to urinate, transfer it to your Linux-based laptop, and Meatloaf's incredible software processes the image using advanced techniques like Neural Nets, Stochastic Sampling and Genetic Algorithms to analyse the configuration of your bell-end, and give advice helping you to avoid both MUS and UPTs. The software is also written in 100% x86 assembly language, taking advantage of Meatloaf's decades of experience working with Intel's modern processors, to deliver accurate results in seconds.

Order it now, and banish piss soaked carpets from your life forever.

I tried this and now my penis looks really blurry and pixelated.

Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (0)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676938)

This will bankroll people's salaries for YEARS before it is ever (not) built.

How does this help again? Hookers and blow and all that?

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (2, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676964)

Sounds like a pretty good use of stimulus money. To bad hookers and blow don't generate any tax revenue.

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (5, Funny)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677028)

Hm.. My first thought was "Perfect for one big ass Pot farm..." ^__^

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677070)

Paying an Australian company to build a money pit is a good use of US stimulus money? Would you be interested in buying a bridge?

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677108)

Right! Because I'm sure they're going to import all of the raw materials from Australia and bring in a massive Australian construction force, right?

Does everything have to be 100% USA for you? Amerika Uber Alles?

the american way... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677234)

No, no, no, you have it all wrong!

Amerika will pay Australia to buy from an American corporation. The American corporation will in turn import all the raw materials from china and help the Australian firm find a bunch of minimum wage mexicans to build the thing.

The only question is... which south american country will supply the hookers and blow for this project?

Re:the american way... (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677510)

...The American corporation will in turn import all the raw materials from china...

Who will, of course, have bought said materials from us anyway. Good old Australian iron and coal. I don't mind, really. (*cough*)~

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677110)

Well, if they would get off the stick and legalize hookers and drugs, then they would get massive tax revenues.

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (1)

chromas (1085949) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677492)

Also, thousands of officers would lose their jobs getting free hookers and simultaneously participating in the drug cartels and harassing the end-users. Many prisons would empty out (just kidding; parolees always 'screw up' when the inmate count is getting low). Think about their children!

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677434)

From a pure stimulus standpoint, sure, but wouldn't it be nice if we at least got something tangible out of our money too, instead of just consultant reports? At least the make-work programs in the 1930s left us with a bunch of improvements to the national park infrastructure, murals in various public places, etc.--- in fact a good deal of that WPA stuff is still in use.

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (0, Offtopic)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677626)

hookers and blow don't generate any tax revenue.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

In the words of P. J. O'Rourke, giving money to governments is like giving whiskey and car keys to adolescent boys.

-jcr

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (5, Funny)

yobjob (942868) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677004)

I've been watching Enviromission not build a solar tower in regional Victoria (Australia) for a decade now. Not building one in the United States is a real step up for these guys.

Re:Plenty of consulting dollars to be spent (2, Insightful)

e9th (652576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677020)

How does this help? Well, it'll help the wind turbine industry.

"Oh, you don't like our hundred foot windmill because the blades are ugly and whooshy and hurt little birds? No problem. We'll just put one of these babies in your back yard."

I can't help but wonder... (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676968)

these couldn't be built for a small fraction the price by using an atmospheric vortex engine [vortexengine.ca] instead of a tower.

Re:I can't help but wonder... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677178)

Someone failed physics, but applied for a patent anyway.

If you go to the front page of that site it goes on about the "stored energy resources" of the "latent heat of water vapor in the bottom kilometer of the atmosphere", is just so much nonsense. The wikipedia article just regurgitates the patent application.

-----
Text ads [adzaar.com]

Resisting the urge... (1)

GPS Pilot (3683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677410)

There is reluctance to attempt to reproduce a phenomenon as destructive as a tornado, but controlled tornadoes could reduce hazards by relieving instability rather than create hazards. A small tornado firmly anchored over a strongly built station would not be a hazard.

This is some serious out-of-the-box thinking, so I will resist the urge to take a cheap shot at it by asking, "What could possibly go wrong?"

This intriguing idea deserves further study and maybe a pilot plant.

Re:I can't help but wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677428)

i cant help but wonder if you have no idea what you are talking about

Re:I can't help but wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677438)

Well, the point of both the chimney and the tornado is to create a conduit for the warm air to flow through. The higher the conduit, the more energy you can get. That's why the tower is so high, 2,400 feet. The hight is what matters.

Imagine a vortex/tornado 2,400 feet high. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:I can't help but wonder... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677522)

Imagine a vortex/tornado 2,400 feet high. What could possibly go wrong?

Uh... nothing? I mean I guess a poorly informed amateur pilot could fly into it...

A tornado is not self-sustaining. They exist by virtue of the massive amount of energy contained in the storm which creates them. If you were to magically remove the colliding fronts, the tornado would vanish fairly quickly. The vortex in this idea would be powered by the heat injected into it at the base station. If, as I assume you're imagining, it jumped the wall of the generator and started moving towards the quiet and unsuspecting town just down the road, it'd run out of energy very quickly.

No, the problem I have with the idea is that, unlike the solar updraft tower, it isn't immediately obvious to me where the energy to heat the air going into the base is coming from. The picture shows "warm water" being drizzled through the inlet vent and becoming "cool water" with the heat obviously going into the air, but where is the warm water coming from? Solar heating tanks, I guess?

Re:I can't help but wonder... (2, Insightful)

elFisico (877213) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677482)

these couldn't be built for a small fraction the price by using an atmospheric vortex engine [vortexengine.ca] instead of a tower.

Seems like an interesting idea, replacing the tall tower with an air vortex. But I think the risks have to be researched beforehand. What you create here is a giantic tornado, so how is it guaranteed that this tornado won't suddenly rip off the base and start wandering around?!

Do a small scale pilot first (0)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676984)

A 4 square mile greenhouse in the middle of the dessert? No, that shouldn't be expensive to maintain... and keep the glass panels clean and unbroken in!

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (0)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677042)

A 4 square mile greenhouse in the middle of the dessert? No, that shouldn't be expensive to maintain... and keep the glass panels clean and unbroken in!

Given that the Greens are already opposing solar plants in desert locations, I expect that a four square mile greenhouse will never make it past all the legal challenges.

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (2, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677068)

That's one protest where throwing rocks might actually be a particularly effective strategy. "Those who live in glass houses..."

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677154)

I'm sure they'll end up going with a mesh greenhouse design.

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677180)

If you mean they'll probably use acrylic or some translucent plastic cloth much lighter and stronger than glass, then yes they will. But that's not as funny!

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677268)

Only if they have a catapult. A lot of air comes in at ground level and then goes up a big funnel. All that will be at ground level is supports so there is plenty of room for the air to get in. This design has been around for a while so there is a lot on the net.
Even if there is no sunshine you still have a whopping big chimney that would give you a draft and turn a turbine optimised for lower speeds. Since there is no steam involved variable pitch blades could be used to make it easy to optimise for different air speeds.
Peak loads are the major problem in power generation, so something that can be connected to the grid when everyone is running their aircon helps.
The ideal energy source is a huge glacier fed lake on a very steep mountain right next to a major city - but that's hard to get so a wide mix of different energy sources works.

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677352)

The ideal energy source is a huge glacier fed lake on a very steep mountain right next to a major city... You mean like this one? [cvea.org] Yes, it's an anomaly, but cool nonetheless.

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (3, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677072)

Given that the Greens are already opposing solar plants in desert locations

I call bullshit. If environmental activists are protesting in a desert location, are they not Browns?

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (3, Informative)

TopSpin (753) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677264)

I call bullshit. If environmental activists...

There isn't any "if" involved here. Feinstein is sprinkling "national monuments" all over the Mojave to prevent solar projects.

link [latimes.com]
link [nytimes.com]

No development of any kind, anywhere, under any circumstances, ever.

EnviroMission has been failing in Australia for at least half a decade. They aren't going to get anywhere in the US.

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677332)

LOL

"At this point, there are zero solar-energy projects on public land," said Monique Hanis of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group. "We are looking for ways to expand the market and reduce barriers ... and get more of these projects moving."

Seems the article's author cut off the last part of the quote. I think it continues

... without having to bother with buying the land we want to use.

You want to use public land? You have to put up with government bullshit. Buy some land, do whatever the hell you want on it.

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677402)

Ahhh - but we don't let people like her ruin our fine state :)

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677184)

Only the idealists. The rest of us are generally ok with an imperfect solution that is better than an existing solution. Mostly because we can do the math. Coal plants make up the vast majority of the power plants in the US and are probaly the most environmentally damaging form of energy production on the planet so replacing them with something else is generally a smart thing to do.

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (4, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677302)

Coal plants make up the vast majority of the power plants in the US and are definitely the most environmentally damaging form of energy production on the planet. Fixed that for you. Coal plant emit more radioactive material (radon) than nuclear plants, in addition to sulphur, other pollutants, and carbon dioxide. Some of this could be cleaned up through better smokestack scrubbers, but from an environmental impact standpoint coal is definitely the most expensive energy source.

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677364)

Only the idealists. The rest of us are generally ok with an imperfect solution that is better than an existing solution.

Unfortunately, it doesn't take many "idealists" to sink a large project. Keep it in court for a few years, and the funding will dry up and blow away.

Should be cheaper than solar (0, Redundant)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677194)

4 square miles of solar panels in the desert? No that shouldn't be hard to expensive to maintain and keep all those uber expensive solar panels clean and unbroken

Re:Should be cheaper than solar (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677252)

Except 4 square miles of solar panels will generate an order of magnitude more energy than a solar chimney. Solar updraft power plants have a low initial outlay, but are very inefficient.

Linear thinking (2, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677454)

You are completely wrong. At some point there will be a scale where the chimney will pull ahead.
Double the area of photovoltaics and you only get twice the energy. As turbines get larger the losses are proportionally smaller, and when you have more moving air you can have more blades optimised for different speeds. It's a comparison of a rising curve for the chimney vs a line for the photovoltaics. After the point where they cross the chimney gives you more energy for the area.

Re:Should be cheaper than solar (2, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677638)

Except 4 square miles of solar panels will generate an order of magnitude more energy than a solar chimney. Solar updraft power plants have a low initial outlay, but are very inefficient.

I'd go with four square miles of solar chimneys, myself. There are places so remote in Australia that even the taggers wouldn't find them. Nobody would find them for years, if they had the good sense to bury the cables. Personally I'd be in favour of any solution that didn't involve burning stuff you had to dig up out of the dirt.

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (4, Funny)

jittles (1613415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677262)

A 4 square mile greenhouse in the middle of the dessert?

I, for one, will not stand up to these people interrupting dessert!

Yeah, because... (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677618)

...we sure don't know how to make windows that don't break easily. Ever hear of Plexiglass?

Re:Do a small scale pilot first (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677650)

as opposed to the maintence in a coal fired power station or nuclear, it'd be a hell of a lot less actually.

making it work is the problem, these guys have nothing but a track record of failure and doing nothing. i don't oppose spending money on idea's, but there has to be more then endless studies that go no where.

Efficiency (4, Interesting)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677018)

Is there some efficiency to be gained by building a four square mile device over, say, 2560 one acre devices? Energy efficiency? Cost? It seems like there's a lot of risk in building one giant unit.

-Peter

Re:Efficiency (4, Funny)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677160)

Is there some efficiency to be gained by building a four square mile device over, say, 2560 one acre devices? Energy efficiency? Cost?

Yes. Yes.

Re:Efficiency (2, Funny)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677412)

Thanks for clearing that up for me, sport.

-Peter

Re:Efficiency (4, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677386)

Is there some efficiency to be gained by building a four square mile device over, say, 2560 one acre devices?

Yes, by the bucketload. Thermal solutions of all kinds scale up - that is twice the size gives you a lot more than twice the energy. One example is that you can have an enormous rotor that works at low wind speeds because there is so much moving air while a small one can't move at all. Another is in large units where you get power from steam several turbines can be used to get a lot more energy out of the steam while in small units you can only spin one.
Photovoltaics don't scale up - double the area and you only get double the power. That's why the nuke lobby liked comparing their 1960s dinosaurs to photovoltaics since eventually there has to be a scale where nearly anything thermal will pull ahead.

Re:Efficiency (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677544)

The problem with building a 10% scale device is that you can't find as many excuses for not actually, you know, building one. This project is intended to extract money from investors and governments, not extract energy. When the first one you want to build is ridiculously big, you really don't intend to build any.

For instance, in this solar thermal plant [ca.gov] they built the first few to prove the concept. Makes perfect sense if you're actually intending to generate power.

Yeah! (-1)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677022)

Just what we need! More thermal energy in the atmosphere.

We should be trying to extract the thermal energy we already have - not creating more. Wind mills on mountains are a good start.

physics FAIL (3, Informative)

RelliK (4466) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677040)

This thing does not ADD any energy to the atmosphere. It EXTRACTS energy from it.

Re:Yeah! (5, Informative)

CyberBill (526285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677084)

This DOES (essentially) reduce thermal energy in the atmosphere.

Typically, the solar energy just heats up the ground, and also bounces around in the atmosphere and heats it up. This thing works by trapping the energy in a small area (greenhouse) and then using some of that heat to generate electricity. By the time the air is pumped out into the open atmosphere, it has less heat energy than if the thing wasn't there to begin with.

This really boils down to being just like a photovoltaic panel. Rather than the Sun wasting its energy heating up the atmosphere, we use the energy to make electricity... which we then waste by turning electricity back into heat which heats up the atmosphere. :)

Re:Yeah! (1)

Camel Pilot (78781) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677130)

Net zero. When the energy extracted is used (ie using a toaster) that energy would be released into the atmosphere.

Re:Yeah! (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677596)

You picked the ONE example where your system is sun->solar panels->electricity->heating toast.
But there are MANY other uses for electricity that don't dissipate 100% of their energy in heat.

What does the term energy efficiency mean to you? That, is if our electronic devices are more efficient than the solar panels used to power them, we would be removing heat energy from the atmosphere.

Re:Yeah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677648)

Just curious... would placing solar panels inside the greenhouse be of any use? Do solar panels not work behind greenhouse glass?

Re:Yeah! (5, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677128)

We should be trying to extract the thermal energy we already have

What precisely do you think they're trying to do? Where do you think this thermal difference comes from exactly? Every single process that generates usable electrical power generates thermal energy. Simple thermodynamics dictates that a process must be less than 100% efficient and must create more disorder than order. So instead of converting coal and air into CO2, electrical power and heat; we're converting solar thermal energy into electrical power and waste heat. The thermal energy is already there and is going to waste otherwise.

Re:Yeah! (0, Redundant)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677280)

Hey genius, where do you think the thermal energy that's being collected came from and went to in the first place?

physics (3, Funny)

bcmm (768152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677342)

energy

You keep using that word...

Re:Yeah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677422)

Umm, hate to mention it to you , but this is using energy already available, not changing matter to energy, or using combustables. Sunshine is Free !

Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677086)

A nuclear plant would use maybe 50 acres and produce a gigawatt. I think the capital expense is comparable. What is the benefit here?

Regards,
Jason

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (4, Informative)

bmk67 (971394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677176)

It doesn't generate a shitload of radioactive waste, perhaps?

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (5, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677248)

Most of the nuclear waste in the US is recyclable. The amount of waste produced for a given amount of power is small compared to coal, pil and other fossil fuels. Thorium reactors produce even less waste than Uranium/Plutonium reactors do and is more common as well. There is also the problem of low carnot efficiency of solar updraft towers relative to other solar thermal designs because of the relatively small thermal gradient. The larger the thermal gradient, the higher the efficiency.

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (2, Insightful)

bmk67 (971394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677426)

Most of the nuclear waste in the US is recyclable. The amount of waste produced for a given amount of power is small compared to coal, pil and other fossil fuels.

I don't recall the GP posting anything about fossil fuels. IMHO, nuclear is superior to fossil fuel energy production. We're in violent agreement on that point.

Thorium reactors produce even less waste than Uranium/Plutonium reactors do and is more common as well. There is also the problem of low carnot efficiency of solar updraft towers relative to other solar thermal designs because of the relatively small thermal gradient. The larger the thermal gradient, the higher the efficiency.

I'm afraid you might have taken "shitload of radioactive waste" a little too literally. GP simply wanted to know what the benefit of this technology was over nuclear. Solar updraft technology appears on it's face to not have the environmental concerns of nuclear power. Whether or not is practical remains to be seen I think. Regarding the GP's complaint of land use, desert land is practically free. Nuclear reactors have to be sited close to an abundant source of coolant (i.e. water). Appropriate sites for nuclear power generation are substantially more expensive than desert land.

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677550)

You are unfortunately refering to things that are possibly near future SF as if they are reality. Accelerated thorium holds a lot of promise, but what is required is a bit of funding to do R&D to see if they do the job.
You are also very wrong about the waste at this point. Reprocessing currently is of very little use for civilian applications and doesn't cut down much on the small amount of waste it actually works on.
Nice cut and paste there - look up "carnot cycle " to learn something today and then consider your copied point is fairly worthless becuase airspeed is a major factor and the medium is not steam!

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (4, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677636)

The total volume is waste is tiny, and it's not that dangerous. It's not more dangerous than the output of other industrial sites like oil refineries and solvent plants. Considering that the carbon footprint of the nuclear power cycle is staggeringly low (even taking into account plant construction and uranium mining), nuclear power is the best and most obvious solution to climate change. We don't even need thorium reactors. There's enough conventional nuclear fuel to last millennia even without reprocessing. We can extract the stuff from seawater.

The issue here is political: the general populace is frightened of political power due to a 40 year standoff involving nuclear weapons and one terrible Russian nuclear accident. The waste "problem" is fear-mongering.

How can you tell? Ask a nuclear opponent what his criteria for "solving" the waste problem are. What containment technology would win him over, even in principle? You'll find he won't accept anything short of the magical transformation of nuclear waste into hemp.

Education and sanity are slowly winning, but it will be a long time until nuclear power is accepted again here. Until then, we're going to be stuck with coal power slowly strangling our planet.

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677610)

Use Thorium. The reason plutonium was used was because it could be then used for weapons. Thorium is much more abundant, it's safer, and has much less nuclear waste.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium [wikipedia.org]

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677310)

The capital required to construct a nuclear power plant is nothing next to its decommissioning costs, and there is not an unlimited supply of nuclear fuel.

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (1, Informative)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677450)

There's a huge amount [world-nuclear.org] of nuclear fuel available. Nuclear fuel supply is not a problem.

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677628)

So tell me then, why did the price of Uranium go up?
If there is a move to thorium or designs less fussy about their fuel it's all moot anyway, but you have been fed a large supply of bullshit there about the current technology and are spilling it back onto this page.
To sum up, the good stuff is scarce and currently operating plants can only use the good stuff. That is why there is ongoing work on thorium and things like Hyperion's design based on submarine reactors, they don't have to use the expensive stuff that is relatively scarce.

Re:Nuclear Would Use Less Land with Higher Output (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677430)

Land use is not exactly a big issue in Arizona...

Other turbine proposals... (4, Informative)

catalina (213767) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677096)

Back in the 70s there was a proposal to build a very tall cylinder (1 mile or so), inject water mist at the top, and let the resulting downdraft drive a turbine a ground level. Interesting idea, fairly well developed and into the engineering stage. Of course, nobody funded actually building one. The engineer who designed it couldn't overcome the skeptics, and nobody thought it would be competitive with cheap natural gas/oil-fired generators.....

Re:Other turbine proposals... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677172)

Back in the 70s there was a proposal to build a very tall cylinder (1 mile or so), inject water mist at the top, and let the resulting downdraft drive a turbine a ground level.

How much energy is needed to get enough water 1 mile up to get this thing started, and where else, except for potential energy of that water, would the energy come from?

Re:Other turbine proposals... (2, Informative)

Xiph1980 (944189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677652)

When air comes in contact with vaporized water, the air cools (by means of evaporative cooling which works pretty much due to the mist vaporizing extracting heat from the air, check up on swamp coolers / mist coolers). Cooler air becomes denser thus making this air heavier, creating a downdraft. This is a well known phenomenon. Back before airconditioning became common, desert homes used to hang wet towels or cloths in a specially constructed tower in their home. This created this cool downdraft that cooled the house.

You can try this yourself by hanging a couple of wet towels on the clothing lines, and lying underneath them. You will feel a cool breeze coming from above.

Re:Other turbine proposals... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677198)

Well, I'm skeptical, probably because I'm missing something... How was the water supposed to get to the top? Solar-powered pumps? How do you get more energy from the downdraft than it took to pump up the water?

This tower idea may not go anywhere, but it is immediately obvious to me how it converts solar energy into mechanical.

Re:Other turbine proposals... (2, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677458)

This is just a guess. . . but I suppose the theory is something like this:

Natural downdrafts occur all the time. . . The Sun heats up the earth, which then transfers heat to air near the ground, creating an updraft, but eventually, when the air gets high enough up, it loses some of that heat, and then cold air drops down to the ground to replace the air which is updrafting. What goes up, must come down - air is constantly rising from the surface of the earth, but other air is constantly falling down to replace it.

So, instead of generating electricity from the thermal energy of warm air, this other tower concept sounds like it generates electricity, I guess, from the gravitational potential energy of the cold air up high. I think the water at the top of the tower is just to sort of initialize the downdraft, but once it was started, it would probably continue for awhile - like poking a whole somewhere near the bottom of the water tank, once the whole is poked, you don't have to do anything to keep the water flowing out - gravity takes care of that.

Seems like you could design a plant which contains the entire cycle inside of the plant, and generates electricity both as the hot air rises, and as it falls again after it has cooled - like a giant loop or arch with turbines on both sides.

Re:Other turbine proposals... (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677588)

When water converts to it's water vapour state it absorbs energy. This would create a cooling effect drawing the cold, heavy air down the tube.

Seems expensive (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677100)

$750M for both, or $375M each, eh?

The KLVY [wikipedia.org] mast is just as tall. $500K in 1960 dollars is about $4M in today's dollars. I'd have guessed that you could build three of those and wrap them in plastic, with a turbine suspended among them. Greenhouses aren't millions of dollars per acre - using the half-assed technique I used to build my greenhouse the plastic sheeting (10-year polycarbonate) would cost under $150K/acre. And they'd be really dumb to buy it from Home Depot (I learned everybody is dumb to use the special order desk at Home Depot).

Maybe their plans are engineered for very-long-term quality. It would probably be easier to get funding for $25M towers which can start making a profit after a few years, though.

Disclaiemr: I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Re:Seems expensive (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677468)

Greenhouses aren't millions of dollars per acre - using the half-assed technique I used to build my greenhouse the plastic sheeting (10-year polycarbonate) would cost under $150K/acre.

Hmm, $150k per acre, four square miles. Sounds like about $384 million for the greenhouse, using your "half-assed" technique. So in the timezone of this project....

dumb question? (2, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677166)

Why not use the sewers? They're supposed to be enclosed anyway -- they're already pretty hot, and if we built them correctly, we could compress, burn, and expel the gas -- which would maybe produce more energy and utilize existing infrastructure than this idea.

Re:dumb question? (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677272)

And risk a potential back-flow?

Re:dumb question? (4, Informative)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677318)

Many, if not most wastewater (sewage) treatment plants in the US produce a net energy surplus, which is then returned to the grid.

"shorts towers" (1)

jfb2252 (1172123) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677186)

In a science fiction story of the 50's whose author I can't remember there was an eccentric inventor named Shorts. The character was used in several stories. One involved the invention of "Shorts towers" of exactly the sort described. But they had multiple purposes. The first was erected in a desert with an inflatable dome as the greenhouse. Not only was power provided - so was water, through condensation as the hot air ascended and cooled off. The humidity is low, but there's some water vapor to condense.

Or they were used in reverse, as city air conditioners. Dome a city. Erect a tower. Use fans to bring cold air down from altitude. You need the fans because of the density gradient.

Does anyone remember the story and author?

tidal power (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677188)

Sounds almost as promising as the tidal power generator my local PUD has been working on not building for years. I am sure that any day now they will be right around the corner from a great beginning.

Gliders (1)

Maglos (667167) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677214)

This would be awesome for unpowered aircraft. Perhaps they could provide/rent services and equipment. Probably hella dangerous though.

Re:Gliders (1)

hax4bux (209237) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677592)

Ya, bad for small airplanes too. It is harsh enough to fly through AZ on a normal summer afternoon.

Expensive as hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677222)

Today's Solar Cells cost around $3/Watt. With $750 Mil, we can generate about 250 MW of power in an area that is less than 4 Sq miles. So Why does this make sense?

Why can't we address the human factor first? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30677236)

This sort of news upsets me... Why do we spend countless dollars on searching for more energy if the basic problem is not addressed first: There are too many humans and until we figure out how to control human population growth we are doomed sooner or later.

Human population will reach 9 billion this year. If every nation strives to become a developed country and offer things like air conditioning and cars to almost everybody, we will keep running out of energy regardless of what methods we use to find it. There will be a point in time when all our efforts to get new energy will be exhausted. Then there will be a war for basic stuff like water. At that point our weapons will be so advanced that we will probably be starting from scratch after the war is done.

The solution is simple -- before fucking with the planet and spending billions of dollars on green efforts, work to limit the population growth. Come up with a creative formula that encourages people to have fewer kids and who knows perhaps in a century or so we'll be able to reduce human population to something that Earth can sustain.

 

Re:Why can't we address the human factor first? (4, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677506)

I don't accept your premise.

(Or, I find your lack of faith disturbing.)

Though science, we can provide a first-world lifestyle for all those people. We can build enough nuclear plants to provide enough energy to supply them all with power, and desalinate seawater, and still have plenty left over.

Nuclear fuel is that abundant [world-nuclear.org] . You can even extract it from seawater. Growth problems go away with the application of enough electricity.

Besides: population growth is self-limiting. Affluent people have fewer children. As we see more people enjoy a first world lifestyle, with its education and contraceptives, we'll see worldwide population sizes level off just as it they have in first world nations.

Hot air injection at 2400 feet? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677250)

I wonder what the environmental impact will be of injecting hot air into the atmosphere at 2400 feet... given that the plume will probably rise a fair bit higher again due to it's momentum...

Re:Hot air injection at 2400 feet? (4, Funny)

Lije Baley (88936) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677444)

I'm guessing it will kill every rabbit and turtle up there.

None? (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677524)

My gut instinct is that the environmental impact would be nothing - after all, hot air is rising from the desert in columns, naturally, *all the time*. They aren't adding any additional energy that wouldn't be there anyhow - all they are doing is trapping the hot air which would be rising *anyhow* up into the atmosphere, and *extracting* some of the energy from it.

On the note of momentum - if you are using the air to drive turbines, wouldn't you actually be significantly *reducing* the momentum? After all, as the air rises, and then collides with the turbines, it is imparting some of it's momentum into the turbines.

Find volcano, run $500,000 pipe of water near it (3, Funny)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677258)

profit! Half mile high tower? Pffft

Can we still make fun of him in 2010? (5, Funny)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677300)

George W. Bush is already scheming how to dodge the updraft.

Second tallest structure(s) (2, Informative)

yorktown (947019) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677314)

If built, the towers would be the second (and third) tallest structure [wikipedia.org] on earth, behind the Burj Khalifa that opened this week.

Another nutty green idea (-1, Troll)

amightywind (691887) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677326)

Another nutty, green energy non-solution by the global warming hysterics. Well, at least we know what they do in the off season when winter isn't cooperating with their mad predictions.

I am dubious (1)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677552)

Disclaimer: I'm not any sort of expert on this stuff. Ignore me or laugh at me as you like.

I'm dubious about this. The scale of the thing is staggering, and it's hard to believe it will produce a better electrical output than if you spent a similar amount of money building a molten-salt solar thermal [scientificamerican.com] plant instead. Unlike molten salt solar thermal, this won't make electricity at night.

The one thing that makes this interesting is that it combines a giant greenhouse with the energy generation. If you can somehow make the greenhouse part very profitable (growing exotic fruit that is expensive to transport, or some such) then maybe you might have a payoff to match the expense. Maybe. But I'm dubious.

steveha

Seems like a poor energy return per unit of land.. (2, Insightful)

Rhuragh (215240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677564)

Wouldn't a Concentrated Solar Thermal power [wikipedia.org] plant be a better use of the land, producing more energy and probably costing less too?

$750 million for 200 MW? (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30677604)

Anyone have the figures for the cost of conventional generating facilities that, you know... Work when the sun's not shining, too?

-jcr

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