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1-Kilometer Tower Of Power

timothy posted about 12 years ago | from the shouldn't-throw-stones dept.

Technology 31

!splut writes: "New Scientist has a story about a plan for an interesting new alternative power design. Australian company EnviroMission has recieved approval to construct a 130-meter wide, 1-kilometer tall tower that will generate electricity from currents of air heated within a 7-kilometer greenhouse surrounding the tower's base. It is predicted to generate 670-gigawatt hours of energy per year, providing a clean source of energy for some 200,000 homes."

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Sounds like a bunch of hot air to me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4100197)


yeah (1)

seann (307009) | about 12 years ago | (#4100198)

Its nice to see alternative sources of energy like this
living in niagara falls, i've been witness to natural energy all my life.

Cool (1)

ThorGod (456163) | about 12 years ago | (#4100222)

So how long until the States get something like this? Also, anyone know how this compares to other forms of alternative energy?

Re:Cool (1)

spencerogden (49254) | about 12 years ago | (#4100266)

Basically in comparison, it sucks. With regards to both land use and building cost(material and $) it is massively inefficient. Maybe if you had some enormous greenhouse it might make sense to tack a chimney onto it, but this is retarded.

Yes, it is cool. (1)

n9hmg (548792) | about 12 years ago | (#4100834)

It's also a dupe [] . Even with my crappy memory, I wouldn't forget a story like this.
It'd be massively stupid to build one of those in the middle of Indiana farmland, or the ocean, but we're talking about low-productivity desert, within a reasonable transmission distance from population. Besides, who knows what kind of bizarre weather disruptions it'll cause? It'd still be localized, and any probable change in the weather around there would be an improvement. It'd be funny, though, if it just built up a big thermal inversion and capped itself off.

Re:Yes, it is cool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4101151)

Duh, Timothy posted it. I'm starting to realize how incompetent he really is.

watt-hours per year??? (4, Insightful)

crow (16139) | about 12 years ago | (#4100230)

What a strange measure.

While I realize that the output won't be constant, an average output would be more interesting to most people (at least to me). With 8766 hours per year, the plant is producing on average about 76 megawatts. I seem to recall that the average house draws 2 kilowatts, so that's only 38,000 homes, not 200,000 homes. So their numbers are wrong, my information is wrong, or Australian homes use only one fifth the power of an average American home.

Or is my math wrong?

Re:watt-hours per year??? (2)

amorsen (7485) | about 12 years ago | (#4100355)

I sure hope that average US homes use less than 2kW on average. According to a Danish power company [] a typical Danish family living in a house uses between 4000 and 5000 kWh a year, which should come to an average of something like 450 to 550W. Admittedly Danish homes rarely have air conditioning. (According to the same link, a Danish family living in an apartment typically uses between 2000 and 2500 kWh a year, 230 to 280W average.)

Re:watt-hours per year??? (2)

zenyu (248067) | about 12 years ago | (#4100468)

I live in NYC and it's been kinda hot so the AC's been running all summer. I used 11kWh last month. So that's about 330Wh a day.

In the winter I use about half that. Granted It's not a massive house, but an apartment, but I do have two computers on all the time, and have a TV, Microwave, Waffle Maker, big Fridge, etc.

Re:watt-hours per year??? (2, Informative)

nelsonal (549144) | about 12 years ago | (#4100581)

I use about 200 kWh a month in the summer and about 1000 kWh in the winter for a small apartment with electric heat in Montana. Thats almost 7,000 kWh per year, admittedly winter in Montana is not exactly usual, but a fridge computer, water heater, oven, and lights are all I use in the summer, for 1 person thats about 2400 kWh if i did not have electric heat or lived somewhere that is always temperate.

This is new? (1)

DavidYaw (447706) | about 12 years ago | (#4100253)

As far as I can tell, the only change from this [] is that they have a construction permit, and very few technical details.

tallest man made structure (2, Interesting)

voisine (153062) | about 12 years ago | (#4100314)

at 1km tall, that will be the tallest
man made structure on earth, probably
until the space elevator happens.

Re:tallest man made structure (1)

nov1442 (538566) | about 12 years ago | (#4102051)

I believe a few television towers are close to a kilometer. I now that some reach 2400 feet (~720 meters).

Re:tallest man made structure (2)

jquirke (473496) | more than 11 years ago | (#4102629)

Actually the planned Millenium tower in HK is supposedly 1.6km tall.


Re:tallest man made structure (2)

north.coaster (136450) | more than 11 years ago | (#4103476)

There's an undersea oil well platform [] that is claimed to be 1900 feet tall. Of course it's mostly underwater, but it is man made.


Flux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4100378)

600-gigawatts? That means we could go back to 1955, like, 30 times a year!

Re:Flux? (1)

damien_kane (519267) | about 12 years ago | (#4100597)

Umm... hate to burst your bubble but...
670GW / 1.21GW/trip ~~ 553 trips, or 276 round trips (of course if you only want to go to 1955 and never come back be my guest)

Re:Flux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4100786)

Whoops, my mistake. I was remembering it as 21.1 gw, not 1.21. I am not cixelsyd, really I'm not.

Obligatory He-Man Ref. (0, Offtopic)

reyalsnogard (595701) | about 12 years ago | (#4100423)

.. by the power of Greyskull!

200,000 homes (1)

Picass0 (147474) | about 12 years ago | (#4100443)

Ah. One tower for 200,000 homes. What about commercial demands? Industrial needs? An average US city might need 2 or three of these things.

Do the enviromentalists really think this is a better method over the next 100-200 years than nuclear or oil?

A one mile tall tower could create some castostophic effects should it fall. Beyond just terrorism, accidents still happen. These would be an air traffic hazard.

What a stupid idea.

Re:200,000 homes (1)

Morphine007 (207082) | about 12 years ago | (#4100554)

What a stupid idea.

but it would look sooooo cool!!... think of the sheer cool factor here!!!

Re:200,000 homes (2)

ealar dlanvuli (523604) | about 12 years ago | (#4100704)

I believe it was also economically cheap as dirt. Thats probably more important than eny green party propogandy.

These don't go *in* cities. (3, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 12 years ago | (#4101317)

A one mile tall tower could create some castostophic effects should it fall. Beyond just terrorism, accidents still happen.

Worst case scenario, it doesn't crumble under its own weight and falls straight over, with the top landing 1 km from the base. OK, so don't build around it for 1km. 3.14km**2 of land. So, plant corn around it. They don't build any power plants in cities - real estate is too expensive - they send the power over high-voltage AC from a distance.

These would be an air traffic hazard. What a stupid idea.

Good point. We'll get started right away taking down those pesky mountains too.

Now I read the article... (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 11 years ago | (#4105379)

OK, I need to rescind my estimation of 3.14**2km. The article clearly states that there needs to be 7km of greehouse around each tower. So, a tower could only ever fall on its greenhouse, even if you're using Tennessee-style Pi.

Awesome! (1)

yancey (136972) | about 12 years ago | (#4100450)

I'd heard about this some time ago. I'm glad to see they got approval to build the tower. Let's hope that it is a huge success so that we can get some built in the US.

Wouldn't it be more efficient.... (2)

aminorex (141494) | about 12 years ago | (#4100805)

Wouldn't you get a lot better efficiency by just
replacing the greenhouse with a big fresnel mirror
and focussing the sunlight on a carnot engine or
other, more effecient thermoelectric generator?

Re:Wouldn't it be more efficient.... (2)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | about 12 years ago | (#4100997)

Yes, but that would only work when the sun is out. This system works even after sunset- the chimney has a decent heat capacity and continues to generate hours after sunset.

The one in Spain was really cool, especially the t (1)

anon mouse-cow-aard (443646) | about 12 years ago | (#4101578)

It's in La mancha, I saw it, maybe 15 years ago. I remember being impressed with the way they built it. They build the first section, jack it up, then build the next section under it jack the two up, etc... all the way up. no-one ever has to go high, and the guy wires are there from the start.

NSW or Victoria?n (2)

jquirke (473496) | more than 11 years ago | (#4102639)

So which state is this actually going to be built in? NSW or Victoria?

From the article it looks more like NSW.


Concentration: the root of the problem. (2, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | more than 11 years ago | (#4103795)

This project seems to me to be attaching what is the root of the problem with all renewables: concentration. When you come down to it, all renewable energy sources are solar power, though many are at second hand. Solar energy drives the weather for hydro, wind and wave, and grows the plants for biomass.

The problem with solar power is that, while there is masses of it, is is relatively diffuse, drops a lot on cloudy days, and comes and goes on a 24 hour cycle. All effective renewable power supplies depend upon some form of a concentrator to make them economically viable - at least for bulk domestic power, rather than specialised uses which can afford the premium cost of solar cells. They also need a load balancer for the 24 hour cycle.

Hydro achieves this by using the landscape - focussing the rainfall into a vally, a lake and a dam. Wind power uses an area (dimension ^2) of land/sea to generate wind captured by a line (dimension ^1) of windmills. These all concentrate solar power - but in a very lossy fashion. Hydro, for ecample, wasts much of the potential energy available as the rain hits the mountaintops "focussing" it into lakes at least half way down the mountain. Wave powere rewuires wint to drive the waves, then the waves to rool ove hunderds of miles to accumulate, before hitting the generator.

So the interesing part of this story is not really the tower, but the acres of greenhoses below and around it. This is a superb enegy concentrator device - and one, probably, with a lot of latent heat in the ground, so would run well after sunset. It is almost direct solar power - sun->hot air->power. If they can generate a lot of hot air, the tower is one way of converting it to electricity, but there may be others. But the point is that greenhouses can be economically constructed out of plastic film at a cost, I guess, 1% of the same area of solar cells. If they are only 10% as efficient at trapping the energy (and solar cells only run 5-15% efficeint), they are still winning by a large margin.

This idea is not actually very new. There was an SF story way back which proposed this sort of thing. Rather than build a tower, you just build a double walled cylinder out of the same polythene and inflate it with the hot air, (of which you have plenty) so that it lifts itself off. If it punctures, it will collapse very slowly (if at all, with many cells) and do little damage (because it willfall onto the greenhouses). Since the the tube is tranparent, a ring of lights round the base shining up into it will cause the whole thing to glow so that any pilot who flies into it must be truly blind.

There might be ecological consequneces - which need not be for the worse. The original SF story had the tubes puncturing the temperature inversion which causes AL's amoga and bringing a cooling draft to LA in the height of summer.
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