Solar Updraft Tower
- Building Design Expert
- 3 years ago
The solar updraft tower (SUT) is a renewable-energy power plant for generating electricity from solar power. Sunshine heats the air beneath a very wide greenhouse-like roofed collector structure surrounding the central base of a very tall chimney tower. The resulting convection causes a hot air updraft in the tower by the chimney effect. This airflow drives wind turbines placed in the chimney updraft or around the chimney base to produce electricity. Plans for scaled-up versions of demonstration models will allow significant power generation, and may allow development of other applications, such as water extraction or distillation, and agriculture or horticulture. As a solar chimney power plant (SCPP) proposal for electrical power generation, commercial investment is discouraged by the high initial cost of building a very large novel structure, and by the risk of investment in a feasible but unproven application of even proven component technology for long-term returns on investment—especially when compared to the proven and demonstrated greater short-term returns on lesser investment in coal-fired or nuclear power plants. Likewise, the benefits of ‘clean’ or solar power technologies are shared, and the widely shared harmful pollution of existing power generation technologies is not applied as a cost for private commercial investment. This is a well-described economic trade-off between private benefit and shared cost, versus shared benefit and private cost.
Power output depends primarily on two factors: collector area and chimney height. A larger area collects and warms a greater volume of air to flow up the chimney; collector areas as large as 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) in diameter have been discussed. A larger chimney height increases the pressure difference via the stack effect; chimneys as tall as 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) have been discussed. Heat can be stored inside the collector area. The ground beneath the solar collector, water in bags or tubes, or a saltwater thermal sink in the collector could add thermal capacity and inertia to the collector. Humidity of the updraft and condensation in the chimney could increase the energy flux of the system. Turbines with a horizontal axis can be installed in a ring around the base of the tower, as once planned for an Australian project and seen in the diagram above; or—as in the prototype in Spain—a single vertical axis turbine can be installed inside the chimney. Carbon dioxide is emitted only negligibly as part of operations. Manufacturing and construction require substantial power, particularly to produce cement. Net energy payback is estimated to be 2–3 years. Since solar collectors occupy significant amounts of land, deserts and other low-value sites are most likely. A small-scale solar updraft tower may be an attractive option for remote regions in developing countries. The relatively low-tech approach could allow local resources and labour to be used for construction and maintenance. Locating a tower at high latitudes could produce up to 85 per cent of the output of a similar plant located closer to the equator, if the collection area is sloped significantly toward the equator. The sloped collector field, which also functions as a chimney, is built on suitable mountainsides, with a short vertical chimney on the mountaintop to accommodate the vertical axis air turbine. The results showed that solar chimney power plants at high latitudes may have satisfactory thermal performance. Solar updraft towers can be combined with other technologies to increase output. Solar thermal collectors or photovoltaics can be arranged inside the collector greenhouse. This could further be combined with agriculture.
Text courtesy of Wikipedia