This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 21, 2002

Australian Government Backs Kilometer-Tall Solar Tower

An unusual proposal to generate power from the sun gained the backing of the Australian government on August 13th. Australia's Minister for Industry, Tourism, and Resources granted "Major Project Facilitation" status to a proposal to build a one-kilometer (3,280-foot) Solar Tower outside Mildura in New South Wales. The tower will be surrounded by a transparent "solar collector" (a prototype used a suspended glass roof) measuring 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) in diameter. Convection forces will cause the hot air under the collector to be drawn up the tower, creating a draft strong enough to power a several air turbines, generating a total of 200 megawatts of electricity. The government's Major Project Facilitation status will result in a streamlined decision-making process for required government approvals and is also meant to enhance the project's ability to obtain favorable financing. See the press release from the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Resources.

The project's champion, EnviroMission Limited, estimates the cost of the Solar Tower at more than $400 million (in U.S. dollars) and intends to eventually build five towers across the continent of Australia. See the EnviroMission Web site.

Taking a positive view on the project, it does build on a previous project constructed in Manzaneras, Spain, by the German firm of Schlaich Bergermann and Partners (SBP). The project, then called a Solar Chimney, used a 194-meter (636-foot) tower to generate up to 50 kilowatts of electricity. It operated from 1989 through 1996. See the SBP Web site.

Taking a more negative view, the proposed tower, made of high-strength reinforced concrete, would be the tallest tower in the world—no doubt a difficult goal to accomplish. At present, the world's tallest tower (not counting radio towers) is Canada's National Tower or CN Tower, in Toronto, at a height of about 553 meters (1,815 feet). See the CN Tower Web site.v

Features