Arizona will get a new kind of solar power plant.

This baby is going to provide 200 megawatts of power, starting 2015.

If there’s one squandered source of energy on Earth it’s the heat from the sun. If we could perfectly harness all of the extra energy of it–even just the stuff that reflects back into space–we’d have enough power to power everything on Earth, forever.

We’re not there yet, and we’re still working on more efficient and creative ways to harness solar energy.

There are two kinds of efficiency for power generation: turnout, and cost effectiveness. The first is the percentage of the suns energy it properly uses. 100% efficiency would mean all of the heat and light from the sun was turned into electricity. Right now we’re at about 40% efficiency, at best. Cost effectiveness is the more practical form of efficiency in that it’s the measure of  how much one unit of energy costs, taking everything into consideration. 100% efficiency isn’t worth it if it costs a ton.

One of the biggest problems with solar energy is that they usually require a middle-man to actually do the harnessing. CSP solar plants use liquid sodium, for example. Using a middle-man is kind of inconvenient, and requires its own maintenance. This makes even the most efficient plants much less cost effective.

Well, Arizona has this new design that’s going to be built by an Australian company called EnviroMission, which has no middle-man. It’s basically a chimney on top of a giant greenhouse. The greenhouse heats the air, which rises in through the chimney, sucking more cool air from the sides of the greenhouse.

If you can build the chimney taller, the air has to accelerate more. So they’re building this one around 800 meters. That’s roughly twice the size of The Empire State Building. Check out this video from Gizmag.

Seems a lot like the way termites air-condition their towers.

Here’s the kicker: because it just uses heated air, it requires very little maintenance. That means you’re getting a ton of energy with a very low price (except for the big initial cost!)
Read what I read:

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One thought on “Arizona will get a new kind of solar power plant.

  1. Pingback: Solar power is the wave (and particle) of the future. | GetReal

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