For those of you kossacks who are on the bleeding edge of researching new forms of green technology this is probably old hat. Yesterday I was told about An Australian company called EnviroMission Ltd. which has begun the undertaking of building the largest free-standing structure in the word. This alone is cause for interest, but for the greenies out there, the purpose of this structure should be of even more interest.
At 1000 Meters in height (more than twice the height of the Empire State Building) the Solar Tower is nothing more than a concrete tube. This tower is surrounded by a large transparent collector which heats the air underneath it. "The sun's radiation will be collected and trapped under the transparent canopy, creating a massive force of air heated to around 35°C greater than the ambient temperature. The laws of physics will make this air move at 15 metres per second towards the cold air at the top of the Tower located in centre of the canopy." Inside the tower are 32 x 6.25 MW turbines. This project is estimated to generate 200MW of electricity "enough electricity for 200,000 typical Australian homes".
Their website does a much better job of describing the technology with animated movies and a documentary on a solar tower built in Spain.
If this is proven feasible and anywhere near cost effective shouldn't this be a slam dunk way to get us off of our oil dependency? For what it's worth I don't see the US weening itself off of Oil anytime soon. Our economy has too much invested in the refining infrastructure and the Saudis own such a large part of our economy that it would be just too risky. Maybe in 50 years we will be moving on to a new form of energy.
However, this sounds like something that a developing world leader with huge oil needs that relishes in undertaking huge projects (i.e. China, Three Gorges Dam, Great Wall of China, etc..) would jump all over. Without having to worry about where it's going to get its next oil handout, they could focus on pressuring existing oil dependent nations to do their bidding.