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Wednesday
Jul272011

Solar Power Company Plans Giant Tower in Arizona

Courtesy EnviroMission(PHOENIX) -- In the desert of western Arizona, a power company proposes to build the world's tallest chimney -- a 2,600 foot tall tower that would be the centerpiece of a giant non-polluting power plant that makes electricity from the heat of the sun.

The project has been started by an Australian company called EnviroMission, which says it hopes, by the time it is finished with construction in early 2015, to provide enough electricity to power the equivalent of 200,000 homes.  The tower would burn no fuel, and nothing quite like it has ever been tried in America before.

In fact, nothing quite like it has been tried anywhere else in the world, aside from a small test project in Spain.  The finished tower would be the second-tallest structure on the planet, just a hundred feet shorter than the Burj Khalifa luxury skyscraper in Dubai.  It would be twice as tall as New York's Empire State Building.

"It would be conceited to say we have the solution," said Chris Davey, the president of EnviroMission's U.S. operations in Phoenix, "but it's a reasonable energy alternative."

When one mentions solar power, most people probably think of so-called photovoltaics -- those big, flat panels that have been used to power spacecraft, but so far have been considered too expensive for large-scale commercial use.  EnviroMission plans something very different.

Its design consists of a giant, round greenhouse-like structure, under which air would become trapped and get very hot -- around 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hot air naturally tries to rise, so it would rush toward the tall tower in the center.  On the way, it would pass through any of 32 turbines, whose turning blades would run generators and create electricity.

"It's a very favorable operation," said John Drum, a member of the local county board of supervisors.  "It'll bring quite a few jobs to our county, and when it's done there will be 40 to 50 people to run it."

It would also draw attention to this isolated place, which is off state route 95, north of Quartzsite, Arizona.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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