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Kilometre-high solar tower planned for Oz


Artist's impression of the solar power tower

If all goes to plan, a solar tower a mind-boggling one kilometre (3280 feet) high - nearly twice the height of the world's tallest building - will be built in a remote part of Australia appropriately named Sunraysia, by the end of 2010.

Cynics scoff at the idea, saying they'll believe it when they see it. They point to the completion date having been repeatedly moved forward, and the little problem of finding the one billion Australian dollars needed to finance the project.

A search of the internet reveals that the 101-storey Taipei 101 in Taiwan is the world's tallest building, with a height of 509m. (1670ft). By 2008 it will be dwarfed by the 160-storey Burj Dubai tower, a three-cornered skyscraper 800m. (2,624ft, just under half a mile) high. being built in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"The quest for viable solar energy sources could be about to reach new heights -- literally," CNN correspondent Grant Holloway reported from Sydney two years ago.

"The tower is designed by structural engineer Professor Jörg Schlaich and would use German-designed advanced lightweight construction techniques to achieve its remarkable height.

"The tower would sit in the center of a seven kilometer (4 miles) radius circular glass building. Air under the glass would be warmed by the sun. As the warm air rises it would be drawn through turbines at the base of the tower thus generating renewable electricity.

"A working prototype of the tower has already been built in Spain and the design was judged one of Time magazine's 2002 inventions of the year."

Last month (February 10, 2005) the New Zealand Herald ran a detailed story under the heading Outback's solar tower will reach for the sky. It reported that the Melbourne-based company Enviromission would buy a 10,000 hectare (24,710 acre) slice of Tapio station at Buronga, New South Wales, 25km (15.5 miles) northeast of Mildura, Victoria, to build the tower.

Enviromission chairman Roger Davey would not confirm the purchase price, but said it was "more than $A1 million" [$US785,175]. The agreement would be signed in Mildura, 550km (342 miles) northwest of Melbourne, before an audience of community leaders.

Two days later, the Albury (NSW) Border Mail, reported:

Plans hotting up for world's tallest solar tower in NSW

Construction of the world's tallest engineered structure at Buronga, New South Wales is increasingly likely to begin next year following a crucial Federal Government vote of confidence in the one kilometre tall Solar Tower project.

The recent accordance of Major Project Facilitation (MPF) status to the $800 million venture, announced by Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, means it will receive government support including help through any necessary approval processes.

The tower will have a base the size of the Melbourne cricket ground, spanning a diameter of 130 metres [426ft.], while the tower itself will be about 300 metres [984ft.] taller than the current highest structures in the world.

Surrounding the tower will be a skirt of solar collector panels with a radius of 3.5 kilometres [2.17 miles]. These panels will gather hot air to funnel through 32 wind turbines in the tower, creating 200 megawatts of clean, green renewable electricity. This output will make the Solar Tower one of the largest single generators of renewable energy in the world other than hydroelectric schemes.

If the tower IS finally built, it will certainly be a great tourist attraction, visible from 100 miles (160km.) away in all directions. In view of the sparse population, it seems unlikely that TV channels and FM radio stations will compete for a prize transmission site from its top. But it WILL need a beacon to fend off low-flying aircraft!

 

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Story first posted March 2005

Copyright © 2005

Eric Shackle

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