How Viable is a Solar Trough?

I have been hearing on and off about the Solar Tower project, first in India and then in Australia, which envisages the construction of a gigantic 1000 m tall chimney around a green house. Is this concept viable and has there been any significant progress on this project in Australia? Chandra S. Tamil Nadu, India

Chandra, Concepts to utilize large-scale base load solar abound. The most noted successes start with the 350 MW in the Southern California desert by nine electric generation plants that began operating in the mid-1980s. These concentrated solar plants use troughs (concave glass mirrors) to heat a synthetic fluid to over 700 degrees C and create steam for electric generation. Natural gas supplies 25 percent of the energy, with solar thermal supplying the remaining 75 percent. Solargenix Energy of North Carolina announced a 50 MW power purchase agreement for Boulder City, Nevada to build another solar trough project under the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. This plant will have less than 5 percent natural gas as a backup and more advanced solar concentrating trough technology. Another solar trough generation facility is being constructed by Solargenix Energy that incorporates concentrated solar power and external combustion engines. The 1 MW small generation facility for Arizona Public Service will have technology from Ormat of Nevada, and utilize organic Rankine engines and non-imaging solar trough technology. Also, SES of Arizona will be installing a series of Stirling engines driven by concentrated solar dishes, which was funded by the Department of Energy as a 1 MW demonstration project. The solar tower technology has yet to be demonstrated in large scale, but the goal is to produce 200 MW by convecting desert heat up a multi-storied tube, which turns 32 turbines within the tube. According to a recent story in The New Zealand Herald, the Australian development company, Enviromission (whose major investor is US-based Solar Mission), is about to buy the land (10,000 ha) in Buronga, Australia for AUD 1.1 million — so the project appears early in the development stages.
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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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