Now That’s One Hell Of A Solar Power Tower

On the EarthTechling Utterly Cool Projects Scale™, the EnviroMission Solar Tower project might be unrivaled. More than 2,600 feet tall, with a mile-in-diameter greenhouse canopy at its base creating hot air that is sucked up into the tower, spinning electricity-creating turbines along the way – it’s like something a kid would build in Minecraft.

You can’t help but hope this thing rises, as planned, in the western Arizona county of La Paz, just to see if something so brash might actually work. So here’s good news: More than a year after securing a power purchase agreement with the Southern California Public Power Authority, EnviroMission says it “has received a formal commitment to provide the entire development and construction capital” for the project.

EnviroMission solar tower

image via EnviroMission

Mind you, the Solar Tower still isn’t a sure thing. The support from the unnamed source “is subject to the due diligence and the acceptance of related banking instruments by EnviroMission’s legal advisors and bankers,” EnviroMission says. But if the money comes through – and EnviroMission said it expects to know early this year – the Australia-based company says it will “form the basis of the ongoing financing for the development of Australian Solar Tower power stations in the U.S., and other global markets, including Australia.”

EnviroMission solar tower

image via EnviroMission

Now, you might have seen towers associated with solar-power development before. But this utility-scale tower-based technology is nothing like the power tower projects that have popped up in Europe and are coming to the United States. Those systems, known as concentrating solar power, use vast arrays of heliostats to direct light to the top of a tower several hundred feet high, where water or other liquids can be heated to help produce electricity.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply January 26, 2012

    Start Loving

    What is the power output?u00a0 Why is this attractive vs the more proven and effective concentrated solar?u00a0 What is the ‘grid equivalency’ cost vs wind, concentrated solar, coal?u00a0 Please reply.u00a0 All creation is at stake here, lives hang in the balance.u00a0 We have finite time.u00a0 Please help us make responsible, not just ‘orgasmic’ decisions of what to focus on.u00a0 sl

    • Reply February 3, 2012


      The PPA is for a 200MW plant. But PPA’s come and go as projects shrivel up and blow away without financing or environmental approval or because the cost structure turns out not to work. When (if) EnviroMission actually begins to seek the sort of approvals it will need to build this project — perhaps from federal agencies, certainly from the state, and maybe from the military as well given the height of the structure? — we’ll learn more. But right now, the details on this project are unknown.u00a0

    • Reply June 30, 2012


      The real value of this technology compared to CSP, is that this requires no water. In regions with high solar radiation (the ideal environment for CSP) water is generally scarce so this beats it – hands down.

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