The U.S.-Mexico border has been gaining attention lately, but not for what you might expect. Solar Energy, Inc. is attempting to build a massive hollow tower reaching 2,250 feet in height and 500 feet in width. If approved, this colossal structure would be able to generate 600 megawatt hours of electricity!
Solar Wind Energy is planning to build this structure, known as a downdraft tower, right on the border of Arizona and Mexico. This ambitious project will be in the shape of a large, hollow cylinder with an open top. With the help of a hot climate, heavy and humid air will be produced by spraying water into the opening. At approximately 50 miles per hour, this air will sink to the bottom and exit the tower through one of the 25 tunnels located at the base. Within these tunnels are turbines that will turn and generate electricity with the passing of the fast-moving air.
The Solar Wind Downdraft Tower
The company says “the Tower’s potential hourly yield would be 600 megawatt hours,” 100 of which will be used to provide energy to the tower. The remaining energy would then be sold to the power grid.
2018 marks the anticipated end date of this energy efficiency project. As stated on Solar Wind Energy’s website, “The Solar Wind Downdraft Tower has the capability of being operated with virtually no carbon footprint, fuel consumption, or waste production. The technology will generate clean, cost effective and efficient electrical power without the damaging effects caused by using fossil or nuclear fuels, and other known alternative power sources.”
David Ferris at Forbes.com reports in his article that the tower will also create thousands of jobs for the economy. In order to build the monumental tower, 2,500 construction and transportation employees and 1,000 manufacturing employees will be required. Following construction, about 750 permanent employees will be needed to maintain the tower and its 25 “generating plants.”
In an earlier version of the article, Ferris explains how negotiations are underway in order for Solar Wind Energy to obtain a lease from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a 1,700-acre piece of flat, desert land adjacent to an Air Force bombing range. The tower must also receive permission from the city of San Luis, Arizona since the desired land is within city limits.
Although some see plans for similar projects and consider them far-fetched, Sharon Williams, director of development services for the city of San Luis, has other opinions regarding the tower. Ferris’ article quotes her saying, “With (Solar Wind Energy), they have already gotten permission and concurrence from federal agencies in Washington. They weren’t starting with the Air Force, they weren’t starting with BLM. They were starting at the top. It isn’t a guarantee of success, but it is a lot more feasible than a lot of the other things I’ve seen.”
Ferris found that it would also need an environmental impact report because of the following three threatened species that live in the vicinity of where the tower would be built: the desert tortoise, the flat-tail horned lizard, and the burrowing owl. Obtaining the necessary water may also become an issue as the company is planning to transport desalinated water from the Sea of Cortez, located over 45 miles away in Mexico.
President and CEO of Solar Wind Energy Ron Pickett spoke with Ferris and explained how it would require about $1 billion and an extra $100 million to acquire the water. A desalination plant will also need to be constructed, but this additional cost would be split between the original tower and another similar tower that the company is planning to build in Mexico. Regardless of the exact amount of water, Pickett claims that the tower will have the ability to recycle approximately 75 percent of what it uses.
Though the downdraft tower may take years to develop and millions of dollars to construct, the end result may prove to be extremely beneficial. As stated on the Solar Wind Energy website, “The Solar Wind Energy Downdraft Tower will provide clean renewable energy at a cost more favorable than nuclear plants with no negative impacts to our planet.”
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