Intelligent Energy

Video: World's tallest building could be a 24/7 Australian solar chimney

Posting in Energy

A bunch of hot air starts to rise through a kilometer-high tower in Western Australia's outback, driving turbines day and night.

Bad news for Dubai's 829-meter high Burj Khalifa. It might lose its distinction as the world's tallest building, if a bunch of hot air takes root as planned in Australia.

Perth-based Hyperion Energy wants to build a kilometer-high "solar chimney" in the Western Australian outback, in partnership with German engineering firm Shlalch Bergermann. (Okay, so Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal also has a 1,000 meter edifice in mind, as SmartPlanet's Tuan C. Nguyen wrote in August.  I guess what goes up keeps going up!).

The monumental scheme rests on the principle that hot air rises.  A ground level canopy less than a millimeter thin and covering 3600 hectares would heat air that would escape up the .62-mile high shoot. Along the way, it would drive 32 turbines, with a total capacity of 200 megawatts - roughly the same as is often proposed for small modular nuclear reactors.

"The taller the tower and the bigger the collector, the more electricity is generated," proclaims the Australian narrator in a Hyperion video promoting the CO2-free energy scheme (see below).

Hyperion believes the so-called "solar updraft tower" would provide much needed power to mining operations in western Australia, and could also connect to the grid. It hopes to go live by 2014.  Recharge News says the company is currently seeking approval for the $1.7 billion plan.

Unlike many solar projects, this one would keep the generators humming day and night, as the ground continues to give off captured heat from dusk to dawn, Hyperion says. See for yourself:

Hyperion Energy from Hyperion Energy on Vimeo.

Artist's rendition and diagram from Hyperion Energy website.

Soar more, and reach high to the sun, with SmartPlanet:

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure