Wind power in the U.S. is about to take a massive leap forward, now that plans to build the tallest building in the country have just been approved by the small city of San Luis, Arizona. At 2,250 feet, the energy tower will be almost 500 feet taller than One World Trade Center (formerly called the Freedom Tower) in New York City.
Despite its hugeness, the current proposal is actually substantially scaled back in size from the original gargantuan 4,000 foot monster they had planned for the site a couple of years ago. Still, when completed, only the Burj Khalifa in Dubai will be taller.
To be constructed by a company called Solar Wind Energy, the Solar Wind Downdraft Tower is a pretty simple in concept. Cool water is pumped to the top of the massive tower, where it is sprayed as a fine mist over the opening. The hot dry air absorbs the moisture, which causes it to become denser and fall into the top of the tower. By the time it reaches the bottom, the air is moving at high speed, and can be diverted into a cluster of wind turbines grouped around the base.
Solar Wind Energy says that the tower will produce about 1,200 Megawatts during the hottest months, which is more than all but the very largest nuclear power plants.
Downdraft wind energy towers were first proposed by engineer Dr. Philip Carlson way back in the 1960s, but with oil flowing freely and cheaply, the huge investment needed to build the towers didn't make much sense at the time. Solar Wind Energy says that the Arizona tower will cost about $1.5 billion to build, and will generate thousands of jobs in the area. The tower location also happens to be right next to Arizona's largest prison complex, so I wonder if they have their eye on some cheap prison labor.
Check out the video below for a quick summary of how a downdraft wind tower works.