What is solar tower technology?

News that the Perth-based renewable energy company Hyperion Energy is planning to build a solar tower in mid-west Western Australia sent your correspondent scurrying to the research files this week.

According to the company website, Hyperion have purchased a 127,000 hectare site near the town of Tuckanarra. The site is near mines and an airport and is judged to have a low risk of natural disasters such as earthquakes or cyclones. Chiefly though, the main advantage of the site for the location of a solar tower is the “horizon solar radiation of 2300MJ/m2” (read huge), according to the company.

The theory behind the solar tower technology sounds simple enough. A flat, large expanse of a greenhouse-like material is spread around the base of a tall tower. When the sun heats the air under the material it rises (remember your science?) and as such has only one place where it can go: the central solar tower (see diagram). The hot air is forced through the narrow space of the tower where it causes a wind which turns a number of turbines inside the tower.


Diagram showing how a solar tower works.

Hyperion points to three key advantages of solar tower technology over other forms of tapping the sun’s energy.

[Read more…]

Will your solar power system protect you from power cuts?

Power Cut 17-02-2007 00-45-52
Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Glen Bowman

I get asked this question a lot.

Unfortunately the short answer is: No – A standard grid connect solar system will not protect you from blackouts.

Kind of counter intuitive isn’t it? You go to the trouble and expense of your own little solar power station, and then you have no power if the electricity grid goes down. [Read more…]