Australia's first solar tower could be tallest in the world

1st Feb 2012

While construction of the world's tallest solar array has just been completed in New York, a Perth based company has released plans to set a new record – a 1,000 metre tall solar updraft tower.

A 122 kilowatt solar panel system – the largest array in Manhattan – was completed last week by financial institution Deutsche Bank.

Located on top of the bank's 50-storey building on Wall Street, the infrastructure is currently the highest elevated solar PV flat panel array in the world sitting at 737 feet above the ground.

CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas Seth Waugh stated that the solar panels will aim to reduce the bank's electricity consumption from the grid and decrease carbon emissions by 100 metric tons per year.

According to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, the achievement comes as part of the city's long-term sustainability program PlaNYC.

"New York City has the most ambitious sustainability plan in the world in part because we're working with private sector partners to reduce our carbon emissions, rely on cleaner energy sources, and meet the goals of our long-term sustainability program," he said (January 23).

Adding to the impressive solar achievement in New York is news that Western Australia could soon be home the world's tallest structure – a 1,000 metre tall solar tower.

Believed to be the first ever power station in Australia to utilise solar updraft technology, the $1.6 billion project will see the tall structure surrounded by a collector membrane and panels at the base.

This warm air underneath the canopy rises through the tower, turning the blades of 32 turbines within the shaft.

The tower will sit on a 127,000 hectare site outside of the township of Tuckanarra, in the midwest region of Western Australia – an area which the company believes has the highest solar radiation levels in the country.

A spokesperson for the company told ScienceNetwork WA (January 26) that the tower will be able to produce energy regardless of whether the sun was shining or not.

"When the sun is not shining, there is still enough heat retained under the big collector panels to keep the turbines moving," he said.

"The technology uses what is effectively a very tall chimney using the principle of heat rising to create an updraft that forces the turbines to turn and generate electricity."

Posted by Mike Peacock – Solar correspondent

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