Wuhai Inner Mongolia 200 kW solar chimney power plant prototype 'Solar chimneys' may help solve China's energy woes
Convection devices the size of skyscrapers generate electricity by heating air inside
PUBLISHED in South China Morning Post on Saturday, 19 April, 2014
Stephen Chen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A test updraft tower in Inner Mongolia could only be built to 50 metres, not the desired 200, because of a nearby airport.
Scientists are researching whether so-called solar chimneys, which rise half a kilometre or even higher from the earth, might produce enough clean energy to help reduce the mainland's chronic air pollution.
A test plant is running successfully in Inner Mongolia and scientists want to build full-size versions in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. The researchers have suggested the towers could be constructed inside new skyscrapers.
The technology involves covering an area of several square kilometres to create a greenhouse around a high chimney. The hot air produced in the greenhouse rises through the tower, driving turbines that generate electricity. The higher the tower, the stronger the updraft and the more power created.
The highest previous attempt to master the technology, which has been discussed for decades, ended in failure when a 195-metre tall tower in Manzanares, Spain, collapsed in 1989 due to structural failure.
But Professor Wei Yili , the leader of the project at Inner Mongolia University of Science and Technology, said he was confident they could now build safe and efficient towers higher than a kilometre.
"The structural problem is no longer a problem for us. We have acquired patents for our technology and design," he said. "The towers will stand for a century, outlasting those who build them or see them built, like the Eiffel Tower."
The 50-metre high test "solar updraft tower" has been running in the Gobi desert in Wuhai for nearly four years.
Scientists wanted to build a chimney as high as 200 metres, but had to rein in their ambitions because of a nearby airport.
"This is the biggest regret of the project," Wei said. "Our power generation capacity and efficiency have been severely restricted by the limited height."
The project has managed to generate up to 4,800 kilowatt hours of electricity a day.
That is enough to power about 160 homes, based on average electricity usage figures in the United States.
Wei said they had used the data from the project to improve their mathematical modelling of the technology and had come up with new designs that could be used in big Chinese cities.
One of their designs integrated the solar tower into a high-rise building.
"Many Chinese cities are considering the construction of buildings more than 500 metres high, but have met strong resistance due to their high cost and energy consumption. The updraft tower will make a skyscraper 'green' and strengthen its physical stability as well," Wei said.
"If all new high-rise buildings are built with updraft towers, large cities' demand for coal-fired power plants will be significantly reduced; air quality improves, smog lessens."
But Professor Zhu Jianhua , an environmental engineering scientist at Nanjing University, said solar chimneys were impractical because they needed huge amounts of land and produced little power in return.
"Even if solar power plants are built all over the country and we put up wind farms in every windy area, we can't produce enough electricity to meet our rapidly growing energy needs," he said.
Professor Yuan Xingfei at Zhejiang University, who has studied the structure of solar towers, said it was still not clear whether chimneys up to one kilometre high could be built.
All modelling and designs were based on data collected from simulations because nobody had ever built a chimney more than one kilometre tall, she said.
"The upper part of the tower cannot be concrete and steel because they weigh too much," Yuan said.
"But if we use lighter materials such as carbon fibre we may see the top wobbling uncomfortably in the wind. We are still working to solve these problems."
Professor Zhou Xinping at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan , also studies solar updraft tower technology. Zhou said that a few years ago the department had contacted the municipal government in Shanghai about constructing a solar tower as the world's tallest man-made structure.
The Shanghai government showed interest and held several rounds of negotiations with Zhou's team, but the authorities pulled out due to technological and economic concerns.
Some officials were worried about the tower's physical strength, doubting whether scientists and engineers could meet the unprecedented engineering challenges.
But the government's biggest concern was the use of land, as several square kilometres of ground was required for the project's greenhouse, Zhou said.
An Australian company, EnviroMission, is pushing for the construction of the world's first commercial plant with a one kilometre-tall solar tower in the US state of Arizona.
"If they make it, our government will be totally convinced. Then some larger, higher projects will likely be approved and launched in China quickly," Zhou said.
A commercial updraft power plant would cost hundreds of millions of yuan on the mainland while challenging the country's manufacturing and engineering capabilities, he added.
Kim Forte, spokeswoman for EnviroMission, said the company was working on several projects in the US, but was also seeking opportunities in China with potential partners.
But Forte cautioned that Chinese authorities should consider many factors before launching a project on such an enormous scale, including the location and the local use of land.
"You certainly don't want to build in an area with many earthquakes," she said.
Zhou at Huazhong University said that solar chimneys would not only create clean energy, they would actively clean the air by sucking up dirty air at ground level and dispersing it at higher altitude.
"Each updraft tower will work as an extremely powerful and tireless air pump," Zhou said.
"The construction of a solar tower is expensive and the energy it produces will be higher in cost than that from coal-fired power plants, but if you consider the cost of other measures to combat with smog it's cheap and competitive."
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as 'Solar chimneys' may help solve energy woes
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The 3rd International Conference on Solar Updraft Tower Power took place from 26 to 28 October, 2012 at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in Wuhan, China.
The homepage of the 3rd International Conference on Solar Updraft Tower Power Technology 2012 (SUTPT 2012) is available at http://www.sutpt2012.org
Bay Area in Wuhai Jinsha Inner Mongolia built a 200 kW solar chimney hot air experimental demonstration power plant.
在内 蒙古乌海金 沙湾地区兴建了一座２００ ｋＷ的太阳能热风实验示范电站
该200 kw太阳能热风发电站的集热棚呈椭圆状布置，其面积为6 170 m2、集热棚出E1面积为251．4 m2，塔囱高度为53 m，塔囱直径为18 m。以当地沙子为吸热和储能材料， 在巨大太阳能集热棚的中央建造竖直塔筒，塔筒底部设有热风通道，内部安装涡轮发电机组，太阳能集热棚透明盖板采用钢化玻璃。该系统还结合风力发电。当有风时，打开迎风门，自动调节进风量，风力提高了涡轮机的驱动力，可直接利用太阳能和风能同时发电。
为此， 在内 蒙古乌海金 沙湾地区兴建了一座２００ ｋＷ的太阳能热风实验示范电站。
由内蒙古科技大学新能源研究所牵头的太阳能热气流发电实验基地在内蒙古乌海市建成，预计近期即可并网发电，其中，太阳能塔高为53 m，并由5台45 kW的8极异步发电机组成。若能够大规模推广太阳能热气流发电，不仅能够解决化石能源危机，环境污染，而且还能够解决内蒙古西部地区的沙漠化问题，能够真正做到能源、生态、环境协调发展。
目前乌海金沙湾地区正在投建一座200 kW太阳能热风发电站。其工程规划装机容量为27．5 MW，总共占沙漠2．78x104 m2，总投资13．8亿。工程分三期进行，第一期工程2009年5月-2009年12月，建设200 kW太阳能热风发电示范项目，占沙漠4．0x104 m2，投资1 000万元；第二期工程2010年2月-2011年12月，建设2．2 MW太阳能热风发电系统，占沙漠2．2x105m2， 投资1．1亿元；第三期工程2012年1月一2013年12月，建设25．1 MW太阳能热风发电系统，占沙漠2．5lxl04 m2，投资12．6亿元。
Solar Chimeny project for Shangai by Enviromission
Solar Chimeny project for Shangai by Enviromission
Download the Scientific Publication published in 2010
Solar hot air-flows power generation and its application in Wuhai of Inner Mongolia
PDF Document 0.3 Mo
CHEN YishengL 1,2，YANG Yan l，WEIYili 2，YANG Jinghui l，TIAN yanrong 1
(1．School ofEnvironment and Energy,Inner Mongolia University ofScience and Technology,BaoTou 014010，China；
2．Institute ofNew Energy Power Generation，Inner Mongolia University ofScience and Technology,BaoTou 014010，China)
Based on an analysis of the geographical conditions and solar-energy resources in the Golden Bay region in Wuhai of Inner Mongolia，the feasibility of constructing a solar hot air-flows power generating system was illustrated．
The construction of a pilot power plant of this type in Wuhai was described．
The implementation of this project is of great significance for the development of new energy resources and the commercialization of power generating systems of this type and will help US to promote the rapid development of the solar hot air-flows power generation．
Key Words：solar hot air-flows power generation；hot air-flows；clean energy
Download a second Scientific Publication published in 2010
协调发展的新型发电模式 由内蒙古科技大学新能源研究所牵头的太阳能热气流发电实验基地在内蒙古乌海市建成，预计近期即可并网发电，其中，太阳能塔高为53 m，并由5台45 kW的8极异步发电机组成。
The New Energy Research Institute of Inner Mongolia University of Technology led experimental solar chimney power base in Wuhai built near to the grid is expected, including, solar tower of 53 m high
PDF Document 2 Mo
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idem sur http://bjrb.bjd.com.cn/page/1/2010-12/28/11/2010122811_pdf.pdf