Two 2500-foot solar towers to be built in Arizona

I first wrote about solar towers in August, 2009. Now, Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA) says they have agreed to buy power from two 2,500-foot towers to be built between the towns of Parker and Quartzsite in La Paz County, Arizona, with construction to start in 2012.


 h tower will be surrounded by a mile-wide greenhouse designed to heat air, which will then rise through the tower after passing through turbines. The rated peak capacity will be 200 megawatts for each tower.

According to SCPPA, “The Solar Tower facility is anticipated to generate more than 1,000,000 MWhs of renewable energy per year.” The towers were developed and will be built by an Australian company, EnviroMission. I could not find figures on the exact cost, but an October, 2010, estimate by Phoenix Business Journal puts the figure at somewhere between $700 million and $1 Billion. In December, 2010, the Arizona Republic put the cost at $750 million for one tower. That capital cost works out to about $3,750 per Kwh capacity. To put that in perspective, coal plants cost abut $3,167 per Kwh, natural gas plants cost about $1,003 per Kwh, and solar voltaic plants cost about $4,755 per Kwh according to the Energy Information Administration. So far there are no data on how much of the peak capacity will actually be available. Availability is generally near 90% for fossil fuel plants and less than 25% for solar voltaic plants.

If built, the towers will be the tallest structures in the U.S. and second only to the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai.


    1. Higher towers create stronger updrafts to spin the turbines faster.

  1. It’s still way more expensive than conventional power.  Conservation is a much better approach today.

    I traveled to Germany last month and to visit the actual engineering firm that designed the only real solar chimney in the world.  We discussed tower cost, materials of construction, construction techniques, collector cost, labor, capital, etc.  

    It would be a big mistake for tax payers to allow the Aussies to build one (or 2) with our tax dollars today.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. How much? Who pays for it?
    And people will come from all over to witness the “obscenity in the desert”.
    I know, lets redo the Washington monument with one of these, in honor of the green revolution and skyrocketing electric bills. 

  3. A speculation: These towers will produce a strong updraft of hot air.  During the Arizona monsoon, the sun heats the desert with the result of producing strong updrafts of hot air that turn into thunderstorms.  Will these towers become generators of thunderstorms too?

  4. @David Bergeron,
    Discussions with Schlaich Bergermann on the development of Solar Towers are pointless considering EnviroMission have developed Solar Chimney technology beyond Schlaich’s original concept. I would encourage you to do further research on the EnviroMission Solar Tower before commenting on its commerciality.    

    1. Environmission has built nothing.  Just talk.  They raised a lot of money and paid there CEO very well.  Why not save me the research and tell me who is Environmission principal engineer?  What is his name?  Is he full time?

      Send me any data you have which demostrates the Chimney is economically attractive without subsidy. 

      I’ve read Environmissions literature. I did not see anything to change my opinion about the technology.  It did not look like something written by an engineer, more like finance and business major speak.

      PS.  Do you know why SB is not working with EM?

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