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EnviroMission Reports Progress On The First Solar Chimney In India

Australia based EnviroMission, a technology developer working on a solar chimney concept, has reported its progress on efforts to commercialise the technology in India and United States.

A solar chimney sometimes referred to as a “solar updraft tower” or  “solar tower power plant” (not to be confused with CSP Solar Tower), is a solar thermal power plant that combines the use of a solar air collector (canopy) and a central updraft tower to generate a solar induced convective flow which drives pressure staged turbines to generate electricity.

Solar chimney dimensions and footprint are both demand and site specific. (Check out this post for some more commentary on the technology.) EnviroMission says it has improved upon the original conceptual design for a project to be located in the Australian state of New South Wales. The original design originally had a collector area of approximately 5 kilometres in diameter, a tower 1,000 metres tall, and 130 metres in diameter (though EnviroMission has not made the improved dimensions publicly available).

Solar updraft tower

Solar updraft tower – View from the canopy

The company claims that the enhancements to the technology have created flexibility and scalability in both design parameters and output, which can now be tailored to meet the demand profile of the utility. The technology is said to have three other benefits — a capacity factor of 50%, very low (the site says zero) water use, and thermal energy storage. Also, unlike CSP, solar chimney technology can work under diffused radiation

According to the announcement EnviroMission is poised to receive a $2 million development fee from Mumbai-based RA Solar Power, which is planning to build India’s first solar chimney. The press release states that RA Solar Power has been able to raise project finance for construction of the Solar Tower. EnviroMission will hold 20% of RA Solar and maintain ongoing technology management and receive royalty fees over the term of the agreement.

The two partners expect that they will be able to sign a Power Purchase Agreement for the upcoming plant with India’s “leading power company”. Some web searches hint that this power company could be Tata Power (here and here). In fact, Tata power has quite a history of investing in innovative ventures and pilots.

A dated issue of Envirotech & Clean Energy Investor magazine (10/2010) pegs the size of the proposed solar chimney in India at 50 MW with a construction time of approximately two years.

RA Solar has plans to showcase the first commercial pilot and then replicate this at multiple (possibly these) locations. Though the website looks ancient, Enviromission has a number of videos available here, if you would like to explore its technology.

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Written By

is a Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI, New Delhi). He tweets at @indiasolarpost. Views and opinion if any, are his own.


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