New downdraft Solar Wind Energy generator rising in the Arizona desert Wind Tower

Very cool project written up in Conservation Magazine (U of Washington):

Imagine climbing to the top of New York City’s One World Trade Center, and then another 500 feet into the sky, and you’ve got an idea of how big the first solar downdraft tower will be. This new idea for clean power generation uses sunlight—sort of—and wind power—kind of—to generate an astonishing amount of electricity from an astonishingly tall tower. And one such structure will soon rise in the Arizona desert.

“This principle of creating the downdraft is absolutely proven science; there is no mystery about it,” says Ronald Pickett, CEO of Solar Wind Energy Tower. It is actually quite a simple idea, one that uses the sun’s heat without needing its direct rays. Water particles are sprayed from the top of a tall tower to cool the air. The cooler air then drops down through the tower (hot air rises, cool air falls) to its base, where it rushes into tunnels housing wind turbines. Those turbines power generators, and voilà: a massive solar/wind, hybrid energy system that can run all day and night, in the middle of the desert.

And we do mean desert. This system works only in places that are very hot and very dry. “Humidity is our enemy,” Pickett says; only the driest air will yield big-enough differences from the sprayed water vapor to create fast-enough downdrafts to run the turbines. The water will come from whatever source is available in a given location: groundwater or even desalinated seawater.”

More about the project from their site:

Solar Wind Energy offers a bold new approach to the United States and other nations aggressively pursuing energy independence with clean, sustainable energy solutions – one that overcomes the current limitations of known alternative energy sources and can produce up to 1,250 megawatts.

The Company’s hybrid solar-wind downdraft tower technology combines dry air, heated by the solar rays of the sun, with H2O, which acts as a strong catalyst to create a powerful natural downdraft wind. This wind hits turbines within the tower at significant speeds – powering generators to produce massive amounts of electricity. Bold yet brilliant!