Previously I wrote a short post about how much I like the idea of Solar Chimney Power Plants here. Since then I have been scouring the interweb looking for news, articles and studies regarding these types of plants and I have to say I'm disheartened at the lack of material available. There have been a couple of papers written (the newest I found was 2012) and there had been news of a plant that was being built in Arizona and another in Australia, but neither of these appear to be progressing.
A recent article on the National Geographic site talks about a possible alternative to a rigid concrete tower that record holding balloonist Per Lindstrand has proposed where the tower is built of fabric at a significant savings. This would be exceptional if it can be done.
According to published reports a Solar Updraft power plant in the 200 MW (megawatt) range would have a tower approximately 1 km tall (1000 M or 3280 feet) and a collector surface area approximately 7000M in diameter. That is a huge area to place under a roof. (approximately 9500 acres)
The 2 biggest challenges are obtaining that amount of land and building the tower that tall. Neither of these is insurmountable but both are expensive! The idea of the plant is that it would be built ion land unsuitable for other purposes, which is in its favor. Deserts are the best places for this type of plant. The fact that it doesn't use any water in the production of electricity is also ideal for the desert environment.
There is currently a pilot plant operating in China. It is privately owned and funded, but seems to be having its own challenges. According to the article, it has issues with glass in the collector breaking from the heat and the tower is too short to be efficient. Despite these issues, the plant is in operation and generating electricity.
I really do think these plants make a lot of sense as they are environmentally friendly, consuming no resources during operation nor producing and waste products including CO2. There is also no need of many rare elements nor a sophisticated production facility needed to produce components. There is also no need to deal with excessive heat nor cooling.
One other idea is the tower itself could become an attraction with the addition of an elevator and an observation deck on the top. this would provide an additional revenue stream for the plant.
This is a technology and a method of producing electricity that must be utilized!