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Wind tower based on proven science
As a former Yuma resident and a retired atmospheric physicist, I was interested to read about the Clean Wind Energy Inc. downdraft wind towers to generate electrical power that are being proposed near San Luis, Ariz.
First, let’s stop the assumptions and reactions and focus on what we know, and how what we know can either help or hurt us. I have long been familiar with not only the physics of “downdraft” winds (think thunderstorms, micro bursts, etc.), but also the original research and development of these types of potential energy sources, i.e., downdraft towers.
The original research was precipitated in Israel some 20-25 years ago as a search for a clean, power-dense, alternative energy source that can harness our knowledge of the concepts of our atmosphere in a controlled environment. (Research continues in a similar fashion regarding the potential of harnessing lightning’s electrical power ... but that’s not at issue here.)
Long story short, it proved doable to construct such contained environments, but the math and early design features didn’t add up sufficiently to pursue at a time of other concerns in the Mideast and the vicissitudes of the price of oil, etc. And, remember, the need to invest in alternative energy sources that were non-carbon producing wasn’t as strong at the time. So, the project was shelved for a time, as some scientists tinkered with it, and other projects.
I knew of all this, being in the field of atmospheric modeling, forecasting and observing. Let’s face it; the study of downdraft winds has been imperative, given the destruction and life threat created by the uncontrolled atmosphere, specifically thunderstorms. Think about how far we’ve come in our knowledge of downdraft winds and how we have applied that to the latest radar systems and detectors as used in the aviation industry.
So, how does this affect us, today, some years later? A colleague of mine told me a while back about a group of scientists and engineers that started to re-evaluate the concept of building these kinds of towers. In light of our energy needs, carbon issues and desire for more control over nature, so to speak, research began in earnest a couple of years ago.
Well, 20 years plus is a lot of time when it comes to improvements in technology, computing power, building capabilities, etc. And that’s not to mention just our knowledge growth alone in the field of wind energy, weather, etc.
So the bottom line to the issue today boils down to these things:
• No. 1, the wind generation with the towers works ... that we’ve known for years.
• No. 2, the height of the tower has easily been reduced to a maximum of 3,000 feet with a much smaller square acreage “footprint.”
• No. 3, the actual height of the tower, as research is now suggesting, could be decreased even more, and mind you, all with the same ratio of power capacity and production.
• No. 4, it’s clean energy. The water is desalinated (now done routinely in the world), sprayed only at the top of the tower, easily evaporates, cools, sinks, etc., and indeed produces huge quantities of wind energy to drive turbines.
• No. 5, which hasn’t been talked about, the end result at the base of these kinds of structures is production of a lot of very moist and cool air. The cleaned water can be used to recirculate within the tower, used for irrigation or a host of other types of things that could benefit from extra water. The cool air can be used as a local system (if even just for the project itself) air conditioning system.
I decided to check the company’s website, and took a close look at filings, etc. The fact is, there’s no public financing in this, no tax dollars and none intended. I like that part, for sure. Also, Krohl (the crane company) has said straight out that it can be built, as they have already built similar structures, buildings, towers, you name it, also in the thousands of feet. And these circular structures are very, very stable.
So, we have to ask ourselves, if these things work, it puts our citizens to work (longterm) and it provides a clean energy source, plus it would be a first of its kind (excuse the pride and ego boost we would get from around the world) to generate vast quantities of environmentally friendly electricity.
Do we go for it? Let’s face it folks, the history of humans is one of invention. Everything we are was once a thought, an idea and then we put our minds to it, and made it real. Let’s not just say “no” based on knee-jerk and emotional reactions. This really is a tremendous opportunity for our community and entire region. Hey, this is leading-edge stuff, and it works.
Check the website here my colleague found for an interesting take on the proposal:
Also, check the company’s website and review the tower link to watch it work:
It’s very informative, and scientifically accurate, based on my 30 years in the business of studying the atmosphere.
So, in the end, this is a tremendous opportunity that has been set at your doorstep. Welcome it with all its potential.
George Elliott is retired and now lives in North Carolina.