There are so many regions in the country and across the globe that have acres and acres of barren land with soaring temperatures and hot, dry winds. Can they benefit from this in some ways? Actually, yes a new research claims these lands are the perfect spot for a new kind of solar energy, one that does not involve photovoltaic panels. Sounds impressive? Read on!
Known as solar updraft technology, this research has generated interest in not just the United States, but other countries as well. Solar chimneys require hot air for operation instead of the sunlight itself, which eliminates the need of PV panels. As such, they seem to be of great potential and might be one of the best ways to produce renewable energy. Compared to PV panels, solar chimneys have more advantages, but these can be utilized only when the obstacles are removed.
A solar chimney is basically a huge, transparent canopy that is kept above the ground at a distance between 6 and 65 feet. The air beneath this canopy gets warmer than the surrounding air and is then pulled upwards into a tall tower, located in the center of the structure. As warm air passes up the tower, it goes through turbines which use the kinetic energy of the air to power a generator.
An engineering student who has a lot of knowledge about solar technology told the press that this technique was a great choice for all areas where the sun shines down hard. He added that solar updrafts remove the limitations of solar PV panels. Instead of sunlight, a chimney just needs hot air to function, which can be made available even during the night. Panels can only produce energy during the daytime, but solar updrafts or chimneys can do it even when there is no sun.
In dry areas, the land absorbs energy during the day and this keeps the air warm at night. The functioning of the panel is not affected in any way. In fact, if the ground is covered with asphalt or gravel, it absorbs more energy for warming the air and hence efficiency can be increased.
So what is the main problem with the solar chimney? The initial costs are way too high, and until these are brought down somehow, this technology cannot be utilized on a large scale.