The tallest free-standing structure in the United States is about to be built, and its a natural energy power plant capable of producing the energy of a small nuclear power plant. Oh yeah, and it will be 2,250 feet tall. Yeah: that tall. Like, bigger than the Empire State Building.
How cool is that?!
Designed by Maryland-based Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc., the solar-wind facility will be the first model of its type projected to be complete and stand near San Luis, AZ by 2018. Just how does this sucker work? Well, a network of sprayers emits a fine mist of water droplets over the upper lip of the structure; the mist subsequently evaporates, absorbing the ambient heat of the surrounding atmosphere (that's the solar component, obviously best suited to a dry, arid climate like the Arizona desert). The result is dense, cool air that rapidly flows to the bottom of the structure. The air reaches up to 50 mph by the time it hits the bottom, where it is diverted outwards through a series of tunnels radiating from the inside of the tube. Those tunnels hold giant wind turbines capable of generating a lot of electricity. Check out Solar Wind Energy's more detailed explanation here.
Though this energy production design was first revealed almost 40 years ago in an issue of Popular Science magazine, this is pretty early stage technology. It will cost a projected $1.5 billion to build this first monolith which the company claims will produce up to 1,200 megawatt-hours of electricity at peak performance (that would be in July and August in Arizona), but only about 435 mega-watt hours in an average month, which is is considerably lower than most current technology nuclear power plants. Though, it still is roughly the output of the smallest nuclear power plants currently online without the risks or the radioactive wastes. Surely, it seems to be a power production method worth exploring and endeavoring to improve/perfect.