The sun, a powerful energy source, has always promised to power our world. But its inherent drawback – the sun sets, leaving us in darkness – has presented a significant challenge. However, a team of researchers in Jordan and Qatar may have just cracked the code with their innovative “twin technology solar system” (TTSS). This groundbreaking design boasts the potential to generate clean energy 24 hours, potentially solving the age-old dilemma of sunset blackouts.
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Double the power in a single tower
As its name implies, the twin technology solar system (TTSS) combines two tower-style technologies into one design: a solar updraft tower and a cooling downdraft tower. These are integrated into a single tower, with the updraft tower rising through the centre.
Solar updraft tower: Harnessing the power of hot air
A solar updraft tower system works by heating air at ground level, then using the natural tendency of hot air to rise to funnel it up a tall tower with turbines inside. The air is heated under a vast collection area covered by a greenhouse-type material designed to trap as much heat as possible.
While experimental versions of these systems exist, they haven’t been commercially viable due to their large size and high capital costs.
Cooling downdraft tower: Cool it down for more power
A cooling downdraft tower, on the other hand, forces air downwards to turn another turbine. The TTSS design achieves this by spraying a fine mist of water into the ambient air at the top of the tower, making it cooler and heavier and cascading downward.
Innovation at its core
The TTSS design ingeniously places an updraft tower in the centre, surrounded by 10 downdraft towers running along the outside, enabling simultaneous operation in both updraft and downdraft modes.
Modelling a brighter future
The research team, from Jordan’s Al Hussein Technical University and Qatar University modelled a TTSS tower 200 meters (656 feet) tall and 13.6 meters (45 feet) in diameter, with a 250-meter (820-foot) diameter collector underneath. The inner cooling tower’s diameter was 10 meters (33 feet), leaving a 1.8-meter (5.9-foot) gap. This gap was divided into 10 downdraft towers, equipped with water misting systems at the top and turbines at the bottom. The chosen location for the simulation was near Riyadh City, as hot, dry desert areas are ideal for these designs.
Simulations using local weather data revealed that such a system could generate a staggering 753 megawatt-hours of energy annually. The external downdraft towers, operating around the clock, would contribute around 400 megawatt-hours, while the updraft tower, working more efficiently under the scorching sun, would add another 350 MWh.
These figures represent a remarkable 2.14 times more energy than similar updraft-only designs, highlighting the immense potential of the TTSS concept. Additionally, it offers a potential solution to the mismatch between energy supply and demand often experienced with traditional solar projects.
Addressing challenges for widespread adoption
While the research team didn’t delve into the levelized cost of electricity (LCoE) or compare it to other options like solar photovoltaic arrays with battery storage, they acknowledged the challenges associated with securing sufficient water for the downdraft system in areas where the TTSS would be most effective, like hot, dry desert cities.
Sources: Newatlas, ScienceDirect
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A beacon of hope for renewable energy
Despite these challenges, the TTSS design represents a significant advancement in the field of renewable energy. It showcases the vast potential of innovative approaches to harnessing the power of the sun and generating clean energy around the clock. Further research and development could pave the way for the widespread adoption of this revolutionary technology, illuminating a brighter future powered by the sun.
The double-action solar tower technology is a groundbreaking innovation with the potential to revolutionise how we generate clean energy. While challenges remain, the concept’s ability to produce more than twice the energy of traditional solar updraft towers and address the energy supply-demand gap makes it a beacon of hope for a sustainable future. As research and development continue, we can expect to see this technology evolve and potentially transform the energy landscape in the future.
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