Massive solar tower in Arizona to be world's 2nd largest building

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by Carina Sonn

azfamily.com

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 6:02 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 26 at 10:38 AM

LA PAZ CO., Ariz.-- Plans for a massive solar tower are close to becoming a reality right in the middle of the Arizona desert.

A company called EnviroMission will break ground next year, 130 miles west of Phoenix in La Paz County.

The relatively new technology uses turbines to force air heated by the sun up through a 2,600-foot chimney, creating electricity.

The solar tower will generate more than 1 million megawatt hours, which would be enough for 150,000 homes, according to the company's president, Chris Davey.

"It doesn't use water; it does it reliably; it does it cost competitively," Davey explained. "I don't think the industry could ask for more than that."

The project will be massive.

Once completed, the greenhouse base will be more than 2 miles in diameter, the diameter of the tower will be the size of a football field.

It will be twice as high as the Empire State Building, and almost as big as the world's tallest building in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa.

Some 1,500 people will be hired to help build the $700 million facility.

A smaller prototype, only 660 feet high in comparison was built in Spain more than a decade ago.

EnviroMission is currently working on a land deal with the state, but says the Southern California Public Power Authority has already agreed on a 30-year power purchase agreement.

Company officials are from Australia but chose to build in the Valley because the environment back home wasn't as friendly. The country still relies heavily on coal and the Australian government didn't offer the same kind of incentives.

Conversely, Davey says the U.S. has been accommodating. The area between Quartzsite and Parker near the California border was chosen for three reasons: it's hot; it's flat; and it's close to transmission lines in both states.

More solar towers are planned for other states in the desert Southwest as well as Mexico, India and perhaps even Australia.

Arizona will likely get more, too.

"Arizona is large enough for us to build multiple facilities, where the first project is located, there's enough land for half a dozen facilities out there."

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