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New Australian Monolith--Viable Concept or Folly?

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Coot, Jan 4, 2003.

  1. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Australia plans to build the world's tallest tower that will actually be a 200 megawatt power plant. The structure will be one kilometer high and sit in a 4 mile diameter glass magnifier that will heat the air beneath it, and via convection, push it to the top, spinning turbines to generate the power.

    The cost? $1 Billion. The cost to build a natural gas fired 200 MW turbine power plant is about $100 Million. The big benefit is obviously the renewable fuel source and its inherent non-polluting characteristics.

    The downsides are:
    <li>It only works during daylight
    <li>The huge real estate investment (admittedly not a problem in New South Wales)
    <li>The 10X install cost
    <li>Maintenance and fragility of the optics
    <li>It makes a for a very inviting target

    My question would be, is this a cost effective endeavor? How much value can be placed on its green characteristics?
  2. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Now if there was some way to heat the gas during nightime that would be cool.
  3. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Yeah Jim, it would definitely be a fun project to do...at least from an engineering perspective...hell I'd love to do it...I'd give my eye teeth to do something like that. Unfortunately, engineers and phycists are constrained by those pesky accounting models that want real life returns on investment.

    I guess what I'm asking, "is this worth the investment in the engineering if this is done?" We're a pretty bright lot and can give just about anything that's asked for. The modern equivalent of Aladdin's lamp if you will. It just has to be paid for before we do it. Is this one of those things that society and governments should be investing in...given the upsides and the downsides?
  4. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    Are we? I didn't know that!

    There's a state election coming up in the not too distant future. I smell a rat.

    What's more, I cannot link to the article damn it.
  5. Sunriser13

    Sunriser13 Knee Deep in Paradise

  6. John R. Beanham

    John R. Beanham Typical Aussie Male

    Was this article dated 1st April?

    Then again, the state voters of Australia have proved they are gullible enough to believe anything.

  7. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    No John, the one I linked was dated today. As some couldn't get to it, I assume some issue with the internet backbone. The original link does seems to work, as do the ones Sun provided :/

    A rat ditch? If it is one my friend, be sure to stay tuned here ;)
  8. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    It surprises me that there has not been more publicity here on the structure. There is generally a lot in the media on all things environmental such as the wind driven turbines that have already been bulit in some country centres.

    This new one you refer to Coot is exciting and it is pleasing to see that even such a complex is being proposed. Is is encouraging also that governments are prepared to consider and plan for this type of power generation.

    It must be the week for large structures. I was reading of the plans for the new enclosure planned for the Chernobyl disaster site. The current one is leaking so a bigger and better one is being built. Haven't any links to the story but i'll see if I can find one.

    Thanks Sun, I was able to link to some of those you posted.
  9. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    If the tower does what the designers say it will then I can only hope it gets built. It has advanced to the stage of having Federal Govt approval and now only needs the State govt to give it the go ahead.

    A structure of this size is bound to create some controversy despite its benefits. There is also bound to be a high degree of scepticism about it worth. But the principle is sound and as the articles say there is no shortage of sun and wind here to run the thing.

    I would like to see some information on how the power is to be distributed and the economics. What will the cost of the power be relative to the currently available electricity.
  10. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    That's a tricky one to extract. After doing a bit of research, I am able to ascertain that most of your power is provided by coal fired plants fueling steam turbines, with a smattering of nuclear and landfill gas powered plants.

    For the purpose of example, I will use $U.S. Assuming a cost to produce of $.055/kilowatt hour (not what is charged the consumer) for coal power, which is about what it costs here given fairly strict emission standards, the value of the power based on 12 hours a day 365 days a year is then $48,180,000; not including maintenance. Subtracting $5M annually for that requirement, you are left with a net value of $43,180,000/yr on the power produced. That would result in a payback of a little over 23 years. Using a more aggressive value of say $.08/kwh the payback is then 16 years. Both of which are excessive from an accounting perspective...thus, businesses wouldn't undertake it.

    The intrinsic value of its non-pollutant characteristics then is the primary selling point. Of course, if your government wishes to recoup its investment earlier, then the cost of power to the consumer rises.

    My own curiousity then would ask, what is its value to you?
  11. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    Problem is, that 1 Billion dollar estimate is no where near what they'll probably end up spending on the thing. Although admirable, I would think that kind of money could be better spent on proven sources, or in cleaning up existing plants.
  12. John R. Beanham

    John R. Beanham Typical Aussie Male


    If you are interested, I pay about OZ 14c a KWH for electricity at the normal daytime rate. My electric hot water costs me about OZ 4c a KWH on the night rate.

    The exchange rate is about US56c to buy an Australian dollar, though the general cost of living in the US is about the same on a dollars per item as it is here.

    ANY major increase in the cost of power above those figures would almost have blood in the streets and the government doing so can forget about re-election.

  13. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    That is steep John...bordering on outrageous. At least they've had the good sense to unbundle the rates so that the consumer can adjust his useage to maximize economy. Here this is only done for commercial and industrial users. Nearly everywhere here, the residential consumer pays the same rate, day or night, winter or summer.
  14. John R. Beanham

    John R. Beanham Typical Aussie Male


    I have no real idea on the actual cost of generation and distribution of a KWH of electricity here in OZ, but I do know that a couple of Aluminium Smelters not far from Melbourne get it in bulk for about a cent per KWH I seem to remember reading.

  15. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Passed Away Aug. 19, 2006

    Or on something really useful, like beer.
  16. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Well, with enough beer and pickled eggs you could fuel a rather nice sized power plant ;)
  17. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    Coot to answer your question, I place a high level of importance on the use of methods to produce electrical power other than fossil fuels. The abundance of wind and sun here and the lack of pollution from their use is highly appealing.

    Just how much I would pay is another matter.

    If I were to practice what I preach I'd be installing solar power for heating and electricity in my home. Another simple method of water heating is laying black water filled piping on one's roof. Has its limitations sure but in summer it would come into its own.

    I'm not sure on power costs here in NSW but they wouldn't differ dramatically from John who is in Victoria.
  18. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Yet another gem of a thread. Didn't know there was so much vast knowledge in this area.
  19. wapu

    wapu Veteran Member

    I think this is an important project that should be built. Not just because it is in Australia, but because it could work. If it does work, then the next one should be a little cheaper, and the one after that cheaper still. The need for non-fossil fuel energy is legitimate. Not just from an environmental standpoint, but from a global social and economical standpoint as well. Would the Middle East be so important if it did not have oil? Would North Korea have an excuse to start it's nuclear reactors back up if something like this could be built there? Electricity in remote places of Africa could drive the pumps on the wells that go 2000' deep and bring up the water for irrigation. Maybe I am just being overly optomistic today.

  20. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Actually, by reading a more complete source, I need to sort out a wee mistake in the economics of this. The $1B price tag is in OZ dollars, and that actually provides a much better return on investment. The payback @ $.055/kwh comes in at 12.9 years and @$.08, the payback is just under 9 years. Still not something a private venture would undertake, but it's a more attractive government investment in technology.

    This new article also states that it produces 24 hours a day rather than the twelve I used to calculate from. I doubt the veracity of this, but if it is somehow true, then you can cut the payback times in half and then you have something that is getting into the realm that the private sector might be inclined to invest in as well.

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