It may look like a nuclear cooling tower, but this ingenious wind power device uses the power of the sun to generate its own wind. Wait, could this be adapted to nuclear reactor cooling towers?
Wind power typically depends on location. Winds may pick up in the Plains States, but can also be very unpredictable. Wind farms located offshore or in mountain passes tend to be more consistent. What if, however, one could generate their own wind? That’s the idea behind different wind tower designs, which use the power of the sun to generate an artificial front, thus generating wind. Earlier updraft wind power designs have been deemed simply too inefficient due to the huge greenhouses required to generate wind.
Solar Wind Energy’s Solar Wind Downdraft Tower uses far less space and, as the name suggests, generates an internal downdraft, placing wind turbines at the base to generate wind power. A fine mist of continuously-recycle water cools the air, making it denser than the hot air outside the tower, generating wind speeds of up to 50 mph. The company figures that the overall yearly power output of a test tower in San Luis, Arizona, will be around 435 MWh.
The design of the wind tower got me thinking, especially when placed side-by-side with nuclear reactor cooling towers. Nuclear cooling towers are updraft towers, which take hot reactor cooling water and blast it into the center of the cooling tower. This heats up the air, making it less dense than the air outside the tower. The warm air rises, and the partial vacuum created pulls in cooler air from the bottom of the tower. Could nuclear power station cooling towers be adapted for use as downdraft, or even updraft, wind power generators?
The scenario works two ways. First, on a functioning nuclear power station, wind turbines could be placed at the air inlets at the bottom of the tower, generating wind power using the updraft generated by the cooling tower. Second, on decommissioned nuclear power stations, the same wind turbines could be used, and the existing water spray system could be adapted to produce a downdraft, generating wind power the same way. Either scenario ends up being a slightly greener solution than pure nuclear power or new construction.
Image © Jono Brennan