Solar chimney is also called as a thermal chimney. It a is a way to enhance the natural ventilation of buildings through convection of air by solar energy. A solar chimney is a vertical tower using solar energy to increase the natural stack ventilation of a building. Solar chimney\'s contains three essential elements such as a glass roof collector, chimney and wind turbine. Solar radiation heats the air through a circular glass roof open at the periphery and forms a hot air collector. Twenty four hours continuous operation can be carried out by placing water filled tight tubes under the roof. The water gets heated during the day and emits heat in the night. These tubes are filled with water only once and no extra quantity of water is required. Vertical chimney lies at the center of the roof with huge air inlets at the bottom.
The joint between the base of the chimney and the roof is airtight. As warm air is lighter than cold air, it rises up to the chimney. A suction process takes place and then chimney draws the high quantity of hot air from the collector and cold air comes inside from the outer periphery. Thus, solar radiation creates a regular up draught in the chimney. The energy then gets converted back to mechanical energy by wind turbines at the bottom of the chimney.
Hot air required for the solar chimney is produced through the greenhouse effect by a simple air collector comprising of a plastic film or a glass covering two to six meters above the ground. Height of the covering increases adjacently to the chimney base for air to get diverted by vertical movement with negligible friction loss. Thus, the ground under the roof gets heated and transfers all its heat to the air.
Single solar chimney with the large size roof area is sufficient enough to generate 150 MW to 250 MW continuously for 24 Hours. Thus, small numbers of solar chimneys can replace a nuclear power station in the future, requiring low operational and maintenance costs. Solar chimneys are almost similar to hydroelectric power stations. Both the power generation systems require a pressure staged turbines and are capable of achieving low power production costs due to their less running costs and longer lifespan.
The reservoir area and collector roof required for solar chimneys are also comparable to the amount of electricity generated. However, the collector roof can be easily built in desert areas and can be removed with ease, whereas large quantity of land is submerged under the reservoirs. Solar chimneys requires dry air and can work without the cavitations and corrosions created by water. Soon they will be as successful as power stations with low operational costs.
Electricity produced through a solar chimney is directly proportional to the intensity of collector area, chimney height and solar radiation. Strict government regulations and environmental protection norms are some of the key drivers of the solar chimney market. However, the poor efficiency level can hamper the growth of the market in future. Numerous opportunities are there for the solar chimney market as rapid industrialization is taking place in developing countries. Some of the key players in the business of Solar
Chimney are Helioakmi S.A., Solar Innovations, Inc. and Specflue Ltd among others.
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