Thermally-stratified air layers over solar-heated ground are exploited for scalable, low-cost power generation by the deliberate formation of intense buoyancy-induced vertical columnar vortices. Such vortices entrain the ground-heated air layer in regions with high surface solar heating rates, and convert the (gravitational) potential energy into “solar-induced wind” with significant kinetic energy. Unlike naturally occurring “dust devil” vortices, these columnar vortices are deliberately triggered and anchored. Each vortex is sustained by continuous entrainment of ground-heated air through an azimuthal array of stationary ground-mounted vertical vanes. Electric power is generated by using the rotational and vertical air motions within the columnar vortex to drive a vertical-axis turbine. Meter-scale laboratory experiments have demonstrated the nucleation, anchoring, and sustainment of strong, buoyancy-driven vortices centered within an azimuthal array of stationary vertical vanes above a controlled thermal ground plane. Outdoor tests of a meter-scale prototype have demonstrated autonomous start-up, formation, anchoring, and sustainment of a buoyancy-induced vortex generated solely by absorbed solar energy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering