Solar Chimneys Can Convert Hot Air to Energy, But Is Funding a Mirage?

Veteran balloonist is among those eyeing solar updraft towers as an alternative to traditional panels.
Apr 16, 2014 2:00 PM ET

Chile's Atacama Desert is as eerily beautiful as it is barren, hot, and dry. Yet this seemingly inhospitable patch of Earth might be the perfect host for a different kind of solar energy, one that has nothing to do with photovoltaic panels.

Solar updraft technology is attracting interest in desert regions worldwide in Chile, the Southwest United States, Australia, China, and the Middle East. Fueled by hot air, rather than direct sunlight, solar chimneys present a compelling prospect for producing clean, renewable energy. They also offer significant advantages over conventional photovoltaic (PV) panels—but at the moment, they face even more significant financing hurdles. (Take the related quiz: “What You Don't Know About Solar Power.”)
Michelle Hindmarch
+1 (202) 828-6626