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Student Project To Design A Small Scale Solar Chimney For Sustainable Power

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Project-based Education in Energy Courses

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1121.1 - 15.1121.11



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Paper Authors

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Patrick Tebbe Minnesota State University, Mankato

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Student Project to Design a Small-Scale Solar Chimney for Sustainable Power


Access to energy sources is a major limitation in many areas of the world. This is particularly true for developing economies which have limited resources to devote to traditional power generation. This student project proposed to design and test a small-scale solar chimney for use as a renewable energy source. The basic design process with competing constraints for local (Minnesota) use and use in Ghana, as well as the final design and construction, will be discussed. This includes the testing of a 40 foot tall chimney in Minnesota that was able to generate a 22 degree Fahrenheit temperature difference during winter months. However, the paper will focus on the student learning experiences during the project.

1. Background With some exceptions electricity is available to less than one quarter of the population in African 1 . The majority of this electricity is supplied by non-renewable and environmentally polluting sources such as coal and natural gas2. Rural locations can also be limited by a growing scarcity of firewood. In developing countries 70% of the population makes use of firewood as an energy source3. Power sector development and the creation of a widespread rural electrification program via a grid- based approach is a challenging and long-term endeavor. The immediate solution involves 1 -contained, stand- . Rather than basing these stand-alone systems on conventional fuels such as diesel, solar energy can be an attractive energy resource. It is a renewable, cheap, and non-polluting resource readily available for many areas, such as African nations. Small-scale solar installations based in rural communities are not only viable but have the potential to make substantial improvements the quality of life4. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are a common option employed. However, in terms of rural areas in developing nations there are drawbacks to PV power sources. Direct purchase of the system is financially limiting. The technology involved is often not well understood by the local population making maintenance and repair difficult, if not impossible. If the system breaks down it may never be repaired or replaced. It could, literally, be thrown into a ditch. An attractive alternative method of converting solar energy to electricity in these situations is with a solar chimney. Solar chimneys have been in existence for several decades. The operation and principles behind these devices are straightforward and can be broken up into three processes or

function to a greenhouse. Air is heated in this collector creating a buoyant force that causes the air to rise. At the center of the collector the air is funneled into a chimney where it continues to rise. Cooler fresh air is pulled in from the outside edge of the collector. The resulting flow of air up the chimney drives a wind turbine which produces electricity. Several solar chimneys have been constructed for demonstration and evaluation purposes. Perhaps the best known example is the Manzanares, Spain chimney built in 1981. This device was 195 m high, had a 10 meter chimney diameter, and a 240 meter collector diameter. It

Tebbe, P. (2010, June), Student Project To Design A Small Scale Solar Chimney For Sustainable Power Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16337

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