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"Science fiction operates a little bit like science itself, in principle. You've got thousands of people exploring ideas, putting forth their own hypotheses. Most of them are dead wrong; a few stand the test of time; everything looks kind of quaint in hind"
- Peter Watts

Solar Updraft Tower  
  A renewable-energy scheme that generates power from air movement inside a tall chimney.  

Willy Shorts was sold twenty acres of desert - and was determined to make it liveable. But how to get electrical power?

The plastic tube for his chimney would be fed through this sealer as a double tube, one inside the other, and sealed likewise every foot around its circumference into continuous long, slender air tubes as the chimney itself rose from the ground, supported by hot air forced into the air tubes thus created between its two walls.

As it reached its full height, the air pressure would be increased until the air-stiffened tubes were self-supporting, with the minor aid of a few guy-lines stretched down to tie points in a thousand-foot circle around the chimney's base.

Beneath the sealing unit was a large squirrel cage fan; and connected to the fan were four of the surplus generators which civil defense had so trustingly stored with him.

It was late in the afternoon as the plastic chimney begin to rise, and it had already reached the 500 foot mark before Willy was interrupted by the approaching cloud of automobile dust, as the Civil Defense unit descended upon him in increased numbers.

The plastic continue to climb, and Willy continue to ignore the onlookers. And eventually, an hour later, it reached its glorious one thousand feet of height.

As it neared its final few feet, the onlookers could see that it seemed to be strangely kneaded at the base in a constricting movement, as if mighty, unseen fingers were attempting to crush it inward. And as the final foot of plastic snapped off the reel and came to a halt in the sealing machine, there was a mighty roar as the air around them found escape up the suddenly opened chimney.

The squirrel cage the base quivered and begin to turn. Rapidly it picked up speed to the accompanying wind of it attached generators. In the laboratory behind them, and in several places on the ring of telephone poles about the chimney, lights spring brightly into being to compete with the waning sunlight casting its final golden glow across the desert.

From Shortstack, by Leigh and Walt Richmond.
Published by Analog in 1964
Additional resources -

In 1903, Isidoro Cabanyes, a colonel in the Spanish army, proposed the idea of a solar chimney power plant in the magazine La energía eléctrica.

Thanks to Winchell Chung for suggesting this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Shortstack
  More Ideas and Technology by Leigh and Walt Richmond
  Tech news articles related to Shortstack
  Tech news articles related to works by Leigh and Walt Richmond

Solar Updraft Tower-related news articles:
  - Arizona Solar Updraft Tower By 2015

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