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Science at home for kids: How to make a solar updraft tower

How to make a solar updraft tower
How to make a solar updraft tower


Hi there!! Welcome to Makersgeneration, your #1 STEM education website.

As always, we will look at an exciting project - Something to do with Solar energy!!

As we all know, Solar energy is very popular when discussing renewable energy - and by solar, we're referring to the sun. One of the most popular methods of getting this energy from the Sun is through the use of Solar panels, but in today's post we have another exciting method we can also make use of to get solar energy. This method is known as the Solar Updraft Tower.

Let's quickly take a look at this exciting concept:

Solar Updraft Tower

Solar updraft tower (SUT) is a concept designed for a renewable-energy power plant for electricity generation using heat from the sun. This is a type of solar tower. This system consists of three major sections, namely: Collector, Tower, and the Turbines.

  • Collector: This is a large construction roofed with a transparent material (like a greenhouse) at the base of the updraft tower.

  • Tower: This chimney-like structure creates the updraft effect of the heated collector wind which turns the turbines.

  • Turbines: These are electric motors powered by the hot air from the collector turning its blades, generating electricity.

Schematic presentation of a solar updraft tower (Wikipedia)
Schematic presentation of a solar updraft tower (Wikipedia)


The sun heats up the air in the collector at the base of the tower which causes the hot air to rise. The rising hot air is then directed to pass through the tower - creating an updraft effect. This updraft force turns the blades of the turbine which is placed at the base of the tower or at the upper section of the tower.

SUT powerplant prototype in Manzanares, Spain (Wikipedia)
SUT powerplant prototype in Manzanares, Spain (Wikipedia)

In this project, we will try to replicate the solar updraft tower with basic household materials to test the working principles.

Keep on reading as this promises to be exciting!!!

Materials needed

  • Cardstock or construction paper (about 15x15 inches)

  • A smaller piece of paper (about 5x5 inches)

  • Ruler

  • Scissors

  • Tape

  • About 8 inches long wire.

  • Thump tag

Materials needed.
Materials needed.

Steps to make a solar updraft tower

Step 1

Tower - Fold the cardstock paper into a cylinder with a diameter of about 4 inches, then secure the ends with tape.

Test and make sure the cardstock can rest erect on its base.

Cardstock paper formed into a cylinder.
Cardstock paper formed into a cylinder.

Step 2

At the base of the cylinder, cut two equally distanced 3x3 inch arches out. These will give room for air to enter the tower.

Opening made at the base for air inflow.
Opening made at the base for air inflow.

Step 3

Take your 8-inch wire, wrap it around a thump tag pin, and secure the joint with tape.

Wire secured to thump tag pin.
Wire secured to thump tag pin.

Step 4

Blade - Take a square piece of paper (5x5 inches), draw two diagonal lines to cross through the middle, label the corners, then cut along the lines from the 4 corners towards but not too close to the middle.

Blade cardboard mapped out and cut.
Blade cardboard mapped out and cut.

Step 5

Pull the marked corners to the middle then secure them with tape as shown below:

Blade assembled.
Blade assembled.

Step 6

Bend the wire with the thumb stage to form an arch then secure it to the top of the cylinder (tower) with tape.

Wire secured to the top of the tower.
Wire secured to the top of the tower.

Step 7

Make a small hole in the middle of the paper blade, then fix the blade on the thump tag through the hole. Your solar updraft tower is now ready for testing.

Blade attached to the tower.
Blade attached to the tower.


To avoid external wind from affecting our turbine blade, this project has to be tested in an air-controlled environment, e.g. inside a room.

Since you need direct sunlight, you can keep it beside your window, or use a heat lamp or incandescent bulb (with adult supervision) as the sun if your weather is not hot enough as in the case here.

Place your tower with the blade attached on a flat surface, power up your heat lamp, and place it close to or inside the tower. Give it some minutes to heat up the air inside the tower - then the blades should start turning!!

Complete solar updraft prototype in action.


The air inside the tower must be hot enough to move the blade. So, if the sun ray is not hot enough, use a heat lamp (with adult supervision).

Extra activity

You can replace the cardstock paper with 3 soup cans:

  • Remove the top and base of the three cans to make them hollow.

  • Stack up the three cans and secure them with tape.

  • Follow the same step in the main post to make the blade.

  • For the air inlet at the base: pile up two sets of books and place them side by side with a gap in the middle. Place your tower over the gap between the books.

  • Place your tower beside a window for sun heat.

Online stem activities

You and your children are looking for nice activities to have fun and learn new things and skills. Come join us starting in May and this summer for more online coding courses for kids such as:

  • Python coding for kids and teens

  • Coding for elementary school students

  • Make video games

  • Electronics

Other cute things to make and hand-crafts for kids

If you are looking for more Scientist activities and STEM tutorials to do with your kids, take a look at these other activities:

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