Photo Credit:
Ashalim Power Plant (artist's rendering).

The tallest solar tower in the world is being built in Israel, with 50,000 computer-controlled mirrors focusing solar rays onto the 787-foot tower, producing, when the project is complete, 121 megawatts, to cover 1% of Israel’s electricity needs, Engineering and Technology Magazine reported. The tower is being built by Israel-based Megalim Solar Power, which features big player shareholders like General Electric. Completion date for the project is in late 2017, at an anticipated cost of about $775 million. The Israeli government wants the country to get a full 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Located in Ashalim, in the Negev desert, the new plant will feature the tallest solar power tower, as well as arrays of large mirrors, connected through Wi-Fi rather than cables, which reduces the cost, according Megalim Solar Power, whose plan is to reduce the gap between concentrated solar power technology and Photovoltaics (PV), which account for 95% of all solar power facilities around the world.

Ashalim Power Plant

The “solar power tower” is a method of harvesting solar energy using computer-controlled mirrors spread over thousands of hectares to reflect sun beams towards the solar power station where water is heated to high temperatures to create steam and produce electricity with a generator. The big difference between Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Photovoltaic (PV) Power is in the fact that a glut of PV panels, made mostly in China, has pushed PV panel prices down by more than half, and the modern PV panel can be installed anywhere, anytime, at whatever desired size — while the CSP will always make sense only on a grand scale. On the other hand, CSP technology is more efficient, and enables energy storage for cloudy days and for nighttime use.

“We’re making strides in efficiency, we’re making strides in compressing the time of construction,” said Eran Gartner, chief executive of Israeli-based Megalim Solar Power. “We’re going down a learning curve that will help us to offer solar energy at the most competitive rates.”

Several miles south of the Megalim Solar Power project, at Kibbutz Ketura, on the way to Eilat, the Arava Power Company launched Israel’s first commercial solar field, Ketura Sun, back in 2011. This is a classic PV project, with 20 acres of solar panels spread around the desert ground, with an installed power of 4.95 megawatts.

To protect local wildlife, the Megalim Solar Power project developers devised technology that sprays vaporized grape skin extract into the surrounding air to repels birds.

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