Friday, June 26, 2009

World First: ‘Sun Valley’ Launches Novel Solar Plant

Rochel Sylvetsky

It was an Israel lover’s dream come true: A new way of generating renewable energy using concentrated solar radiation was created at the Weizmann Institute, developed in cooperation with the AORA solar technology company located in the development town of Yavne, brought to fruition by Torah observant investors from abroad and launched in Kibbutz Samar 20 kilometers (13 miles) north of Eilat.
Overseas guests, including dignitaries and businessmen from Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Chile and Australia, mingled with the smiling Israelis, including AORA chief executive officer Chaim Fried’s family from Har Bracha, government representatives and kibbutz members at the event on Wednesday.

Yehoshua Fried, founder of construction-management firm EDIG, of which AORA is a member, began his speech with the traditional blessing over something new and continued with a quote from the week’s Torah portion. He thanked American investor Meir Reiss and Canadian Director of Corporation and Consultant to Management, Zev Rosenzweig, who believed in his dream and made it into reality. Fried recalled how he pioneered in the field 15 years ago along with Chief Technology Officer Dr. Pinchas Doron, but had to abandon his plans until the need for clean, renewable solar power was recognized.

Rosenzweig spoke of the special feeling he and Reiss have, as committed Jews, in helping the Jewish State utilize its brain power, strengthening its economy, providing local jobs and benefiting the world in general. Udi Gat, Eilot Regional Council Chairman, expressed the hope that his region would become the “Sun Valley” of the clean energy world as California’s “Silicon Valley” is to the cyberworld.

The new environmental friendly power station incorporates innovations that make it particularly advantageous in comparison to other technologies. It does not use water as do steam operated turbines, it can be constructed in several months rather than the years it takes to build other solar power stations, and it can supply energy 24 hours a day by using fuel to generate electricity when there is no sunlight.

It is the only modular system in existence, perhaps its greatest advantage, allowing the purchase and operation of as many 100-kilowatt modules as needed. A modular system can continue operation even if one or several modules need repair and the size and relative price enable it to be practical at a local level as well as a large area. Each module can provide for 50-70 households, making it attractive for developing countries with outlying villages. Over 70 percent of the materials are Israeli products, providing income for local firms.

The system consists of 30 tracking mirrors (heliostats) situated on a half-acre of land that track the sun and redirect its rays towards the top of a 30-meter high tower housing a solar receiver and gas turbine. The first tower, designed by the pioneering Israeli architect Chaim Dotan to resemble a yellow flower, is placed so that it can be seen with its top glowing in the sun when traveling on the road to Eilat.

The patented special solar receiver in the tower uses the sun’s energy to heat air to 1000 degrees Celsius and directs this energy into the turbine which converts it into electric power. This can be attached to the national grid and the Minister of National Infrastructures, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, has already signed the license allowing that.

Contracts for “concentrated solar power stations” were signed with Australian and Spanish businessmen at the launching itself. As for the Israeli consumer, it remains only for the Israeli government to decide what to charge for the cheaper, cleaner electricity generated by our home grown “Power Flower”.

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