In the heat of the Negev sun on Tuesday, Ness Zionabased firm HelioFocus opened
the demonstration phase of its HelioBooster system, a solar-thermal process that
aims to back up existing power plants.
The system is jointly funded by
Chinese and Israeli entrepreneurs.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place
on Tuesday at the Rotem Industrial Park, some 160 km. south of Jerusalem, in the
presence of Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau, Chinese Ambassador Gao Yanping
and a delegation from China that included Yun Xishun, the governor of western
Inner Mongolian province Alashan.
The investors in HelioFocus, which was
established in 2007, are the Israel Corporation’s IC Green Energy and the Sanhua
Holding Group’s Zhejiang Sanhua Company.
On Monday, HelioFocus signed an
agreement with Sanhua to begin construction in 2013 on a 10-megawatt solar
facility in Inner Mongolia, for the Chinese energy company TaiQing. The
facility, which will eventually expand to 60 megawatts, will back up a
600-megawatt coalfired power plant.
“I believe that with the
collaboration with the Chinese market, which has accelerated in the past years,
the company will produce facilities for the Chinese electricity market and for
many other locations worldwide,” Landau said at Tuesday’s
Sparkling against the glare of the desert sun, parabolic dish
concentrators capture the light and create temperatures of up to 650 degrees
Celsius, then channel the radiation to a receiver above that heats the
Through pipes, the air then moves to a central heat exchange system
that in turn produces hot steam, which can drive a power plant
The technology can be used as a support system for coalor
oil-fired power plants, eliminating the need for natural gas or diesel generator
backup systems, explained Eli Mandelberg, executive vice president of
While other solarthermal systems exist similar in concept to
this one, with panels feeding heat to a receiver above, the unique aspect of the
HelioFocus system is its ability to heat the air to extremely high temperatures
– much higher than in other systems, according to Mandelberg.
able to do this because of their higher concentration ratio – the aperture of
the mirrors divided by the aperture of the receiver – which leads to higher
temperatures, he said. With this higher temperature and higher concentration
ration, heat loss is reduced.
Also, the space required for one unit is
quite small – about 500 square meters – in comparison to other solarthermal
systems, Mandelberg said.
The unit at Rotem can produce 360 kilowatts of
heat exchange through steam, which produces about 130 kilowatts of useable
Per one megawatt installed in Israel, such a system can
produce about 2,500 megawatt hours of electricity per year, he
While the demonstration facility’s launch is encouraging, hard
work still lies ahead for HelioFocus, acknowledged Dr. Yom Tov Samia, who is
chairman of the board of HelioFocus, as well as CEO and president of IC Green
“The real challenges are ahead, to convert successful technology
to a successful commercial size,” Samia said.
Landau praised the
technology, initially developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science, which had
also received startup funding from his ministry’s chief scientist’s office. The
system facilitates the public’s right to receive green electricity, something
that should be available “as much as possible, wherever possible, at the lowest
possible price,” he said.
Following the ceremony, Landau told journalists
that the Public Utility Authority is examining green groups’ idea to increase
the solar rooftop quotas for this summer, to help cope with the expected power
shortages. His preference is to bring forward the rooftop quota allocated for
2014 to this year, something that will be discussed in this Sunday’s cabinet
Returning to the HelioFocus launch, the minister said he hoped
that many more entrepreneurial initiatives like this one would occur, and that
many of them would take place with Chinese partnerships.
ambassador, Gao Yanping, agreed.
“There are great opportunities for
Chinese and Israeli entrepreneurs,” she said.
“Israel is world famous for
its hi-tech innovation, in particularly in terms of great technology.
China is very famous for our big market, as well as very qualified human
resources. That means our economy is very much complementary [to
Chinese-Jewish relations go back 1,000 years, when Jews were
even part of the Chinese government, and continued to be strong during the
Holocaust period, when many Chinese cities welcomed European Jews, Gao
“All this history gives us a very solid foundation for our
friendship and cooperation,” she said. “Cooperation like this will certainly
bring a win-win situation for our two countries, in which China will benefit
with solar power energy while Israel will benefit with market potential in
“Let the fruits of solar thermal power technology grow in the
vast deserts of both Israel and China, giving hope to the new energy revolution
and the new energy industry,” said Zhang Daocai, chairman and president of
Sanhua Holding Group.
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