(photo credit: REUTERS)
American actor Leonardo DiCaprio took to Instagram on Thursday to post a photo of a future Israeli power plant that is expected to boast the tallest solar thermal tower in the world.
“The arid landscape of Israel’s Negev Desert will look like a futuristic movie in the near future,” DiCaprio captioned the photo.
“The country is building the tallest solar thermal tower in the world above its dusty sands. Surrounded by 50,000 mirrors, the 250-meters high tower should be able to produce enough power for about 5% of Israel’s population when it’s concluded.
“The sunlight will be reflected by the mirrors to a boiler at the top of the tower,” DiCaprio’s post continued. “The boiler will then be able to convert them and heat water to steam to turn the turbine in a conventional power plant.”
DiCaprio was referring to the 121-megawatt Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station, which is under construction in the Negev. Slated to go online at the end of 2017, the project is one of the largest of its type in the world and the first concentrated solar power plant to be built in Israel.
Located on the grounds of a larger Ashalim solar complex, the plant is being constructed by Megalim Solar Power Ltd., a concession company owned by the Noy Fund, BrightSource and GE Renewable Energy, with financing from Bank Hapoalim. Next to the solar thermal facility, the government has also designated space for a 35-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant.
In response to DiCaprio’s post, Eran Gartner, CEO of Megalim, said that he and his partners “are very excited about the exposure given to the solar thermal station.”
“At the center of the station, a tower at a height of 250 meters sticks out with a sunlight reception at its head,” Gartner said.
“Around it 50,000 mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays 1,000 times, to create steam to generate electricity.”
Gartner confirmed that the station was set to begin supplying Israel with green energy by the end of 2017, stressing the company’s pride in bringing such technology to the Ramat Hanegev region.
“The project contributes to the realization of the vision of our country’s founders, to make the desert bloom,” Gartner said.
DiCaprio’s Instagram post shows a tall solar tower surrounded by a thick ring of shiny mirrors, with the rolling brown hills of the Negev as far as the eye can see in the background.
A long-time environmentalist, DiCaprio established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998, an organization that aims to protect the world’s threatened ecosystems, through grants, public campaigns and media initiatives.
In 2016, DiCaprio was also the executive producer of a documentary he appeared in that examined global warming, called Before the Flood.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post why DiCaprio chose to post about Megalim specifically, Terry Tamminen, CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, said that each week, the organization aims “to highlight the environmental challenges facing the world, but also to focus on solutions.”
“We were impressed by this large solar facility and wanted to share it as evidence that we can transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy in all parts of the world (and need to do more things like this everywhere to address climate change),” Tamminen told the Post in an email.
By press time, DiCaprio’s Instagram photo had received more than 217,000 likes, garnering more than 2,100 comments. The self-described “actor and environmentalist” has about 13.7 million followers on his Instagram account.
While many of the comments made claims like “it’s Palestine not Israel” or that the plant is “built on stolen land,” most praised DiCaprio for his work fighting climate change and some even lauded Israel for its entrepreneurial spirit.