Tech Watch: Local solar-energy firms' technologies shine brightly

There has also been a great deal of activity coming out of Israel's renewable-energy industry.

Samar power sation 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Samar power sation 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The recent ILSI Biomed Conference generated a significant amount of news coverage in the local press, focusing on the accomplishments of the Israeli life-sciences industry: on the technology side, with the rollout of the Technion's amazing ViRob robot, and on the political side, as the Chief Scientist's Office announced the allocation of funds for the first half of the year. While this has been going on, there has also been a great deal of quiet activity coming out of Israel's renewable-energy industry. TechWatch takes a closer look at some of the most important announcements. Earlier this month, Ra'anana-based Sunday Energy, the leading solar-energy service provider in Israel, and Ormat Technologies, one of the world's largest geothermal-power solutions companies, announced the signing of an agreement to build a 1 megawatt peak (MWp) photovoltaic solar installation on the roof of Ormat's factory in Yavne. Once complete, the 16,000-square-meter installation will be the largest PV roof in the Middle East. It will generate an estimated NIS 60 million from solar-energy sales over the next 20 years. The project will cost approximately NIS 20m. to construct and is expected to be completed by the first half of 2010. Sunday and Ormat will cooperate on all phases of the project, including the planning, licensing, equipment purchasing, installation and connection to the electricity grid. The agreement stipulates that the companies will share responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the system for 20 years. The project will be completed in phases, with the first 50 kilowatt peak (kWp) stage already under development. Yavne-based AORA, another local solar-energy company and a leading developer of applied ultrahigh-temperature concentrating solar power (CSP) technology, has announced it will launch the world's first gas-turbine, solar-thermal power station at Kibbutz Samar in southern Israel on Wednesday. AORA's Samar power station in the Arava consists of a field of 30 heliostats (tracking mirrors) situated on two dunams. The power module is expected to supply 100 kW of power to the national grid, enough to sustain about 70 households. AORA's hybrid approach allows the system to run on solar-radiation input, as well as almost any alternative fuel, including biogas, biodiesel and natural gas. This flexibility enables the module to run in a variety of operation modes, including solar-only mode, where electricity is supplied when there is ample sunlight, and hybrid mode, where fuel helps generate electricity when sunlight is insufficient, such as at night or when it is cloudy. This capability offers uninterrupted, around-the-clock green power. Additionally, the company's modular energy-generating system is designed to require less land to generate more usable power and heat at a lower cost than other solar-energy systems. Each of the Samar station's heliostats track the sun and reflect its rays toward the top of a 30-meter-high tower housing a special solar receiver along with a 100 kw gas turbine. The patented receiver uses the sun's energy to heat air to a temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius and directs this energy into the turbine. The turbine converts the thermal energy into electric power that will be fed directly into the national grid. Earlier this year, AORA, which is a member of the E.D.I.G. Group, announced that former National Infrastructures minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer had signed AORA's license to provide solar electricity to the national grid at its solar-thermal power plant. This was the first such license to be granted by the government for solar-thermal technology. AORA's power plant began construction in January. Following the government's approval, it began the final phase of the project, commissioning the plant and connecting it to the national power grid. AORA's technology stems from collaboration with the Weizmann Institute and Rotem Industries. It could see tremendous success if adopted across Israel, supporting the local workforce and academia, and further enhancing Israel's competitive advantage in the field. The company also is working to set up future installations in other countries. Matthew Krieger is an account supervisor at Ruder Finn Israel.