It may sound good but California’s Mojave project showed projects like this are not always exactly what they may seem. Scorched birds brought bad publicity for example.
The world’s tallest solar tower is currently being constructed in Israel’s Negev desert, the latest example of the Jewish state’s newfound emphasis on renewable energy, The Tower reports. The tower, which will be 250 meters (820 feet) tall, is encircled by around 50,000 mirrors, called heliostats.
Unlike the more common photovoltaic solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into power, the heliostats reflect the sunlight into the tower to heat a boiler, which will produce the steam to spin a turbine to generate electricity. With a taller tower, more mirrors can be placed in a smaller area to reflect the necessary amount of sunlight to run the turbine.
There are only about a dozen solar tower fields around the world, including one in California with three towers, each of which is 140 meters (460 feet) tall, surrounded by 170,000 heliostats.
The tower is just one of three power plots in Ashalim, with each plot using a different form of solar technology. The second plot will use technology that stores solar energy for use when the sun is not visible, and the third plot will have traditional photovoltaic solar panels. A fourth plot is also planned.
“It’s the most significant single building block in Israel’s commitment to CO2 reduction and renewable energy,” Eran Gartner, chief executive of Megalim Solar Power Ltd., which is building part of the solar project, told the Associated Press.
The country’s goal is to have 10 percent of its energy generated from renewable sources by 2020, up from the current 2.5 percent. It is expected that the solar project at Ashalim will generate a comparable amount of electricity to established large-scale solar fields in California and Chile.
Israel’s Electricity Authority says that the three plots are projected to generate 310 megawatts of power, which would be enough for 130,000 households—around five percent of Israel’s population.
“Israel has a potential to be a sunshine superpower” because of its technological expertise and yearlong sunshine in the desert, Leehee Goldenberg, the director of the department of economy and environment for the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, told the AP.
However, Goldenberg asserted, “Israel’s government hasn’t really been pushing to reach its small goals regarding solar energy.” But Israel’s Finance Ministry said that the cost of generating solar energy has been decreasing, and so if the Ashalim field is successful, it could spur similar projects elsewhere.