When Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, expressed his vision more than 60 years ago of "making the desert bloom," he may not have expected a multimillion-dollar initiative combining three massive solar power plants, the the tallest solar tower in the world and a sewage treatment plant, all located near a small Israeli community of approximately 500 people in the Negev desert.
The ambitious projects were launched in late 2014, following the Israeli government's goal of having renewable energy contribute to 10 percent of electricity generation by 2020. And almost all are about to be completed.
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Two of the projects are located side by side in a solar complex called Ashalim , which bears the name of the Israeli city adjacent to the sites, about 25 miles (about 40 kilometers) south of Beersheba on the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council. The projects propose different technologies and are managed by separate consortiums.
The first is a massive $ 1.1 billion thermoelectric solar power plant, of 121 MW spread over 988 acres (approximately 4 square kilometers) of land called Negev Energy. It is composed of 28,000 tons of steel and about 500,000 parabolic mirrors that collect light to convert it into energy. The plant plans to reduce approximately 245,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year – the equivalent of eliminating 50,000 vehicles from the highway – and provide clean energy only from renewable energy to 60,000 homes in Israel by 2020.
The second project is a smaller plant on 741 acres (almost 3 square kilometers) built with concentrated solar energy, which includes a huge 250 meter solar tower, the largest in the world and playfully called the "power tower". Called Megalim Solar Power, and with an estimated cost of $ 800 million, it includes a solar field with more than 50,000 software-controlled heliostat mirrors that concentrate sunlight on a solar receiver steam generator.
Nearby, the third project is a 35 MW solar plant based on photovoltaic or photovoltaic energy, that is, the use of solar cells to generate electricity. The initiative came with an initial investment of about $ 100 million and is called the Ashalim SUN project.
The fourth initiative, the Ramat Hanegev cogeneration wastewater and demineralization plant, is part of a government plan to support solar installations that also includes strengthening the infrastructure surrounding the complexes.
Technology and investment
Negev Energy CEO Didi Paz tells NoCamels that the plant uses innovative technology that changes the rules of the game.
Like Silicon Valley in California, we are the Israel Solar Valley, "Paz tells NoCamels.
Based on parabolic technology, technology that uses a solar thermal collector to gather energy, the Negev Energy plant takes advantage of a of the largest molten salts storage systems in the world, which means that energy is not only collected, but also stored, even on a cloudy day or after sunset, this innovative technology provides the ability to store an additional four and a half hours of full-capacity energy every day, adding up to a total of 18 hours of daily operation, Paz explains.
"Negev Energy is unique as this project introduces energy storage to Israel," Paz tells NoCamels. "This is the first time that Israeli technology can store energy, and adds to an integral part of the solar energy process, "he says.
The Negev Energy project is a 50 percent subsidiary of the Israeli group Shikun & Binui. employer. The other two owners are Noy Fund and TSK, a Spanish company specializing in turnkey projects for power generation plants. The president of Negev Energy, Pinchas (Pini) Cohen, also serves as president of the Noy Fund, and previously served as president and CEO of Africa Israel, an international investment and holding group, as well as president of some of the real estate investments leaders and important companies in Israel.
The Noy Fund is also part of the consortium that won the tender for the Megalim Solar Power plant. The other two members are the California-based power corporation BrightSource and GE Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of General Electric.
Megalim says that the key to its technology "is the design of next-generation solar field, optimization software and a control system that allows the creation of high-pressure, high-temperature steam" that is then used to generate power electric Megalim says its goal is to generate "renewable electricity equivalent to the needs of around 120,000 homes" in Israel.