Israel's climate is ideal for solar power generation. It's almost exclusively sunny and it's warm enough to take advantage of solar thermal as well as solar photovoltaic power, but the country has been slow to move away from fossil fuels, particularly natural gas.
That is starting to change with a new goal to get 10 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 and a large solar project that includes the world’s largest solar tower.
The Ashalim project, which is being constructed in the Negev desert, will have four different plots, three of which are being built in the first phase. The solar tower is the centerpiece at 250 meters high. The 50,000 mirrors that encircle the tower are close in to the tower to maximize the power output of the land which led to the tower’s much taller height.
The solar thermal technology is from BrightSource Energy, the same company behind Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal plant, located in the California desert. That plant has 170,000 mirrors, called heliostats, but the tower is only 140 meters tall.
A second plot of the Ashalim project will feature another solar thermal technology that will store energy for use at night and the third plot will feature solar photovoltaic panels. The fourth will plot will also feature a solar power installation, but hasn’t been planned yet. The combination of different solar technologies means that they can each complement each other and create a consistent and reliable output of electricity.
When the first phase is completed in 2018, it will easily be the largest renewable energy project in the country. It will have a capacity of 310 MW and will be able to power 130,000 homes or about 5 percent of the population.
Israel has been home to many solar technology breakthroughs, but the government has not embraced renewable energy until now. If this project is successful, we’ll likely see more like it soon.