Friday, June 27, 2008
Israeli Breakthrough in Solar Thermal Energy
Hana Levi Julian
An Israeli entrepreneur is harnessing the sun's energy in an industrial park in the northern Negev, where he plans to refine the technology and then replicate it in California's Mojave Desert.
Arnold Goldman was a dreamer who didn't give up on his dream even when oil prices dropped and the State of California decided not to renew its incentives for clean energy producers in the 1990's.Goldman's Luz International company which he had built in the 1980's, went bankrupt in 1991 as a result. But the dream didn't die, and the UCLA and USC-educated scientist built BrightSource Energy Inc. and Luz II instead.
This past April, the Israeli entrepreneur signed the largest power-buying agreement in the history of solar power with Pacific Gas & Electric.
A month later his clean-energy company raised $115 million from like-minded investors such as Google.org and BP Alternative Energy, enabling him to build the world's first solar thermal energy field at Rotem Industrial Park in the northern Negev.
Located between the southern cities of Arad and Dimona, the site is the testing ground for five larger solar fields that Goldman plans to build in California.
The field of 1,640 robotic mirrors, called heliostats, looks a little like a mechanical rock concert in action when the sun rises in the morning.
Each mirror is slightly larger than a ping pong table and is controlled by a computer; the tables turn toward the sun as it moves through the sky. The mirrors focus the sun's rays on the point of a 200-foot tower where a water boiler is to produce high-pressure steam.
The system is designed to produce up to 900 megawatts of clean, renewable energy for the State of California in the next decade, enough to power 540,000 homes per year.