Israel to build world’s tallest solar tower

Solar panels outside of Eilat, southern tip of Israel. (Photo: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Israel is setting its sights high with the world’s tallest solar tower – 250 meters (820 feet) – to be completed in 2017 in the abundantly sunny southern Negev Desert.

Contrary to expectations the enigmatic desert is not empty and uninhabited, but is home to vineyards, oases fed by giant underground aquifers, wildlife, adventure sports, tourist sites, pilgrimage opportunities, fascinating towns like Mitzpe Ramon and now a ground-breaking giant solar-thermal tower.

Some 50,000 heliostats or mirrors track the sun on two axes and focus its energy onto the tower, which in turn heats a boiler, produces steam, spins a turbine and thus produces electricity. The tower is high in order to use the available land area most efficiently.

“May the Lord bless his land
with the precious dew from heaven above
and with the deep waters that lie below;
with the best the sun brings forth.”
Deuteronomy 33:13-14

Until recently Israel was slow to develop solar technology, hampered by bureaucracy, limited government funding and distracted by the discovery of giant Mediterranean natural gas fields. Now, however, the nation wants to leap ahead with a large project representative of its aspirations. The national goal is to move from its current 2.5 percent solar energy contribution to 10 percent by 2020.

This solar thermal power station, a partnership between BrightSource Energy, General Electric (GE) and NOY Infrastructure & Energy Investment Fund, aims to produce 310 megawatts of electricity.  According to BrightSource, the tower, “is one of three projects selected under Israel’s Ashalim 250 megawatt total solar tender.”

Israel’s southern region has 2 percent higher than average unemployment and so the added jobs from this project are a great boost to the local economy.

Israel as a nation produces higher than average CO2 emissions and so a shift toward solar energy will be instrumental in reducing that.

BrightSource aims to:

  • generate enough electricity at Ashalim to supply 120,000 homes with clean energy;
  • avoid 110,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year over the course of its life;
  • and to create up to 1,000 jobs at peak construction

With only around a dozen solar thermal tower power plants around the world, Israel – as a potential producer of highly advanced solar technology equipment with projects such as this – has the capacity to impact the world market with long-term environmental and cost benefits.

Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.”

Psalm 148:1-3