When at full capacity, the gigantic solar plant will provide enough electricity to power 130,000 houses. The project, located in the Negev desert, is divided into three phases, with a fourth planned for the future. Each phase will have different solar technology. The complex will be the largest renewable energy project in Israel, with some 310 MW peak of power.
With an economy traditionally linked to fossil fuels, Israel is one of the countries with the smallest percentage of renewable energies in its energy mix, 2.5%. To change the trend and meet its international commitments, Israel has set a target of 10% renewables in 2020, to which the Ashalim CSP plant will contribute substantially.
Work began in 2016 and is due to be completed, according to the roadmap, in 2018. Once completed, it will feature the largest solar tower in the world. One of the four phases is dedicated to concentrating solar thermal energy . This solar plant will use 50,000 heliostats to focus a large area of sunlight on a small area at the top of the 250-meter tower. The energy that is concentrated is transformed into heat, used to drive a steam turbine that powers an electric power generator.
The plant covers an area of approximately 300 hectares – almost as much as 400 soccer fields – and has an estimated cost of 500 million euros. The investment has been carried out by General Electric, the French Alstom, in addition to an Israeli private investment fund. The government of Israel has committed to buying the electricity for up to 25 years after commissioning.
The size of the mirrors is three times the size of the previous generation, everything is connected via Wi-Fi instead of cables. On the other hand, the tower and the boiler are specially designed to reduce costs. Everything has been designed looking for maximum profitability.
The other phases of the project are an energy storage facility and traditional photovoltaic systems that convert sunlight directly into electricity.