Shikun u?Binui launches Arava concentrating solar thermal power plant in Israel

Environment and infrastructure firm Shikun u’Binui (Housing & Construction Holding Company) launched its concentrating solar thermal power research and development facility in the Arava Desert on Wednesday, an experimental site that precedes a 120- megawatt commercial version to be completed in 2015.

The concentrated solar power (CSP) facility includes about 100 parabolic troughs that shift along one axis according to the sun’s light, for maximum absorption efficiency, construction site manager Ofer Ben-David explained. Parallel to the ground at the troughs’ midsections runs a closed pipeline in which circulating oil heats to nearly 400- degrees Celsius and can be reused in the system for up to 30 years, Ben-David said.

Although the pilot site will not actually generate any electricity, the amount of heat it emit will be equivalent to about 1 megawatt of electricity. The commercial site, also under the Arison-owned Shikun u’Binui, is slated to begin construction in 2013 and be completed in 2015.

The company has already received its conditional license from the Public Utility Authority, and has submitted both its permit application to the National Planning and Building Committee and received accreditation by the United Nations, according to Ben-David.

Unlike the pilot site, which contains only 100 troughs, the commercial site will hold about 10,000, he said. While Ben-David acknowledged that solar thermal plants are by no means a new invention, he stressed that the design of this system is unique and will be continuously improved to achieve maximum efficiency.

And unlike photovoltaic fields, concentrated solar power facilities can stay on at night and in inclement weather, he added. “Solar thermal is a much more sustainable source of energy because, for example, when you have clouds with photovoltaics solar energy the electricity drops,” Ben David said.