Three years after Israel first announced plans for an enormous solar power station, the project is progressing nicely. The 121 MW Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station is under construction in the sunny Negev desert, and currently ranks as Israel’s largest renewable energy project to date. When it begins operating sometime in 2018, the power station will feature an 820-foot-tall solar tower, which will be the tallest in the world.
This solar project, as well as others in development, will give Israel a huge push forward toward its goal of supplying 10 percent of its energy needs with renewables by 2020. Once completed, the project will power 130,000 households.
The Ashalim solar project was initially projected for completion by the end of 2017, but a recent update shifts the timeline into 2018. The solar power station features a field of over 50,000 mirrors spanning 740 acres, which reflect the sun’s energy back to a centrally located tower.
Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems like this one are fast becoming the trend in large-scale solar power projects, because of their high energy output. Once operational, the solar tower will generate around 310 megawatts of power, which equates to about 1.6 percent of the country’s energy needs, according to Israel’s Electricity Authority.
The Ashalim solar tower is backed by BrightSource Energy, General Electric (GE) and NOY Infrastructure & Energy Investment Fund, and it is just one of three plots that make up the power station. A second solar-thermal plot will store solar energy after sunset, and a third will house photovoltaic solar technology to produce even more energy.
Despite it’s staggering height of 820 feet and designation as the world’s tallest CSP tower, the Ashalim solar power plant doesn’t come close to taking the title of “world’s largest,” which currently belongs to Dubai’s 1,000-MW CSP project. However, Israel’s largest renewable energy project does set the bar quite high by contributing toward the nation’s energy goal, which quadruples current clean energy production.