Israel and China seem to be agreeing on more and more these days. On Tuesday, investors from the two countries announced they would be jointly funding a new solar thermal venture in Israel’s Negev Desert, the HelioBooster, Jerusalem Post reported. Still in its demonstration phase, the technology was created by Israeli solar company, HelioFocus, which–since its founding in 2007–has been succesfully pursuing both the Chinese and Israeli markets.
The HelioBooster is a large dish that acts like smaller heliostat mirrorswould for a conventional solar thermal plant (CSP). Capturing and reflecting sunlight, it can heat the surrounding air up to 650 degrees Celsius. That air is channeled through a heat exchange system that produces steam that spins a turbine. According to company officials, the technology is more efficient and uses less land space than traditional CSP solar technology.
The dish was unveiled on Tuesday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Roten Industrial Park for high-tech located in Israel’s Negev desert. Aside from Chinese officials, like Ambassador Gao Yanping, Israeli Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau attended the ceremony to boast of his cabinet’s commitment to green energy.
The Israeli government has been the focus of much criticism recently as government quotas for solar installations have run out and the jump in natural gas prices has caused electricity bills to soar. After the ceremony, Jerusalem Post reported, Landau said the Public Utility Authority is considering to increase rooftop solar quotas for the summer.
In mid-April, five solar companies asked te government to cut their subsidy rates by 17%–meaning they would receive 75 instead of 90 agorot per kWh of power produced–if small-scale solar producers, like rooftops owners, could sell as much electricity as they produce.
If the government agrees, it will be another victory for the Israeli solar market which has been slowly picking up steam in recent months. In a continuing effort to reach the goal of 10% renewable power by 2020, Israel has recently been issuing a slew of new solar licences, including a 120 MW thermal solar plant that will be built outside Kibbutz Zeelim and a 60 MW thermal solar plant to be constructed outside Kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh, both located in the Negev Desert and estimated to be operational by 2014.
In early February, Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources announced the issuing of 19 additional licenses for mid-sized projects for a total of 27 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar power. Israel’s first and currently only large-scale solar plant is a 5 MW facility in Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev built by Arava Power.
But HelioFocus may help Israel capture even more solar power. Although it requires only 500 square meters of land for its base, the unit can produce about 130 kW of electricity, numbers that are currently higher than most PV systems.
With large-scale deployment, such a system could easily produce 2,500 of solar-powered elecitity per year for Israel, said Eli Mandelberg, executive vice president of HelioFocus, at the ribbon-cutting.