But the problem has remained of how to use solar energy without any sun – when it gets dark! An Israeli company thinks it might have found the answer.
Brenmiller Energy, an alternative energy company, has announced that it will build a 10-megawatt solar field in the town of Dimona in southern Israel. The facility will be able to generate electricity for around 20 hours a day – so even when the sun has gone down!
The project is the first of its kind and will be based on an innovative storage technology that the company has developed, combining existing solar thermal energy with an underground system that stores heat to use at night.
The technology comprises of a of a solar field and an energy center. The system allows the heat from the solar field to be stored and then releases it as steam directly into a turbine inlet.
This one-way process, means that the energy center can act as a “buffer” between the solar field and the power block, and dispatch the power of the sun’s heat when it is needed.
The facility will be backed up by biomass to produce power during the four hours of the day that solar energy can’t be utilized.
“Solar power stations integrating storage and backed up by biomass are the best solution for producing electricity in Israel,” Brenmiller Energy CEO Avi Brenmiller said.
“Biomass alone cannot meet electricity demand but combining it with solar energy and storage represents the cheapest and cleanest alternative.”
Brenmiller Energy expects that the project will be completed in early 2017.