Technology

Oct 1, 2016

No reason to cover the sun

Although inventions already exist that allow us to create sustainable electricity for personal use such as bikes, water turbines that generate energy through stream currents, none of them provides enough electricity for sustaining a home, for example.

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Nowadays, electricity is generated in various ways, in power stations through different technologies and primary sources of energy, such as coal, natural gas, and petrol. However, these resources are not only extremely pollutant, but they are finite as well: ever more scarce, more expensive, and one day they will inevitably end. This is where the renewable energies come in – water, wind, sun, among others.

In the sunny Israel, there is a project underway that aims precisely to increase the level of renewable energy produced. The 121 MW Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station is in construction since 2014, and is predicted to be finished by the end of 2017, situated in the Negev Desert, in Israel. It is one of the biggest power stations of its kind, for which a company was created specifically to idealize it. Megalim Solar Power Ltd is in charge of constructing and operating this project. It is a BOT company (Build – Operate - Transfer), composed of the American companies GE and BrightSource, and NOY Infrastructure & Energy Investment Fund, from Israel.

The station will work by means of thousands of computer controlled mirrors, called heliostats, set over an area of 3.25km2, that follow the Sun in two axes. The light is reflected in special boiler, called Solar Receiver Steam Generator (SRSG), located at the top of a 240m high tower.

Because they move in alignment with the sun, like a sunflower, the heliostats feature a number of advantages in comparison with the photovoltaic panels. While the latter have a production capacity that varies a lot due to its immobility, and that furthermore decreases in days with little sun, the heliostats produce in a more constant way, taking a good advantage of the sunny hours, and can be stable even in cloudy days. Besides, they can be installed in uneven terrains, something that is not possible with photovoltaic panels.

According to information released by BrightSource, in March 2016 the project already had 1000 construction workers on site, and at that time, 6000 heliostats had already been installed, and the construction of the tower had begun. The unit will include two thermal solar projects, and one photovoltaic project. It is estimated that this station will produce close to 300 MW of energy.

Under a long-term power purchase agreement, a part of the energy generated at Ashalim will be sold to the Government of Israel, enough to provide 120,000 homes with ecological energy, thus helping the country to achieve its commitment of generating 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. With this power station, 110,000 tones a year of CO2 emissions are expected to be avoided.

We are entering a new Era. Because electricity is a rising necessity, it has to be easily produced and accessed. With some dedication, luck, and investment, it is possible to produce enough renewable energy to supply the whole world. There are various sources of renewables: the currents of the rivers and oceans, the wind, the sun. There are many starting points for the expansion of renewable energy. Nowadays, the main power stations work through extremely pollutant means and methods, daily reducing life quality in this Planet, but it is possible to shift to a more sustainable way of life. If there is a Sun to give us energy, there is no need to cover it with pollution.

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