Concentrated power Technology

Energy Matters0

Concentrated solar power technology

Zenith Solar, based in Nes Ziona a suburb of Tel Aviv, is a pioneer in a new type of solar energy that uses mirrors and lenses to focus and intensify the sun’s light, producing far more electricity at lower cost. Compared with traditional flat photovoltaic panels made of silicon, this so-called concentrated solar power technology has proved in tests to be up to five times more efficient. That puts it on the verge of being competitive with oil and natural gas, even without government subsidies.

Since it was founded in 2006, the startup has raised $5 million from private investors in Israel and the U.S. Now it’s trying to raise an additional $10 million to $15 million to cover the cost of commercializing its technology.

Zenith bought the rights to the solar technology from Ben-Gurion University and Germanys Fraunhofer Institute. A joint Israeli-German research team from the two organizations designed a working prototype, which consists of a 10-sq.-meter dish lined with curved mirrors made from composite materials. The mirrors focus the sun’s radiation onto a 15.5-sq.-in.) generator that converts light to electricity. The generator also gives off intense heat, which is captured via a water-cooling system for residential or industry hot-water uses.

Tested over the past few years at Israel’s National Solar Center in the Negev desert, the prototype achieved astounding results: A concentration of solar energy that was more than 1,000 times greater than standard flat panels. One of the biggest advantages of Zenith Solar’s approach, especially in today’s market, is its limited use of polysilicon. Skyrocketing global demand for traditional photovoltaic panels has led to a worldwide shortage of the material and lifted prices tenfold in the past four years.

After further refining the technology, Zenith plans in the coming months to take its first major steps toward commercialization. Two large-scale test installations are planned for this summer at a kibbutz and a factory. The company will put 86 of its 7-meter-high dishes on an acre of land at Kibbutz Yavne to provide the community of 250 families with more than a quarter of their energy needs. The second project will replace fuel oil used to produce heat at a large chemical plant in central Israel. Once these projects are operational, Zenith plans to begin commercial sales in Israel in 2009 and then overseas, says CEO Segev.

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