AORA Solar develops applied ultra-high temperature concentrated solar power (CSP). Shifra Mincer recently interviewed AORA CEO Zev Rosenzweig for Greenprophet: Rosenzweig says his company’s hybrid solar thermal technology, which was launched in prototype test form in both Kibbutz Samar, Israel and Spain, has been revised and reconfigured based on a series of tests and is now ready for the global market. The company has fully retrofitted about a dozen features of its 100 kW thermal solar tower system, including aspects of both the heliostats that collect thermal energy from the sun and the tulip-shaped tower at the center that collects the heat and contains the system’s generator.
The new heliostats are smaller and cheaper than the previous ones, allowing for more direct reflection from the sun to the tower, and are made in Israel. Smaller mirrors, Rosenzweig said, allow for rounder reflection patterns, which means more of the energy can be collected by the tower, as opposed to larger mirrors that create a more oval-shaped reflection.
Unlike other solar thermal plants, that store the sun’s energy for use at night with molten salts or other heat-storing mediums, AORA’s tower churns a generator when the air inside its tulip-shaped tower reaches 1000 degrees Celsius. If a cloudy or rainy day lowers the temperature inside the tower, or if its nighttime and the sun is down, the tower’s mechanism automatically begins to burn gas that continues to power the generator.
“Our philosophy is that storage is inefficient and instead of storing energy we burn the gas during non-solar times. That is a much more efficient use of resources,” Rosenzweig said.
Rosenzweig said he hopes that AORA’s tower can soon be filled with biofuel as the back-up for solar instead of a fossil fuel, like natural gas. But for the time being, the improvements to the solar system will allow for a bigger percentage of the system’s 100 kW to be powered from the sun.
He added that the new system is more stable than before. “We haven’t had a shutdown or none performance in the month that we’ve been operating it since the retrofit,” Rosenzweig said of the Samar plant, which is already grid-connected a feeding 100 kw/hour into the Israeli national electricity grid.
AORA is looking to the international market to sell its product. Rosenzweig said the company has already scouted out locations in Mexico and in Arizona, US, but the challenge has been finding local teams to help with development at those sites.
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