Thursday, January 17, 2008

Finance and Infrastructures Ministries in dispute over technology for Israel's first solar power station

"If the Ministry of National Infrastructures insists on building a photovoltaic power station at Ashelim in the Negev, it will have to pay producers four times more per kilowatt/hour than for a thermal power station," Solel Solar Systems Ltd. EVP and CTO Eli Mandelberg told "Globes". He made the comment in response to the dispute between the Ministries of Finance and National Infrastructures over the technology to be used in Israel's first solar powered station.

Solel Solar is building solar power stations using its proprietary thermal technology developed several years ago. The company is expected to participate in the tender for the 250 megawatt solar power plant at Ashalim in the Negev. Mandelberg said that all tenders for solar power stations currently being published around the world are based on thermal solar energy, rather than photovoltaic energy, because it is too expensive. For this reason, photovoltaic technology is mainly used for small household or communications facilities, which cannot be linked up to electricity grids.

Mandelberg added that countries interested in photovoltaic technology are those willing to pay household electricity producers a premium to sell the electricity to the grid. Even then, only small electricity producers are involved. He said that if the Ministry of National Infrastructures insists, Israel would become the first country in the world to build a large photovoltaic power station. "It's easy to understand the Ministry of Finance's objections to the idea, since we're talking about a large expenditure on an immature technology. The Ministry of National Infrastructures isn't looking at the economic side of the picture, but wants to participate in technological development," he said.

Photovoltaic technology in based on the using silicon crystals to convert light rays into electricity. Thermal solar energy uses parabolic mirrors to collect sunlight and convert into heat to generate steam, which in turn operates turbines to produce electricity.