Thursday, April 3, 2008

ZenithSolar featured in BusinessWeek

ZenithSolar, which is developing an innovative concentrator photovoltaic technology, was recently featured in BusinessWeek.

Concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) uses mirrors and/or lenses to focus and intensify the sun's light, thus producing more electricity at lower cost than traditional photovoltaic panels.

"Our goal is to utilize every suitable roof, backyard, and open space in Israel to turn households, hotels, and factories into net producers of electricity and thermal heat," says Roy Segev, the founder and chief executive of ZenithSolar. Founded in 2006, the company has raised $5 million from a handful of private investors in Israel and the U.S. Now, according to BusinessWeek, it is trying to raise an additional $10 million to $15 million to cover the cost of commercializing its technology.

Zenith, which is based in Nes Ziona, bought the rights to its solar technology from Ben Gurion University (BGU) and Germany's Fraunhofer Institute. A joint Israeli-German research team from the two institutions designed a working prototype, which consists of a 10-sq.-meter (107.6-sq.-ft.) dish lined with curved mirrors made from composite materials. The mirrors focus the sun's radiation onto a 100-sq.-centimeter (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 industrial hot-water uses.

The prototype has been tested over the last few years at Israel's National Solar Energy Center in Sde Boker in the Negev desert. Professor David Faiman, Director of the National Solar Energy Center, is Zenith's chief scientific officer.

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 start commercial sales in Israel in 2009 and then to go abroad.