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CSP innovators, Part II


In Part I of this feature, REFocus contributor David Appleyard introduced readers to some of the leading solar energy innovators at Israel’s Rotem Industrial Park. His reporting continues in Part II of this exclusive feature.

Another of the companies currently enjoying Rotem’s culture of collaboration is HelioFocus, which in May 2012 installed a 35-metre high parabolic reflector at the centre. Designed to use air as the heat transfer fluid, it is heated to 650°C – a considerably higher temperature than most solar thermal technologies. The 360 kWth about 130 kWe net peak system was the first demonstrator of a $3 million project to boost the Ramat Hovav thermal power plant, also located in the south of Israel, initially with a further 1 MW of capacity. If all phases of the Ramat-Hovav project are completed the power station will be boosted at about 12 MW in all.

The co-called HelioBooster™ technology – first developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science, which also received start-up funding from the Israeli Ministry of Energy and Water - generates steam under conditions that can be directly introduced to the turbine’s main steam line in thermal power plants. 

Established in 2007, HelioFocus’ major investors are IC Green Energy (ICG) – the investment branch of the Renewable Energies Division of the Israel Corporation – with the Sanhua Holding Group’s Zhejiang Sanhua Company

Commenting at the installation of the demonstrator Dr Yom Tov Samia, Chairman of HelioFocus, observed: “The real challenges are ahead, to convert successful technology to a successful commercial size”.

To that end, in 2013, HelioFocus signed a series of agreements with Sanhua and other Chinese players for the construction of solar boosting stations adjacent to existing thermal plant. The first, to construct on a 10 MW project at a 600 MW coal-fired power station in Inner Mongolia for Chinese energy company Taiqing, could reportedly expand to 60 MW eventually. The development will be undertaken jointly with China Guodian Corporation, one of China’s largest generation companies and now in further planned developments with HeliFocus.

This was followed in October 2013 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding — again with state-owned Taiqing — to develop up to 200 MW of solar thermal boosting capacity for coal-fired power plants, again in Inner Mongolia, in a deal worth around $340 million. Construction is expected to begin in 2015, parallel to the development of a planned 600 MW coal-fired plant. The memorandum marks the second stage of an overall plan for a solar city in the region.

Another high-profile concentrating solar thermal technology being developed at Rotem comes from Brenmiller Energy, a company founded in 2012 by Avi Brenmiller, the former CEO of Siemens CSP and Solel, which had been acquired by the German engineering giant for $418 million in 2009 before Siemens walked away from its investment in late 2012. 

Brenmiller’s bCell™ module is a parabolic trough solar steam boiler producing steam at standard conditions of 500°C and 100 bar or more. Comprising a solar field and a storage media similar to cement which is buried around two metres below the solar collectors, each bCell produces 1.5 MWe – 2.25 MWe, depending on site conditions. The storage acts as a ‘buffer’ between the solar field and the power block, eliminating integration complexity and allowing full dispatch capabilities. Based on this cost effective storage, Brenmiller claims to achieve around a 50% cost reduction compared to traditional thermo solar systems.

The 1.5 MW, 6 hectare demonstration site at Rotem is connected to Israel's national grid and a number of 10 to 20 MW pilots are expected to follow with the company planning to raise some $50 million for a full-scale factory and marketing effort.

Similarly, another thermal energy storage technology is under development in-house at Rotem, based on patented phase-change materials technology. The so-called Thermal Energy Storage System is a low cost, high temperature storage design with a typical capacity of 10 – 200 MWh thermal and a temperature of up to 400
°C. With a high specific thermal capacity and high rate of heat charging and discharging, advances in nano-materials sciences are behind the breakthrough.

Helioris Solar Systems
is another CSP technology company that has relied on Rotem for early support with the Rotem Renewable Energy Center a founding partner in developing the technology which was initially funded by the Ashkelon Technology Incubator.

According to Meni Maor, director of business development, at Rotem, Maor, the renewable energy research center is actively seeking new ideas and establishing technological and business ties and collaborating with scientists, academic institutions, industrial entities and financial organisations. The goal, he said, is to discover what he calls “breakthrough business and technology concepts.” Another aim is to seek out ways to commercialize renewable energy inventions and innovative technologies. 

Indeed, Rotem has engaged with around 400 companies over the last four years, most in early stage development. Maor explains that they work as quickly as possible to go to market. “Most fail, but some few succeed.”

See Part I of this feature for more information on innovative research under way at Rotem Industrial Park.


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This article is featured in:
Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling




07 February 2015
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

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