World’s Tallest Solar Tower Going Up in Negev

A crane lifts huge mirrors during construction of the solar-power tower in the Negev. (Reuters)
A crane lifts huge mirrors during construction of the solar-power tower in the Negev. (Reuters)

The tallest solar energy installation in the world is rising sunward in the Negev desert.

A 787-foot high solar tower is currently being built there by the Israel-based Megalim Solar Power, which when completed will generate up to 121 megawatts of power, providing about 1 percent of Israel’s electricity consumption. The project is expected to reach full height and come online by late 2017.

Israel is aiming to generate 10% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

While most solar energy is produced by photovoltaic panels which can be installed anywhere, solar towers are large-scale projects that use concentrated solar power generated by thousands of mirrors that project the sun’s rays.

The Ashalim solar tower in the Negev is surrounded by 50,000 computer-controlled mirrors which are larger than those used in previous projects, and controlled over a dedicated Wifi network rather than cables, which is expected to cut production costs. The mirrors track the sun and concentrate sunlight onto a boiler on top of the tower. Utilizing the high temperatures and high pressure, the steam turbine will be able to generate sufficient electricity to supply 120,000 homes with clean energy each year, at an annual savings of 110,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

The project also takes into account another aspect of environmental protection: protecting wild life. In order to prevent heat from the mirrors harming the millions of birds that migrate over Israel each year, the tower will ward off the birds by spraying vaporized grape skin extract and emitting sounds of natural predators.