Feeds

Giant solar plants in Negev could power Israel's future

Payback time for the unlucky, oil-free desert?

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

DLD08 A series of solar energy power stations in the Negev could supply all of Israel's power needs - or, if you wanted to be really ambitious, you could supply all of the world's electricity needs with the aid of slightly under 10 per cent of the Sahara. So says Professor David Faiman of Israel's Ben-Gurion University, man with a plan and current proprietor of the largest solar energy dish in the world.

The Negev Desert dish is operated by Ben-Gurion's National Solar Energy Center in the Negev, and speaking at the DLD (Digital Life, Design) conference in Munich earlier this week, Center director Faiman tallied off the economics of solar power generation. Conventional solar panels are expensive, because photovoltaic cells, which combine the capability to collect energy and to convert it to electricity, are themselves expensive.

One route to cutting the cost is being pursued by Nanosolar (Nanosolar director of products Roby Stancel was speaking at the same session as Faiman), which is printing the cells onto thin sheets. Taking a different approach, the Negev plant uses large curved glass mirrors to focus sunlight onto a 10cm x 10cm area of cells. Both routes have their advantages - if Nanosolar's price promises are fulfilled, then solar sheets could be cheap enough and thin enough to put anywhere and everywhere, while the dish approach could be applied cost-effectively to large scale power plants, up to and including 10 per cent of the Sahara. "We're effectively reducing the cost of photovoltaic by a factor of 1,000," says Faiman.

Cost has been a major brake on the take-up of solar power, and Faiman points out that solar has only caught on in countries like Germany, where it is subsidised. There, electricity suppliers are obliged to buy in surplus power from domestic solar systems at more than the market rate, which makes solar an attractive option for German consumers, despite Germany being relatively unattractive from the point of view of available sunlight. According a Faiman a German rooftop would produce the equivalent of one barrel of oil over two years, whereas the same roof in the Negev would do it in one.

This favourable economic climate also means that one of Nanosolar's first contracts is for a 1MW solar power station in Eastern Germany.

Faiman explains how solar could fix Israel's power requirements in 1 Gigawatt units. A single 1GW solar plant would be comparable in output to a large conventional power station, and would cost €1 billion to build. One plant would produce 2 Terawatt Hours of electricity every year, which would be enough to cover annual growth in Israel's power demand. With each plant producing the equivalent of €200 million, the first five plants pay for the sixth. Assuming a 30 year lifespan for each plant, in year 29 you have to start building two per year (unless, presumably, you think you've got enough electricity by then, or you've run out of customers and/or desert).

"This works after a fashion anywhere except Antarctica," says Faiman.

The amount of space the plants take up will depend on the efficiency of the cells - Faiman sees cells of 60 per cent efficiency being feasible, and it ultimately being possible to build 1GW plants on 5 km. sq. apiece.

Gotchas? Solar doesn't work at night, and Faiman concedes that storage of energy is therefore an issue. But if, say, you had a country that was switching over to electric cars, then much of the power for transportation would effectively be stored in batteries. Faiman also suggests that solar power could be used to split seawater into oxygen and hydrogen, giving you a supply of clean and portable fuel. This possibly presents a snag for anybody planning Sahara plant, but hey, Libya has a coastline and seawater, and Gaddafi's on our side now, right? ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.