Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants are an amazing, wonderful, renewable energy technology, as long as the sun is shining. However solar power alone cannot provide on-demand power, especially in the case of off-grid applications. Aora Solar, out of Yavne, Israel, is almost complete with the world’s first ever solar hybrid plant, which will combine concentrated solar power with a hybrid-microturbine to generate power 24 hours a day. This technology could help provide off-grid communities the necessary power without having to run miles of costly transmission lines.
Installation of the new hybrid system is less than 10 days away from being completed at the Kibbutz Sammar in Israel. Once up and running on June 24th, the plant will generate 100 kW of on-demand power plus 170 kW of thermal power. The plant consists of 30 heliostats (mirrors) that track the sun and direct its rays up to the 30-meter tall tower, where all the sunlight from the heliostats is concentrated. This concentrated sunlight heats compressed air, which drives an electric turbine. The tower itself is a welcome change from other power towers we have seen in the past – it actually looks good with its tulip flower shape.
The hybrid part of the plant allows for on-demand power due to its inline microturbine. When the sun has set for the day or if it is cloudy, biodiesel, natural gas, or bio fuels can be used to run the microturbine, which then drives the electric turbine. The hybrid system has the capacity to power 70 homes 24/7.
A hybrid system like this has the potential to provide distributed generation or off-grid power to communities, companies or factories. As production of bio fuels becomes more efficient and sustainable, we’re hoping to see more and more hybrid solar concentrating systems.