Israel is blessed with abundant sunshine and has long been a pioneer in solar energy. With construction starting in early 2014 on a 121 Megawatt solar power station, the country will be taking a big step in achieving its goal of producing 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The Ashalim power plant will be located in the Negev desert near Kibbutz Ashalim south of the city of Be’er Sheva, and when it’s completed in 2016 it will be the biggest solar power station in Israel with enough capacity to power 40,000 homes. The new solar station is being developed by Megalim Solar Power — a joint venture between U.S.-based solar power company Brightsource Energy and French power and transport company Alstom.

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Brightsource originally started in Israel as a company called Luz, so the Ashalim power plant will be a homecoming of sorts. In addition to breaking ground on the $1.1 billion solar thermal plant in Israel, Brightsource is developing the world’s largest solar thermal plant — a 377 Megawatt solar farm in California’s Mojave desert called Ivanpah. Brightsource solar thermal plants deploy heliostat mirrors that direct sunlight to solar power towers that create steam to drive turbines.

The BrightSource-Alstom Megalim plant is one of three projects at the Ashalim site, which will generate 250 MW of electricity at full capacity – that’s enough to cover 2.5 percent of Israeli energy consumption. When all three projects are online, Ashalim will become the fifth largest solar power station in the world.

“The government gave us a very good structure and we appreciate it very much,” BrightSource Israel CEO Israel Kroizer told the website ISRAEL21c. “The way we will run this project is as though it will be the crown jewel of all our projects. Yes, even over our project in California.”

Via Environmental News Network

Images via Brightsource Energy