By SHARON UDASIN 02/08/2012 23:15
A team of Americans plans to bring the solar tulip technology of Yavne-based AORA Solar to the sprawling Arizona desert.
AORA ‘power flower’ solar thermal power station By Sharon Udasin
A team of Americans plans to bring the solar tulip technology of Yavne-based AORA Solar to the sprawling desert of Phoenix, Arizona.

The second generation “power flower,” as AORA chief technology officer Pinchas Doron dubbed the system, was launched on Tuesday at a ceremony at the Platforma Solara Almeria research and development park in the desert hills of Andalucia, southern Spain.

Amid a sea of 52 heliostat solar panels, which revolve according to the sun’s light along two axes, a 35-meter tulip-shaped tower holds a solar receiver that heats the air to 1,000-degrees Celsius to power a gas turbine. The company’s first plant opened at Kibbutz Samar in the Arava near Eilat in June 2009.

One flower alone can supply 100 kilowatts of electricity and generate 170 kilowatts of heat energy as a byproduct, which can be used to power external facilities such as desalination plants. Meanwhile, sitting under the flower is a small diesel tank – which can also use natural gas or other power sources – that switches on when night falls and the receiver is no longer receiving solar rays, AORA CEO Zev Rosensweig told The Jerusalem Post at the site on Tuesday.

By bringing two of these flowers for research and demonstration in the arid climate Phoenix, the American collaborators will generate 200 kilowatts of electricity at a site that can act as a model for the US Southwest and beyond, the team said.

“They don’t have to come all the way to Europe to see it,” said Michael Horner, CEO of Phoenix-based Sisener Engineering NA Corp., which also has offices in Spain, Italy, Ecuador and Peru.

Horner and his colleagues have pinned down a location for the facility in downtown Phoenix, and he said it would operate as a research and demonstration hub not only for the US, but also for Mexico and South American nations.

They are in negotiations with a large gas company that may fund the venture, and Horner plans to back up his solar flowers with natural gas.

The hope is to start with the demonstration facility and then build a commercial version in the southwest US, Horner said.

A hybrid system such as AORA’s is much more efficient than a similar solar-thermal system that stores solar energy for off-hours, rather than using an alternative fuel back-up, Horner said.

“You can have gas on site and it acts as storage,” he said. “We think that this will provide much firmer power for utilities and it’s obviously a scale-able size.”

Among its many potential uses, the AORA apparatus could help in mining operations, said Scott Freymuller, of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Young Power Equipment.

“This would be good in a mining application where they have issues of power delivery,” he said.

The flexibility of the system is also a critical advantage to using the flower, according to Freymuller, who stressed the importance of its “constant power” function.

“This technology can operate on a stand-alone [independent of the power grid system],” added Daniel Girard, director of renewable energy and energy storage in the business development department of Chicago-based S&C Electric Company.

“It can run 24 hours a day.”