Solar Energy: Tulip Flower Power

Image Credit: AORA Solar Ltd.

An odd, bright yellow tulip-shaped tower rises above the dry strip mountains of Andalucia in Southern Spain.  Surrounded by a sea of solar panels reflecting the sun’s light, this tower is a gas turbine solar thermal station launched by an Israeli company, AORA Solar in the Platforma Solara de Almeria solar research and development park.

AORA Solar, a developer of applied ultra-high-temperature concentrated solar power (CSP) opened its first plant at Kibbutz Samar in the Arava near Eilat in June 2009. Its next plant is located about 35 kilometres from the waterfront city of Almeria in the town of Tabernas. The new technology developed by the company encompasses of 52 heliostat solar panels that move along with the sun, reflecting the sunlight to be collected by a solar receiver. In front of the group of solar panels, is a 35-meter tulip shaped tower with a solar receiver and a gas turbine that captures the incoming sunlight transmitted by the panels. The folded petal designs heat the air to 1000°C using the sunlight to power the turbine.

In a single hour, each flower tower is able to generate 100 kilowatts of electricity and 170 kilowatts of heat energy as a byproduct. The heat energy can be used to for other purposes like desalination and cooling.

Furthermore, the tulip tower is supported by a small diesel fuel tank which serves as a backup during cloudy weather and nighttime, enabling it to work round the clock even in unpredictable weather.

AORA chief technology officer Pinchas Doron said that soon there would be much more “power flower” facility towers throughout Spain and around the world. The company will continue to strive to increase the heat output by adding an absorption chiller to the system, which will convert the hot air to cool air.

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