Solar Energy: Tulip Flower Power

Solar Panels

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 Tabernas. The company’s new technology encompasses 52 heliostat solar panels that move along with the sun, reflecting the sunlight to be collected by a solar receiver. In front of the solar panels group 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.

Each flower tower can generate 100 kilowatts of electricity and 170 kilowatts of heat energy as a byproduct in a single hour. The heat energy can be used for other purposes like desalination and cooling.

Furthermore, a small diesel fuel tank is supported by the tulip tower, which serves as a backup during cloudy weather and nighttime, enabling it to work around 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 worldwide. The company will continue 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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