The tallest solar power ever built is under construction in Israel, and developers hope the launch will energize the technology, which hasn't been able to make a dent in the solar market, hit particularly hard by low oil prices in recent years. Soren Larson reports.
The world's tallest solar power tower is being built off a desert highway in southern Israel. Its backers hope a smooth launch will boost the technology, a minor player in the solar market, which has been hit in recent years by low oil prices. The Israeli tower is expected to reach 240 meters - that's 787 feet - when completed next year, the equivalent of a respectable New York City skyscraper. Eran Gartner is the CEO of Megalim Solar Power, the company building the 121 megawatt tower. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF MEGALIM SOLAR POWER, ERAN GARTNER SAYING: "A million square meters of mirrors surround our power tower. Our power tower will be amongst the tallest and therefore allow the highest energy density of any of these plants. We have advanced controls through WiFi towers that are spread out throughout the plant and we use the latest generation of steam power technologies, steam turbines and generators provided by General Electric." Gartner says it will supply up to one percent of Israel's electricity. But in solar power it's all about producing the cheapest electricity. And to date, concentrated solar power (CSP) has been limited because it has only proven cost-efficient on large scale projects. Gartner says his company hopes to change that with the $773 million (USD) tower. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF MEGALIM SOLAR POWER, ERAN GARTNER SAYING: "We're making strides in efficiency, we're making strides in compressing the time of construction, .... we're going down a learning curve that will help us to offer solar energy at the most competative rates." Some cost-saving advancements have already been made. The tower's height allows a denser set-up that requires less land than in previous projects. And the mirrors are controlled over a dedicated Wifi network, rather than by expensive cables. And there's another upshot -- the tower is bird friendly. Avian experts say that nearly all flocks flying by are higher than the tower.