BrightSource Energy, Inc., a concentrating solar power technology (CSP) company, announced advanced solar field technologies currently being deployed at the 121MW Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station located in Israel’s Negev Desert. The fourth generation of BrightSource’s solar field technologies features improvements to the heliostats, solar field communications network and solar field control system. These technologies are designed to further optimize power production, reduce construction time and lower project costs.
The 392 MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, located in California’s Mojave Desert, is the world’s largest CSP tower project and is entering its third year of operation. The Ashalim project, which is now under construction, builds on the experience gained at Ivanpah. BrightSource’s technologies being deployed at Ashalim are designed to deliver performance improvements in all areas of solar field operations.
“Ashalim is a showcase of the CSP industry’s most advanced solar field technologies,” said David Ramm, CEO and Chairman for BrightSource Energy. “These innovations reflect BrightSource’s ongoing commitment to deliver best-in-class solar thermal and energy storage solutions around the globe.”
New Heliostat Design Improves Performance and Lowers Cost
With fewer components and an easier assembly, new heliostats cost less and can be installed much faster. BrightSource’s latest design measures 4 x 5.2 meters, 25 percent larger compared to Ivanpah. Each heliostat consists of four flat, low-iron glass mirrors that provide maximum reflectivity for the life of the project. The new streamlined design maximizes the total reflective surface within the constraints of the mechanical drive systems and allowable wind load. Precision steel parts, including a torque tube, support arms and connectors, ensure rigidity and reliability in desert conditions for more than 25 years.
Dual-Axis Trackers Now Powered by the Sun
Each heliostat is individually controlled and features an integrated, dual-axis tracking system capable of 360 degree positioning. Movement is powered by a small photovoltaic panel and rechargeable lithium-ion battery power supply unit. Other components include a control module, azimuth drive system, and elevation drive system. This system significantly reduces electrical wiring and cabling in the solar field. Long-term reliability is also improved.
Industry First Wireless Solar Field Communications and Control
BrightSource’s solar field integrated control system (SFINCS) manages the distribution of energy across the solar receiver using real-time heliostat-aiming and closed-loop feedback. At Ashalim, each of the 50,600 heliostats positioned in the 3.15-square-kilometer solar field will communicate wirelessly with the SFINCS. The wireless system reduces cabling by as much as 85 percent in the solar field, further reducing costs and accelerating the construction schedule.
Ashalim represents the first deployment of the wireless SFINCS solution that was tested and independently validated at the company’s Solar Energy Development Center (SEDC), a fully operational “sun-to-steam” solar demonstration facility used to test equipment, materials and procedures as well as construction and operating methods.
Latest Proprietary Software Algorithms Allow for Increased Energy Production
The latest version of SFINCS – BrightSource’s proprietary optimization and control software – maximizes project performance and power production efficiencies. These new algorithms enable increased heliostat density that yields higher energy output per square meter of the solar field.
Ashalim Construction Update
With more than 1,000 construction workers on site, the construction of the Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station is on track. To date, more than 22,000 pylons have been installed in the solar field and more than 6,000 heliostats have been assembled and installed onsite. Additionally, the power block is starting to take shape with the majority of the earthwork completed, and construction of the 250 meter tower has begun. The facility is scheduled to be completed in late 2017.