ZenithSolar, an Israeli startup, has just turned on a new solar farm that consists of a system of rotating dishes to produce electricity and thermal energy. The dishes, which are made up of mirrors and concentrated photovoltaic solar cells, track the sun to harness up to 75% of the incoming light to generate electricity, and then their water based cooling system uses the heat from the concentrated solar rays to generate hot water. Their first farm, located on Israel’s coastal plain near Ashdod consists of 16 Z20 dishes, and will generate about half of the total energy needs of the local 200 family community.
“By using mirrors to concentrate the sun’s light, you cut down by 1,000 the amount of photovoltaic material you need, and you’ve essentially opened the door to affordable photovoltaics,” explains Professor David Faiman, the chairman of the Solar Energy and Environmental Physics department at Ben-Gurion University, a ZenithSolar partner. “The beauty of the mirror-based system is that since you have to cool it, you can get 50 percent more energy out of it in the form of hot water.”
ZenithSolar feels that once the $15,000 cost of each Z20 is paid for, any electricity and hot water costs would be mostly based on maintenance costs, rather than fuel costs. They feel that their solar dishes can be competitive with fossil fuel in any sunny climate.