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Clean Power AORA Tulip for Israel solar power.

Published on March 21st, 2014 | by Glenn Meyers

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ASU & AORA Solar Forge Research Partnership on Tempe Campus

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March 21st, 2014 by  

AORA Tulip for Israel solar power.

I had the pleasure of seeing AORA Solar and its CSP Tulip system two years ago when it was unveiled in Almeria, Spain. I have been waiting for the day when this exciting renewable energy platform might be tested in the United States. In an interview, CEO Zev Rosenzweig told me the company wanted to test in America as part of its long-range planning. Now the company is ready to lay down CSP roots in Tempe at the ASU campus. We look forward to reporting more good news concerning AORA Solar. More on the recent announcement is below.

Arizona State University and AORA Solar NA announce a collaboration that will begin the development of a hybrid concentrated solar system on the Tempe campus
that employs a Solar Tulip to concentrate the sun’s energy, turning it into electricity.

Temp, AZ — March 13, 2014 — Solar generated electricity, which can suffer from intermittency issues and related impacts on the grid, is about to blossom at Arizona State University. Work will now begin on the development of a hybrid concentrated solar system, following a contract signing with ASU and AORA to provide research expertise in order to enhance the efficiency of this unique technology.

ASU and AORA image003

Left to right: Gary Dirks, director of ASU LightWorks, Zev Rosenzweig, CEO of AORA Solar and John Riley, associate vice president of university business services and sustainability operations officer.

AORA Solar NA, a U.S. company, will work with a multi-disciplinary ASU team to research options to increase efficiency, improve reliability, utilize the exhaust heat and decrease the cost of this Israeli developed technology. AORA will construct the demonstration power plant, which includes a tower (approximately 100 feet high) appropriately called the Solar Tulip, on undeveloped land near the Karsten Golf Course in Tempe. The technology includes a collection of mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays to heat compressed air to more than 1800 degrees Fahrenheit and drive a gas turbine. The rated output of the Tulip system is 100 kilowatts of electricity and an additional 170 kilowatts of thermal energy, about enough energy to power between 60-80 homes.

At night, or when overcast, the Tulip can use a wide range of fuels to heat the air and is thereby able to produce power and heat round the clock. The system is modular in design, allowing for multiple Tulips to work together, enabling the technology to match growing electric demand requirements. The relatively small footprint makes this system a potentially perfect complement to housing developments, or industrial parks, and offers an option to enhance grid stability in the presence of transient renewable generation.

“ASU is a natural partner for us, not only because of its sunny location, but because of the university’s dedication to innovation and sustainability,” said Zev Rosenzweig, CEO of AORA Solar. “We are excited to make our debut here in the United States with this innovative technology where we will continue to grow and develop the Tulip into a system that cities and industries around the world use to generate continuous energy with renewable resources. ASU’s breadth of research capability will undoubtedly allow us to increase output, and reduce overall costs which will bring us to commercial viability. Our confidence in this project is enhanced with the participation of Project Director, Ellen Stechel, who has spearheaded the concept from the beginning, along with her colleagues Gary Dirks, William Brandt and the ASU LightWorks team.”

AORA Solar is currently operating two additional research facilities, one located in a solar research park in Almeria, Spain, and the original unit in Israel. These systems can be controlled remotely via computer, a unique capability that provides innovative options for possibilities in the U.S. and indeed around the world, including developing countries.

The ASU/AORA collaborative relationship will not only bring ASU closer to its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025, but it will also benefit students and researchers across multiple fields of study.

“This is another instance in which ASU has brought in cutting edge technology that its students can learn from and help perfect,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “With this collaboration, the university has established a commitment to integrate students, faculty, and staff into research on the Solar Tulip design to bring 24-hour solar/renewable technology to commercialization.”

“The AORA/ASU collaboration provides a multitude of possibilities looking forward,” said Gary Dirks, director of ASU LightWorks. “It is a perfect example of industry and academia coming together and leveraging their unique strengths to create collaborative projects that propel new and viable technology into our energy future. The Solar Tulip has enormous potential both at ASU and beyond.”

AORA Solar has contracted with GreenFuel Technologies, a Phoenix-based General Contractor specializing in environmental energy projects to construct the research plant at the ASU campus. Groundbreaking is expected to occur in April, with the anticipated operation date to be sometime in the late September/early October time frame. AORA Solar and ASU look forward to welcoming university peers along with the public to a ribbon-cutting event at the Tulip’s completion.

“We are pleased to host the Solar Tulip at the ASU Tempe campus,” said John Riley, sustainability operations officer at ASU. “It is a visually iconic piece of technology, helping to illustrate the way ASU is a destination place for state-of-the-art research and facilities.”

This collaboration was advanced by Arizona State University LightWorks, a research initiative that unites resources and researchers across ASU to confront global energy challenges. The LightWorks team provided the vision of required research, identified the multiple research windows in which AORA will participate and is intimately involved in moving the project from concept to fruition. With a proven track record of swiftly and strategically partnering with a diverse set of institutions, LightWorks continues to help overcome challenges in the fields of solar power, sustainable fuels, and energy policy. To learn more about ASU LightWorks, visit asulightworks.com.

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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.



  • dynamo.joe

    You said you saw it in Spain, what is the sound profile? Does it sound like a jet flying 40 feet over your head?

  • JamesWimberley

    “At night, or when overcast, the Tulip can use a wide range of fuels to heat the air and is thereby able to produce power and heat round the clock.” I infer that the technology does not include storage, unlike run-of-the-mill CSP plants like Ivanpah that generate using steam, for which molten salts are hot enough overnight. An air-driven gas turbine (Brayton cycle) is attractive because you can put the plants in totally arid deserts, and they are presumably also smaller per kw because of the much higher temperature. But since storage is the great selling point of thermal CSP against ever-cheaper PV, it’s hard to see the Tulip’s path to mass deployment.

    • Matt

      I thought the idea was it let a gas plant look greener.

      • Omega Centauri

        I can’t see this sort of thing as anything other than greenwashing. Part of the time it will run on solar, but most of the time it will burn fossil fuels. And its thermodynamic efficiency is likely compromised by having to utilize two heat sources.

        • dynamo.joe

          Energy use peaks during the solar peak. So, I would expect the opposite; most of the energy is solar, but it can use gas when overcast or at night.

          If you imagine a small town with an independent grid, maybe ten of these provide peak power. From 8am to 6pm the 10 or whatever is necessary run on solar. From 10pm to 6am, 3 run on natural gas or whatever. The other times they are ramping up or down the other 7 according to load. Let’s assume it’s linear.

          So, 10hr x 10 tulips = 100 tulip-hours solar.
          8hrs x 3 tulips = 24 tulip-hours gas
          2hrs x (3 + 0.5*7 tulips) = 12.5 tulip-hours gas
          4hrs x (3 + 0.5*7 tulips) = 25 tulip-hours gas

          100 hrs solar, 61.5 hrs gas => 62% solar

          This doesn’t even include the fact that there is (600C+ ?) waste heat that can be used or sold which could mean someone else isn’t using nat gas.

          You could over build and use your excess capacity to produce the hydrogen to burn at night. Which would also be a possible use for the waste heat, since high temp electrolysis is waaaay more electrically efficient than RT.

          It’s inherently green and there are paths to make it 100% green.

          • Omega Centauri

            You really think its going to be used that way? Why bother with the could also use fuel aspect at all? You would be better off with PV, and then relying on a combined cycle gas turbine elsewhere on the grid. The later can exceed 60% efficiency, I doubt this thing gets anywhere close to that.
            We already have the bulk of new capacity build being renewable, this thing (unless the fuel backup is rarely used) is more fossil fueldependent by far than the average capacity build today. Its a step backwards, a bridge to nowhere.

            WDKNSHPP We Don’t Need No Stinking Hybrid Power Plants!

          • dynamo.joe

            it is a gas turbine. it is about 60% efficient (ignoring the ability to use waste heat as process heat). that is considerably more efficient than any PV system.

            the best argument I can think of for the fuel aspect is that it allows the system to used for grid stabilization which is a valuable service. the system runs hot enough that any gas levels between zero and the stoichiometric limit burn instantly producing more power, so sub-millisecond response time (only during daylight hours, but still).

            at 60% efficiency it’s about 3x better than PV that’s being installed now and about 25% more efficient than the latest triple junction record holder. that does sound like a big step back.

          • Omega Centauri

            Sixty percent ( I presume you mean from solar input since you compare against Pv efficiency ) seems pretty high. Thats pretty darn good if it holds up. To compare against PV it is percent of sunlight, not thermal conversion efficiency that matters, as some is lost to imperfect mirrors, and infrared and sensible heat loses at the collector. At the high operating temperature these are probably substantial.

            Whether these are a step forward towards a nearly fossil fuel grid is doubtful however, that depends upon how much the backup via using fuel function is used in practice. I suspect the pressure to pay for the capital equipment will mean it is used in backup mode a lot.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Joe means capacity factor.

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