Clean Power

Published on January 14th, 2015 | by Glenn Meyers


Construction On 24/7 Solar Energy/Biofuel Power Plant Moves Forward At ASU

January 14th, 2015 by  

Final construction of AORA Solar’s 24/7 solar energy/biofuel power plant being built in partnership with Arizona State University, although nearly one year behind schedule, is expected to be operational in September.

AORA Tulip in Almeria hi res

AORA Solar Tulip 24/7 solar energy/biofuel power plant

“It’s going much slower than we had hoped,” said AORA Solar CEO Zev Rosenzweig in an interview. “Our plant is designed to European standards. We had a hard time finding a vendor in the US who could build the steel tower to metric dimensions.”

According to Rosenzweig, the ASU project proved so difficult and expensive that the Israeli company gave up on trying to make it in the US and used a regular vendor in Portugal.

In addition, AORA needed to have a registered Arizona engineer check the design. “Not a problem,” said Rosenzweig, “but ASU has an additional requirement where they need to have a registered engineer witness the steel being made, watch it being rolled.” This detail added about two to three months to the schedule.

AORA Solar also needed to get the CEC turbine inspected to make sure it did not violate any American regulations. American companies working overseas can no doubt attest to the challenge of developing similar new projects. The company also learned that Arizona project land must be inspected to ensure Native American remains aren’t disturbed.

Rosenzweig has taken a philosophical, if not stoic, attitude about this inaugural undertaking with the 24/7 solar energy/biofuel power plant. “We’re kind of learning the hard way going from one jurisdiction to another. I look at it as a learning experience.”

He has had to advise investors that the project is over budget; and meet with university staff who are upset everything is running late. “But this is reality in doing work in a jurisdiction we’ve never operated in before.”

Presently, AORA personnel expect to have the Tulip CSP plant up and ready in July, a year later than originally planned.

AORA has long-term goals after the completed ASU project. “Basically, if you want to sell in the US you need to have a demonstration plant in the US. The fact that you have a plant in Spain – nobody’s going to go look at it. The fact that you have operating history in Spain isn’t considered valid in the US.

“So we need to build to have credibility in the US, and ASU was an excellent opportunity, and at the same time to sponsor some research to help us take the design to the next level, help us explore the limits of the current design, beyond what we could do ourselves. “

Asked if larger utilities have shown interest in the project, Rosenzwweig said no. “We have a niche product. We’re 100 KW, which in the US is negligible power.” Instead, AORA Solar is looking at specific niche markets — for instance, an industrial facility in a remote area that might want to have its own power.

He said the company has received inquiries from ranchers interested in going off grid with the 24/7 solar energy/biofuel power plant, who have agricultural biowaste that might be used as biogas, and they’re interested in going off grid and for being independent, generating their own power.

“I believe there is a market. The US is so big and consumes so much power.”

As for fuel to supplement the 24/7 solar energy/biofuel power plant when the sun is not shining, it will link to a natural gas network. That will serve as a baseline when the company works with a series of different biofuels. ASU already has some excellent research going on with making biofuel from algae.

“So natural gas is supposed to be our control, and the various biofuels that we work with will then allow us to do a reading of the impact of biofuels verses natural gas, which the turbine was originally designed for.”

Photo by AORA Solar

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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.

  • Larry

    Too many “quality control” requirements from a U.S project, Has to have one engineer overseeing the work of a second engineer. Can you spell redundancy?

  • Offgridman

    The comment on the specs being in metric measurements being an issue does not make sense to me in some ways.
    My father that worked in a machine shop up through the late 80’s operating computer controlled lathe and mill work had to start doing so with metric measurements starting around 1970. I specifically remember because of having to learn it in school at the same time, and how we helped each other with our ‘homework’, and the grumbling he did about it.
    My suspicion is that this is more related to the severe shortage of workers able to do this type of high quality work in our country anymore. It is easy to find articles in the business news how companies are having a lot of problems finding qualified workers in the technical trades. So are now sponsoring programs to get more people to do this rather than a regular college education.
    While we can do a lot more computer controlled manufacturing now a days, we still need people that understand how those machines are supposed to work and can provide the setup, quality control and oversight for the computers to do it.

    • Glenn Meyers

      You raise a solid point. Thanks for the comment.

  • Shiggity

    Metric system always ruining everything. Murica!

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