Tulips in the Desert Aora Solar Air cycle with biofuel backup

It's not a jet engine, it's not a gas power plant but an Aora power tower

Dr Pinchas Doron of AORA from sunny Israel tells how almost any fuel, renewable or not, can be used to supplement concentrating solar power when there isn’t much.
Matthew and Eva discuss Beyond Zero Emission’s need for volunteers, progress with the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 plan, and lots more. (AORA Interview at 30:00 Minutes into audio)

AORA has developed an advanced solar-hybrid power generation unit based on work with the Weizmann Institute of Science. The system offers a unique modular solution to green power generation, comprising small Base Units (100kWe each) that can be strung together, building up into a large power plant. When the available sunlight is not sufficient (during cloud cover or at night), the system can operate on any alternative fuel source (fossil fuel, bio fuel), thereby guaranteeing an uninterrupted power supply, 24 hours a da

Aora Solar Homepage

Green Prophet Sees Aora's Solar Flower Power Fire Up in the Desert

 


Interview with Dr Pinchas Doron of Aora Solar

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Transcript

 

Matthew Wright:     Good afternoon and welcome to another edition of the Beyond Zero Show on 3CR Community Radio. The time is 4:06 or 4:05 - not quite sure - pm

 

Eva Migdal:     It's designed to confuse us. They have two clocks that are one minute apart, on either side of us.

 

Matthew Wright:     That's right, something we need to resolve. It's 4:06 and I'm in the studio with Eva

 

Eva Migdal:      Good afternoon

 

Matthew Wright:      I'm Matthew and we're your hosts for today. Later in the show, at about half past we'll be speaking to Dr Pinchas Doron from a company called AORA which is part of another company called EDIG solar. They're a pretty exciting outfit because they're commercialising a turbine based solar system. Previously, if you check up our podcast feed at <a href=http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org>BeyondZeroEmissions.org</a> we've spoken to another Israeli startup, known as HelioFocus, they're working on a similar kind of an arrangement, theirs is with a dish, and now they're even talking about doing a tower as well, but this one is a tower and it's really interesting because it is a tulip shaped tower, and it's a niche, micro size, which is pretty good if you want to get in close to existing power lines and speed up the time it takes to get solar projects to market; pretty exciting there. We'll be speaking to him later in the show. It's great to have you listening today

 

Eva Migdal:      At 4:06 or 4:07, depending on where you're looking.

 

Matthew Wright:      We'll hide that...

 

Eva Migdal:      We're one minute in the future, we're Beyond Zero...

 

Matthew Wright:      We are, we are. At BeyondZero we've been doing quite a few things this week, we'll be talking about that

 

Eva Migdal:    We're going to be doing some interesting things tonight as well, so, Matthew, do you want to talk a little bit about the slide show

 

Matthew Wright:    Well we're setting up - if you've just tuned in, Beyond Zero Emissions, we run a radio show called Beyond Zero, you're listening to the community radio show today and on Friday mornings at 8:30 am you can tune in to our Science and Solutions show, although because of the European time zone, we've actually got a Science and Solutions interview this afternoon at half past four, with AORA from Israel. Until then, the Beyond Zero campaign does a number of things in order to create awareness about climate change, the radio show is just one of those and another thing we do, we've got a lobbying group and we have a public speaking group and a media group. The public speaking group is where it's happening tonight because we have a lot of people coming down to Kindness House, 288 Brunswick St Fitzroy, to learn how to deliver our talk. It's a bit like Al Gore, but it's beyond Al Gore!

 

Eva Migdal:      The Al-Gore-ettes - or the Al-Gor-ithms I should say

 

Matthew Wright:      Algorithms, eh! So, what we'll be doing is we'll be looking at how you engage an audience with a slide show that really gives them the confidence  and will let them walk away knowing that you can build a 100 percent renewable energy grid and you can also de-carbonise the economy more generally. That's the kind of confidence that people need to know to feel happy, enlightened, to feel that we can achieve the changes that many of us are calling for so we know that there's too much carbon in the atmosphere today, we know that, with too much carbon in the atmosphere, it's going to send us over tipping points, where it's going to be very difficult for humans to influence the climate in a way that restores it to a climate regime that is similar to what we  have our agriculture systems, our port facilities and all those things that have managed to accommodate six billion people on the planet. Yes, we've heard it all before, the climate has changed up, it's changed down, it's changed over hundreds of thousands of years, millions of years time frames but what's important to six billion humans on the earth right now is the last ten thousand years, called the Holocene, that's when the climate has been plus or minus 0.5 degrees, and we don't want to leave the Holocene, because six billion people don't live on an earth that's not the Holocene; that's what people have to get clear.

 

Eva Migdal:      So, Matthew, you've been doing this slide show for how many years now?

 

Matthew Wright:      Not the same slide show, because it always evolves...

 

Eva Migdal:      As is the climate change science

 

Matthew Wright:      Yeah. I've really been doing some serious public speaking for the last four or five years

 

Eva Migdal:      And what sort of response do you get? I've been to a number of your talks and it's always exciting to see how there's usually a dozen people who come up afterwards and say "What can I do?" A lot of the volunteers for Beyond Zero have grown out of the response to your slide show talks. What's you feeling about what that does to the audience, and how it can actually forward change?

 

Matthew Wright:      Firstly, that's the response that we've been getting recently, later I'll take you back to the beginning when we were learning how to walk, but it's great because it's about understanding how people receive the messages and how you can empower them and give them some confidence that, as a society, together we can do this; give them some confidence that there's something that they can do.

 

Eva Migdal:      Mmm.

 

Matthew Wright:      So with all those things, if you feel that you personally can make a difference, but you also feel that together collectively we can all make a difference, then you go "yep, great, we've just got to roll our sleeves up together and we can do this" and I think that's important, because I think that sometimes people get lost on what you can do at home, or what you can do in your life, but then you get the realisation that you're the only one doing it, or maybe you and five percent of the rest of the population is doing it, but the other 95 percent is on auto pilot doing something else. Or, the other thing that can happen is that people can sort of say "it's too big, it's too big", so you feel dis-empowered and again, because those other people aren't working on it, you feel it's a big loss, and you're getting a thing that we call cognitive dissonance.

 

Eva Migdal:      Like having the clocks at different times in the studio

 

Matthew Wright:      Very confusing. Cognitive dissonance is the opposite of cognitive resonance; if something resonates then it sounds really good, so if you've got cognitive resonance that means you're getting constant feedback to say what you're doing, your actions, the actions of your people, of society, are making you feel better, are developing together and growing something.

 

Eva Migdal:      Stress happens in any system, especially the human system, if what you say, what you do, what you think are all different and the government's telling you one thing and other people are telling you another thing and you're feeling like you can't align all your goals and your values together. The interesting thing is that at Beyond Zero it seems that everybody seems really happy because they feel like they're really empowered to make things happen.

 

Matthew Wright:      Yeah, I think that's the way. We've got our web team working away, they're real excited because they're building the best internet site around; in fact I was chating to one of the guys, Luke, the other day, Sunday - not that many days ago yesterday - when we were doing a working bee on the new website, which, for listeners, will be going live some time this week, and he was really excited because our website is now really really glossy and really well done, and what had happened in the past is he'd done a lot of websites like that for universities and various places, some government departments, and the thing that they didn't have though  was they didn't have the content

 

Eva Migdal:      laughs

 

Matthew Wright:      that went with the beautiful navigation and the really good setup. So here's our chance because Beyond Zero's website is really rich; it's got all our radio shows, it's got more than 126 past episodes of Beyond Zero

 

Eva Migdal:      Wow

 

Matthew Wright:      I'm not actually sure of the number of this episode, but it's something like number 127.

 

Eva Migdal:      Which probably includes about 180 interviews.

 

Matthew Wright:      Would do, would do. There's been a lot of Beyond Zero, from my nieces and nephews screaming in the beginning, to James Hanson at NASA, to people in Israel, Scotland, Shetland Islands, Ireland...

 

Eva Migdal:      The information that you uncover on the radio show are questions that no-one else is asking in the media; you're getting access to information about future technology that is not something that you can find just reading the internet or listening to media, so it's really quite unique, what you're getting here.

 

Matthew Wright:      So what we do, I guess, is we find the commercially available, solar, or wind power, or whatever renewable technology, that's getting rolled out on a decent scale and usually, it is the way, or else we'd be renewable powered now, it's a scale that's getting rolled out but it really needs to be ten fold or fifty fold, and we find the thing is that all you need to do is do the same things fifty times over and you've got you're hundred percent renewables, you've got your beginnings of a de-carbonised energy system, and we find out more about it. Before we do a radio interview we search high and low, everything on the internet, we spend hours, then we find out what's missing, the gap in the knowledge, and we get it out there. If we're lucky and we get some volunteers, and I guess if you're listening to this program and you want to take a step towards volunteering, there's so much you can do, but certainly one thing is we transcribe some of the better comments from the interviewees, and that way we can put them on the public record so that anybody searching the internet can find those; then we create the case, the evidence, for people who are doing things like us, trying to convince government, convince businesses, convince society that yes, we can move totally away from fossil fuels and totally toward renewable energy.

 

Eva Migdal:      And we're working to break that myth that it's not possible because it's being shown in a number of European countries that it is possible, it's happening very quickly and we are falling very way behind. Maybe Matthew, you can just talk about the plans that you're working on, because people are very excited when they hear that this is actually happening; it's really forging forward in the way that governments should be, but instead this small non-profit - actually no, hardly any funding, organisation is putting together these huge plans which really the government should be doing.

 

Matthew Wright:      Absolutely. In fact it was described like that by a Sydney Morning Herald journalist, Paddy Manning, he wrote about us, he said, of the 237,000 public servants, and this was confirmed from the Prime Minister and Cabinet's office, not one is looking at a 100 percent renewable energy economy for Australia, and not one is even looking at it on the time scale of 2020, so not 2020, not any time scale. And that's just crazy. We've got engineering firms officially engaged with us, helping us design our solutions, we've got volunteers from all over the place, so it's just phenomenal. The first one we're getting out, of course, there is a bit of a focus in Australia on stationary energy, which is our power for our laptops and our radio station broadcasts and our aluminium smelters and things like that, because Australia is just such a heavy polluter in the area of energy production; that's not to discount all the other areas, and that's why, at Beyond Zero, we're actually looking at transitions for each sector of the economy, so stationary energy, transport, buildings, industrial processes, land use change, forestry and agriculture, and we're also looking especially at how we can replace coal export revenue, because when we take the focus away from coal dredge's back, riding the coal dredges' back, which is what we used to do with the sheep, we used to ride their back then the sheep fell on top of us. It's pretty bad to have a sheep fall on top of you, but imagine a coal dredger - that's going to hurt! They're big, they're like five stories high. So, there is a future beyond the coal dredger and that's the future, we're going to describe it, then we're going to follow through and make it happen.

 

Eva Migdal:      So here at Beyond Zero coal dredger emissions, we're going to do that. Can I ask you a question? I have someone asked me this question earlier today. They said, if I just wanted to put fifty dollars, say I want to contribute to the cause, I want to put fifty dollars into renewable, is there somewhere I can do that? Is there a micro-financing for renewable energy, is there such a thing?

 

Matthew Wright:      Look, I kind of wish there was, easily accessible. There's some sort of general funds that some people who are a bit more connected to capital markets than someone like myself is - like I'm not!

 

Eva Migdal:      That's because you work for nothing...

 

Matthew Wright:      Pretty much. I think there's an opportunity here, and it's something I explored a while ago, because my superannuation is with a company called Australian Ethical superannuation, and they do some good things, they don't put your money in the big miners who mine nuclear, so your BHPs and your Rio and a few other things, but when it comes to actually really being on the front foot and you investigate it, it appears that they only really devote less than five percent of the money that you invest with them in renewables. I've contacted them in the past, and I'm a fairly young person, they came back and said that the average age of their constituent members was above fifty and it wasn't a risk profile that they were willing to wear, so there's certainly an opportunity for an existing superannuation fund or someone to create a superannuation fund that is particularly agressive on finding renewable energy ventures and things like that to invest our money. The other way I feel, as a person in their 20s (just!)

 

Eva Migdal:      When's the birthday?

 

Matthew Wright:      Soon - laughs. But as a person in their twenties, the way I feel is that, with talk of shifting goal posts, making the retirement age go out 5 years - if they do that now, and superannuation has only been around for 10 or 15 years, then by the time someone like me is 65 then I'll have to wait till I'm 105. So, given that, I want my renewables working now for my children's, my nephews, my nieces, my grandchildren and my own future. So the way to do that is to grab the 50,000 dollars that's being managed for me, on behalf of me, by at the moment Australian Ethical, and have that directly invested, 100 percent, into renewable energy, into de-carbonised economy.

 

Eva Migdal:      And you would be very confident, also, that would make your money work for you to its greatest advantage.

 

Matthew Wright:      Oh, absolutely, that's my future, as opposed to this general spread of the Australian stock exchange, S&P 200, which just props up capital markets, and quite a few of those constituents don't really do things that I feel that we require an emphasis on in our economy in our society. That's not really where I want my money to be. If I'm going to have this pseudo-government pension fund, it's sort of a privatised government pension fund, if I'm going to have that and I supposedly have some kind of control over that, well lets make it work on renewable energy! It's just another project that I haven't managed to follow up with all the others, but it's something that I will do, I'll find someone to set up a super fund, or I'll set it up myself, so we can aggressively go socially responsible and renewable.

 

Eva Migdal:      Excellent - I think that's great food for thought and I'm sure there's a few listeners out there who are thinking the same thing. What else is happening out there, Matthew? I know that the plans; that you're working on these plans, when is the plan due to come out? Is it 3-4 months down the track that you're going to be expecting to publish something around how to do the transfer to 100 percent renewable stationary energy economy in Victoria, is that the plan at the moment?

 

Matthew Wright:      Look, we're looking at a shorter time frame than that, but we are looking at multiple releases, at the moment we've just got our first draft out, it's really a skeleton of a draft, it's got some good depth in it,

 

Eva Migdal:      Yep

 

Matthew Wright:      It's really about readability and things like that, so it's not the draft that we'd be releasing to the world, but our first release, we're hoping for the end of September. Which is pretty aggressive, it might slip back a week or two because in fact I'm going to Spain to tour solar thermal plants.

 

Eva Migdal:      Are you going to be climbing a solar thermal power tower? I can see you doing that, as a stunt.

 

Matthew Wright:      My understanding is that one of them, the Abengoa PS10, listeners, if you put PS10 into Youtube you can watch a BBC video of it, it has a lift in it and you can go up to a viewing platform, so I'm pretty keen to see if I can get up the tower, into the control room.

 

Eva Migdal:      Well we'll have to put that up on the website, youtube of Matthew at the top of a solar power tower.

 

Matthew Wright:      Anyway, we might meet the September deadline, because the plans don't rely on me, they are a team effort and there is a huge group of people working on them and we will be distributing around a draft for recruiting purposes within a week, so just to give people an indicative idea of what constitutes a stationary energy sector transition plan and then, hopefully, we'll get some more helpers to add the weight to the sections, add the depth.

 

Eva Migdal:      So if our listeners are wanting to be part of that, what're you looking for - scientists, engineers, what sort of people are you looking for?

 

Matthew Wright:      We're actually looking for anybody who has a bit of focus and some time they're willing to commit to this important project. This is a project that 237,000 public servants aren't working on, it's a project that we've initiated. It's one that will become a model and other people will also go and do their own projects, once we've proved the concept of creating your own transition blueprint, it's something that other people will want to do. So if you want to be in on the ground of making this happen, so that we can re-focus the public's attention, the media's attention, the government's attention, re-focus everybody towards a renewable energy sector. Alright, let's go to a station break and a song, and we'll be back with Dr Doron, from AORA, formerly EDIG Solar, and we'll have to give listeners our web address while we're gone. We'll see you back in a few minutes after this short break...

 

-Ad break. Subscribe to 3CR!

 

Matthew Wright:      Welcome back to 3CR Community Radio, 855 on your AM dial, the time now is 4:     29 and in the studio with me is Eva, how're you going Eva?

 

Eva Migdal:      Very well.

 

Matthew Wright:      We'll be interviewing, very shortly:    

 

Eva Migdal:      Pinchas Doron from, I believe he's from Kibbutz Samar, where they have the AORA solar power tower technology.

 

Matthew Wright:      I'm not sure if the company is actually located at the Kibbutz...

 

Eva Migdal:      Let's find out.

 

Matthew Wright:      Let's find out.

 

Eva Migdal:      Hello Pinchas.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Hello, yes, I am here.

 

Matthew Wright:      Hello...

 

Eva Migdal:      Welcome to Australia.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Thank-you

 

Eva Migdal:      Perhaps you can tell us a little bit about yourself first of all, do you live on Kibbutz Samar?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Err no. I don't, our company's headquarters are not far away from Tel Aviv, in the centre of the country,

 

Eva Migdal:      Yeah,

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      And our site is in the sunny South. 

 

-Laughter-

 

Eva Migdal:      That makes sense with solar energy

 

Matthew Wright:      I thought the whole of Israel was sunny?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Yeah, it's true that the whole of Israel is sunny, but there are some parts that are even more sunny.

 

Matthew Wright:      Ahh, ok, we've got that in Australia too.

 

Eva Migdal:      They're usually called deserts, aren't they...

 

Matthew Wright:      Yeah. So, you're involved with AORA Solar and you're the chief technology officer, can you tell us a bit about how you came to be involved in renewable energy technology?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Actually, I started long time ago, even before I got my PHD, I was doing part time work in the solar tower in the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot which is a major leading research institute, especially one of the pioneers of really concentrated solar power, that was in the early '90s, that's when I started my involvement. Then, afterwards, I spent more time there and about 10 years ago I came to our mother company, EBIG, which AORA is a spin-off from, and started working on making what we did in research, to make it real-life. I'm really enthusiastic about really getting there, which I believe we're doing right now.

 

Eva Migdal:      Can you tell us about the break-through in terms of your technology?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Our technology incorporates a few characteristics that are very important, we think, for deployment; for use. One; it's hybrid, which means that it can operate on solar input or fuel or a combination of both to provide dispatchable power, and this fuel augmentation can be renewable so the non-solar part is also green. The other point is that we are modular, which means that our base unit is small and it can be multiplied in very relatively small increments so it's flexible in size and in use of land and also in growth, to accommodate changing needs. It can also make use of an exhaust heat, with basically a combined heat and power system, where if you have use of the heat, then you have it there, in addition to the electricity. Actually in some parts people were talking to consider electricity as the by-product, and all of this in a flexible, quick to construct and easy to service system. So we think this is a great combination.

 

Matthew Wright:      Taking it back a little bit, we're talking about a solar thermal technology here, that's where we use mirrors to reflect and concentrate light and then produce power. Then, in what you're describing, your situation is a very small power tower, that's where you have a central tower that receives the light, and it's different because the other proposals for solar power towers that are out there are for much bigger systems, like 17MW or up to 220MW. Can you tell us a bit about the size of your system? If you describe it, how big the land area is?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Yes, I can. Our system, the base unit as I said is indeed really small compared to all other power towers that I know; the tower itself is in order of 30 metres high, so basically we've also tried to design it, you know if you look at AORA on Google Earth there are some photos there as well in addition to our website where you can see that it's an aesthetic icon by now for the region where it is

 

Matthew Wright:      It looks like a tulip

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Like a tulip, yes, the flower; to make the desert bloom, that's what we want. Basically  it's not too tall to interfere with flight or bird migration or whatever other things, and the land area that you need for the base unit, would depend of course on where you do it, on the conditions of the specific site, but it's in order of less than 2000 square metres per base unit.

 

Matthew Wright:      Not very big there.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Sorry?

 

Matthew Wright:      Not very big - in Australia a common size for a house is 200 square metres so it's just the size of 10 houses.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Yes, basically that's what you do. Another thing is that that is for one base unit, and if you want to have a higher power, a power plant with higher power, you just put those Lego pieces side by side or not necessarily side by side; you can put them few tens of metres or a few hundred metres away and still manage them as a single plant from a central point, that's why you're very flexible in land use. Which is, in many parts - not Australia, but in many parts is problematic to get large stretches of flat land. We don't need it really flat.

 

Matthew Wright:      So, effectively, you end up with many tulips blooming from the desert once you really get going.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Yes, yes, that's what we envision.

 

Eva Migdal:      I guess that brings the cost down as well, to make it much more accessible to small groups of people.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Yes, yes, in terms of cost, and of financing, this is a great advantage because, well, many aspects. First of all, the cost of the base unit is much more accessible, since it's small. Then, if you build a plant with many units, first of all you can add units as your need increases, you don't really have to commit in advance to a very large plant that you think you will need some time in the future, then you can also, when you build many units, you start producing power from the first units even before you finish the last ones.

 

Matthew Wright:      That obviously lowers the risk.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Yes, that lowers the risk and eases the financing.

 

Matthew Wright:      In terms of the size, it's driving a 100kW micro-turbine, which I believe is just the same as a jet engine on a plane, what people call a Brayton cycle.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Exactly.

 

Matthew Wright:      When you talked about combined power opportunities, you can obviously use the heat for district heating or some industrial process, have they also looked at, you said the possibility of electricity as a by-product, so you've obviously looked at having another kind of turbine attached to the waste heat, such as a Stirling engine or a Rankine cycle?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      No, not exactly. What I was referring to is that some people see the heat as the main product because they have a lot of use for the heat and the electricity is just, you know, coming by the way. Most applications are the other way around probably. We, at the moment, we think that it would be more effective to use the exhaust heat for applications such as, as you said, district heating or process heat or, even more interesting, air conditioning or driving say an absorption chiller, or something similar, because usually, in those places where you have a lot of sun it's also quite hot, so it would be quite nice to have the solar air-conditioning there.

 

Matthew Wright:      Going back to your work...

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Applications for the heat can really be tailored.

 

Matthew Wright:      Going back to your work at the Weizmann Institue, would you say that the work with their tower, is EDIG Solar, and now AORA, is that work pretty much come out of the intellectual capital of all that research that has gone on at the Weizmann Institute?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Yes, yes, certainly. I was part, in the Weizmann institute, I was a member of the group that developed actually the enabling technology, with what we call the Solar Receiver, which is that device that can use solar radiation to heat compressed air to very high temperatures. This was developed; this originated in that group in the Weizmann institute, and it was developed through certain stages of research at the Weizmann institute, and then at AORA Solar we, part of the idea is licenced, and part of it is co-owned, where we continued the development of that basic technology to the product that we are now building.

 

Matthew Wright:      You're not the only solar start up out of - although I think you may be ahead of the other ones out of Israel, we've spoken to Dr Ory Zik from HelioFocus as well. Are you able to comment on any differences between your use of micro-turbines and theirs? Certainly when we spoke to them they were only talking about using dishes rather than power towers.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      That's one obvious difference. I'm reluctant to discuss about what they're doing because I think that in the solar field there's place for everybody right now; the field is so huge you cannot see the boundaries!

 

Matthew Wright:      Yep, yep.

 

Eva Migdal:      Are you getting a lot of interest from overseas in terms of purchasing your technology? How far have you advanced towards people growing it around the world?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Well there's tremendous interest in our system, we've already had visitors and people from really many places. We have signed MOUs with entities in Spain and Australia actually, and in Chile, to promote our systems. Actually we're at the stage where people are flocking at our door to try to get us to put those things on the ground in different places. We believe, as I said in the beginning, that we're approaching, we're addressing a niche that has not been tapped yet, and it has a lot of appeal to many people.

 

Matthew Wright:      And that, of course, is the quick-to-deploy, small, modular, thermal power tower.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      That's the basic one. There's many others, like for example, there's places where the high voltage transmission lines are really loaded, or overloaded actually. Then a big solar plant would usually not be very close to where the customer is, to where your houses are. Whereas such a unit can be close and can provide the power at the local distribution grid voltage and not at the higher voltage of the very big transmission lines, and then you save on the load on those big lines.

 

Matthew Wright:      The time now is 4:     45 in Melbourne, if you're listening on Monday and not podcasting, and we're talking to Dr Doron from AORA in Israel, live, and it's very exciting to have you on the line Dr Doron. A bit more - you talked about the co-firing opportunities with your air turbine, perhaps you could describe to listeners, because you are the expert in the receiver technology, how the sunlight actually concentrates onto the central receiver on the top of the tower, and how you drive a turbine to produce electricity.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Well, the basic idea is that, since you need to work at high temperature, then you need to concentrate the sunlight. To concentrate, we use a heliostat field tower configuration which means that we have an array of mirrors which we call heliostats, which track the apparent motion of the sun through the sky, and reflect the radiation onto a target which is on top of a tower. Now, since all the mirrors reflect to that same target, then you get a high concentration of sunlight there. That highly concentrated sunlight enters into a device that we call a Solar Receiver, which accepts compressed air and heats it to the temperature that is reached by burning fuel, if there is no sunlight; in a conventional turbine. Then this compressed, heated air, which is heated close to 1000 degrees Celsius, turns the turbine spool, causes it to rotate, and that rotation drives a generator that provides the electrical power. That's the - I hope that is reasonable.

 

Matthew Wright:      Yeah, it's a very difficult concept. But to get air at a thousand degrees, and have it trapped and to create the pressure there to drive the turbine is a pretty amazing feat, and I assume that it took a long time at the Weizmann to really refine that, to be able to commercialise this today.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      That's correct. It took a long long time, as I told you, I joined that group in the early 90s and the original ideas were already being produced.

 

Matthew Wright:      Fantastic. Also, so how does it feel, being in the renewable energy sector, having worked at the development phase and now being able to bring a product to market; how does that empower you or how do you feel about that?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Well, I feel, right now I feel great! A few years back, not so many years back, when you went to a conference on concentrated solar power, you had a few crazy people doing research on this thing and everybody was, we were a very close knit and small family but quite outcast!

 

-Laughter-

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Even though nobody thought that this would be something that can become anything more than research at that time. In recent years we feel that we are at the focus of attention. You know, we focus sunlight and we get to be in the focus.

 

-Laughter-

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      So it is a pretty, very interesting period right now where the world is right to get this and to bring it to reality.

 

Eva Migdal:      Are there a lot of more jobs being developed in Israel around solar technology because of all this; is this a very quickly growing sector for the community?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Israel has always been a leader in solar energy research. Some things have been implemented in Israel, probably before or wider spread than other places like the domestic water heaters. We do hope and we do see signs that it will get into the larger infrastructure here like the big tender for the power plant in Ashalim in the South, but I still think that we should have been much further ahead with this. Probably there are many reasons why it hasn't really come to be large scale deployment here, and I hope we are going there, but I would have hoped that we'd be be farther ahead.

 

Matthew Wright:      Is there a growing movement in Israel to de-carbonise the energy sector and to really get the solar roll-out happening?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Well there's much more interest, there's movement towards that, the government is starting to get some resolutions to increase the proportion of renewable and the most obvious renewable here would be solar in addition to some wind, but we don't have big rivers, we don't have the option for hydro and we have a lot of sun. There is public interest, a lot more attention toward the green, towards getting the green power, the electricity sector is moving very much towards natural gas which is naturally better than other source of fuels in terms of being green, but still there's a ways to go.

 

Matthew Wright:      We're also getting a lot of news here about a company called Better Place, they're talking about re-powering Israel, Australia, California and Denmark's transport sector and electrifying those. Are you getting any - hearing anything there about their claims that they're going to power the transport fleet once it's electrified, they're talking about Nissan cars and Peugeots; once that transport fleet is electrified they're saying that they're going to do that renewable-powered. Have you heard from that?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      We at AORA are not connected to that, it would be the obvious choice if you want to go and clean up the transport sector, you would not want to move the pollution of that somewhere else, which would be the batteries charging and production, so it's natural that you would want to do it with renewable sources. I believe if they do it they're thinking very large scale.

 

Matthew Wright:      Now, you've got this initial plant that you've just opened there at the Kibbutz Samar, can you tell us how it's actually producing at the moment, is it currently outputting electricity onto the grid, what's the first plant doing, and what's the plan now in terms of rolling out more modules around the world?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      The plant at Kibbutz Samar is getting up and it's producing, we're commissioning it a little bit continuously and it's going up, it is producing. Most probably our next step would be to go towards a demonstration in Spain.

 

Matthew Wright:      Would you look at that being a full 50 megawatt plant in term of how they've structured their feed-in tariff or their subsidy system, or would it be initially smaller scale?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Initially it will be a small scale, which is a step towards a larger scale. I think that one advantage of our system is that you first build small, even when you have a large plant coming up, you start with the first unit, you adapt them to the local production conditions of the, say, components that you want to build on site and the workmanship. All the things around the unit that need to be involved and that need to be localised, and then you go up and add the other one, just like a serial production line.

 

Eva Migdal:      In terms of storage, has there been any talk around developing storage in your system or is there no need for it because of the way that it's designed?

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      We are presently not doing storage and we consider storage as a thing that would be good in principle, in certain contexts, but at the moment we don't see a really cost-effective system that would beat the advantages of the hybrid operation, especially if you do hybrid with renewable fuels.

 

Matthew Wright:      I guess in terms of the near term and getting the commercialisation phase and the ramp-up and scale-up, there's so much opportunity to insert your niche, small scale modular plants on to transmission lines that exist, so it's obviously something that you would consider as part of the bigger picture, longer term.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Yes, of course, of course. The so-called island operation can be achieved in many ways, with storage you must also take into consideration that while you produce the electricity or provide it at non-solar hours, you need to collect the solar radiation when sunlight is available, so basically you oversize your system in order to feed your storage in addition to the consumption at that time. This is also something that needs to be considered. If you hybridise and you use a fuel, say biogas or biodiesel, or any other, then you can assure dispatchability, you can assure power production at any time, and hopefully you can tap into renewable fuel production in certain parts.

 

Eva Migdal:      Pinchas, it's 4:57 now and we have to finish up; it's been wonderful speaking with you.

 

Matthew Wright:      It's been a pleasure.

 

Eva Migdal:      Thank you for taking the time and congratulations on the fantastic work at AORA and good luck in the future. What's your website for people who want to go and have a listen? We podcast all of our interviews.

 

Dr Pinchas Doron:      Our website is  www.aora-solar.com  and as I said you can also find us on Google Earth, if you pick AORA you will see where it is, and I also appreciate the time that you took and I hope it was interesting and hopefully we'll see you in Australia with our tulips!

 

Eva Migdal:      We would love to have tulips in our desert!

 

Matthew Wright:      Fantastic, I'll look forward to tulips in the desert! Thank-you Dr Doron.

 

Eva Migdal:      That was Pinchas Doron from AORA in Israel.

 

Matthew Wright:      Fantastic then. If you do go to www.aora-solar.com  you can find out about that, they've got many pictures there and if you search in Google, you can actually hone in on where their new first plant is and you can see photos of that. It really is a beautiful architectural sculpture, they've gone for that so that the blend in the desert and the look and feel of the plant is something that everyone is going to want and I think that that is something that is really important for the adoption of renewable energy.

 

Eva Migdal:      Next week we'll be speaking to someone else from Israel from the Weizmann Institute, to hear more about the developments in solar technology.

 

Matthew Wright:      Absolutely. That just plays on our theme on the Science and Solutions Show, Mondays at 08:30AM

 

Eva Migdal:      Fridays!

 

Matthew Wright:      Fridays, at 8:30AM where we usually speak to people across the world about solar and wind and other renewable technology. We have to go now, we'll be back again next Monday 4:00, stay tuned to 855 on your AM dial, and our website is www.BeyondZeroEmissions.org

 

Eva Migdal:      And with sunny solar regards we're signing off.

 

Transcript by Luke