Upgrade: Israel’s Ashalim Solar Power Plant is More Powerful than Ever

Upgrade: Israel’s Ashalim Solar Power Plant is More Powerful than Ever

American Eric Loyle did Israel a huge favor when he parlayed his engineering expertise into making improvements at the world-famous Ashalim Solar Power Plant in the Negev. A high-ranking member of General Electric’s team of problem-solvers, Eric had conducted a brief assessment of the site in November 2019. He was then invited by Ashalim administrators to repair the boiler at the solar thermal energy site in May 2020. The first of only three such power stations worldwide (the others are in Dubai and California), the sun-drenched solar-powered power station had functioned in history-making capacity since its September 2019 debut. It was time for an upgrade to the then seven months old, 240-meter aka 787-foot structure.

Once he set to work, Loyle noticed the potential for improvements in several other areas, suggested them to colleagues, and received approval to improve the power station’s ability to function.

A veteran of the US Navy, Eric studied engineering during his naval service, learning on the job. “I’m an out-of-the-box thinker. You have to be in order to deal with anything of this magnitude,” he remarks. “At Ashalim I realized that a small dimensional change to a Superheat 2 setting would reduce the heat pickup and make the control of the outlet temperature manageable. The excellent team of engineers supporting the field team ran the models and implemented the design I had created. It was pretty easy to communicate what needed to be done. Ashalim and GE have worked together before and continue to do so. The English speakers on the Israeli team made communication easy. “

Before the upgrade, Ashalim’s functional capacity was limited to solar hours, when the sun was shining. Loyle’s adjustment enables the plant to operate during non-solar hours with an increased annual production of 15%.

Eric’s wife Christine acclimated herself to local life by joining helpful social media groups, connecting with her Beer Shevian neighbors, and even contributing a few items to a neighborhood charitable organization. Christine looks forward to the future, happy to know that Israelis are benefiting from her husband’s expertise.

If you’ve never seen the Ashalim Power Plant, your first visit will be memorable. Glaring reflected sunlight beams from the cosmos upon a compound larger than 400 football fields – with thousands of mirrored panels aimed towards a boiler within a tower high above them. The mirrors are constructed to follow the changing path of sunlight throughout daytime hours. Looking directly at them is not advised, nor comfortable. The light is too strong for safe viewing even through strong sunglasses. Anyone passing the area in a vehicle averts their gaze.

Eric climbs the square-shaped tower as necessary, reaching it inside an elevator, and then climbing stairs to access the boiler. He and his colleagues protect their eyes by wearing laser shield goggles in the vicinity of the solar flux. That boiler’s temperature can reach up to 600 degrees Celsius (1112 Fahrenheit). It generates steam that travels to the base of the tower, where it’s turned into electricity.

Thanks to Eric Loyle’s modifications and upgrade, Israel’s renewable energy is becoming cheaper. His photo appears above. Loyle always dresses in orange for safety purposes on-site.

Israel’s Ashalim compound has an outdoor viewing area safe for the eyes of visitors and loaded with explanatory reading materials in English and Hebrew. Temporarily closed during the repair period, the re-opening for public tours is set within the foreseeable future. Watch for relevant announcements.

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