TEL AVIV (Dec. 28)
An Israeli company which is a pioneer in the development of solar power has signed a $15 million contract here with the Southern California Edison Co. to supply equipment for a plant to be built in San Bernadino County in southern California.
The American utility will purchase low temperature steam turbines from the Ormat Turbine Go. of Yavne, a world leader in harnessing solar energy for industrial purposes. Ormat produces the solar energy collectors seen on thousands of Israeli rooftops and holds the rights to solar ponds, an invention of Prof. Henry Tabor.
The ponds are based on the principle that highly saline water tends to concentrate at the bottom of shallow ponds. Sunlight passes through the less saline upper strata and heats the lower strata up to 80-90 degrees Celsius.
This is below the boiling point of water and not hot enough to generate steam to power conventional turbines. The Ormat turbine makes use of a special organic fluid with a low boiling point that converts to steam at solar pond temperatures.
Tabor successfully demonstrated his system in the late 1950s, but with cheap oil available then there was no commercial incentive to develop it. He built an experimental 150 Kilowatt installation at Ein Bobek on the Dead Sea in 1979, supplying steam for the Ormat turbine, invented and developed by Prof. Yehuda Bronicki, now president of Ormat.
The San Bernadino plant will have a first stage capacity of 12 megawatts, to be expanded to 48 megawatts in five years, sufficient to supply the peak power demands of 30,000 California Edison customers.
Dr. Lawrence Papay, senior vice president of California Edison who was here for the signing, said the solar energy will cost 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, slightly more than conventional methods. But it will reduce dependence on conventional plants to meet peak load demands. Edison has also signed a contract with Luz Industries of Jerusalem to build a 13.8 megawatt solar energy plant based on parabolic sunlight reflectors.