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Ashalim tower illuminates efficiency issue in green tech

By Reagan Liu Nov. 10, 2022

Harry Kang Art

Looming over an Israeli desert like a glowing beacon, the Ashalim power station is a new source of clean energy. The 800-foot-tall solar tower is the Israeli government’s initiative for a more sustainable future. Unlike traditional solar panels, which utilize silicon panels to convert sunlight to electricity, the tower uses the sun’s thermal energy to generate heat. Surrounding the base of the Ashalim tower lies a field of over 50,000 mirrors, all perfectly calibrated and aimed towards the top of the tower. These mirrors reflect the sun’s rays toward a water tank, which uses the heat to power a generator with steam. The energy produced from this generator is enough to power around 120,000 homes, according to The New York Times.


The power plant is part of the Israeli government’s plan to derive more of its electricity from cleaner, renewable sources. In addition to harnessing green energy, the government hoped that the Ashalim tower would reduce the country’s dependence on foreign-sourced energy and increase its global influence. Despite its efforts, Israel failed to reach its goal of sourcing 10% of its energy solely from renewable sources.


“While the power station is impressive and its potential to increase the use of renewable energy is significant, the project’s massive expenses may not be worthwhile in the long run as there are many cheaper alternatives,” Junior Mykayla Liu said.

Completed in 2019, construction of the massive structure totaled nearly $800 million, and many question the value of this costly investment. According to Calcalist, an Israeli news agency, public electricity prices increased by 3% for millions of citizens in order to pay for the plant's cost–a relatively hefty amount for merely one power station. Producing energy through the sun’s thermal capabilities has also quickly become ineffective due to more recent innovations. During construction, a new method of channeling solar energy was developed—namely photovoltaic panels, which proved to be much more efficient. These improved silicon solar panels can produce energy at one fifth of the costs that the solar tower required. Many nearby residents also criticized the disturbing glare of the tower. In fact, the intense heat radiating from the station has killed many birds flying by.


“While we should continue to find new renewable sources of energy, we also must focus on economically viable options that do not significantly raise electricity costs, as this can financially burden lower- and middle-class citizens,” Senior Vincent Nguyen said.

Despite being considered by many as an expensive failure, the Ashalim station did somewhat benefit its small namesake town. The New York Times reports that Megalim Solar Power, the company responsible for commissioning the power plant, spent millions of dollars investing in the local community, building public infrastructure like roads and a youth club. In addition, the station’s creation brought around 70 new jobs to the area. Ashalim was initially a tiny impoverished town with only around 750 people. However, the establishment of this shining landmark has launched the town to national significance and boosted its economy. As nations continue to transition to renewable sources, balancing economic viability with ecological conservation will be at the forefront of these projects’ planning processes.


 

About the Contributors

Reagan Liu

student spotlight page editor


Reagan Liu is a junior at Leland High school and a page editor at the Leland Charger Account. He loves music and listens to many different genres of music in his free time. He never skips a meal and consumes all the nutrients needed to stay healthy.




Harry Kang

artist


Harry Kang is a sophomore at Leland High School currently working as an artist for The Charger Account. During his free time, Harry likes to listen to Frank Ocean and procrastinate on school work. Occasionally he breathes oxygen and sometimes consumes H2O.



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