Institute Solar Project given American-Israeli Support


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Ron Brown and Micha Harish give the project their blessings

An $8-million solar energy project to be carried out by Weizmann Institute researchers together with U.S. and Israeli companies is one of the three binational undertakings recently selected for support by the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission, which evaluated over 100 proposals. Final approval of the project is contingent upon the results of a $100,000 feasibility study, now under way.

The project's goal is to develop a solar power plant that will produce electricity at competitive prices. About half the cost of the development is to be provided by the Commission, while the companies involved will supply the rest.

"We selected three future-oriented projects that can meet immediate needs and provide a basis for long-term economic growth and job creation in both the United States and Israel," U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ronald Brown said at the Jerusalem ceremony where the winners of the Commission's first grants program were announced.

The Weizmann Institute will participate in the project via Yeda Research and Development Company, which is responsible for commercialization of Institute research. The industrial partners are McDonnell Douglas Aerospace of the U.S. and Israeli companies Ormat, Elop and Rotem. The Weizmann contribution consists of developing novel high-concentration solar technologies, including an air receiver, as well as innovative optical and energy storage facilities. These will be based on campus research carried out in recent years at the Canadian Institute for the Energies and Applied Research and the Schaefer Solar Research Complex.

According to conservative estimates, the solar installations to be developed are expected to generate $1.4 billion in sales by the year 2005. By 2010, they may account for 660 megawatts of electricity worldwide. In addition to helping clean up the environment by reducing the need for polluting fossil fuels, they also offer the opportunity of converting defense technologies to civilian use.