AORA, a subsidiary of the Edig Group (Edig), has received approval from the Israel's National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer for commissioning its 100 kilowatt (kW) solar thermal plant and connect it to the grid by the end of March 2009. The plant will use 30 heliostats to follow the sun and direct its rays to the top of a 30 meter tower housing a solar receiver that would heat air to 1,000 degrees celsius and directs the air to a gas turbine.

The solar thermal gas-turbine power station is being built at Kibbutz Samar in Israel’s southern Arava region. The plant has a hybrid system that can run the turbine using natural gas, biogas or biodiesel at night when solar energy is not available, so that twenty four hour service is made available.

The license gives the company 18 months time to build the plant and connect it to the electric grid. The technology was developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and with Rotem Industries.

The Public Utilities Authority had recently agreed to buy electricity at ILS2.01 per kilowatt hour from individuals and companies installing solar arrays on roofs.

AORA Chief Executive Officer Haim Fried said that the current tariff regime in Israel was not sufficient for solar thermal projects, so the company was also looking to develop solar thermal projects outside Israel.

AORA Chief Operating Officer Yuval Susskind said that the company was targeting an untapped market that’s less impacted by the current credit crunch than massive installations.

The solar industry is segmented into two themes: there’s the photovoltaics that you put on homes, and on the other hand there are the huge solar companies out in the desert, Susskind said. In the middle there’s nobody working on providing 100 kilowatts to 5 megawatts of solar thermal and doing it close to people’s homes.