GE assumes EPC role at BrightSource's Israel CSP project

General Electric has formally taken over EPC duties at BrightSource Energy’s 121MW Ashalim concentrated solar power (CSP) project under construction in Israel, following its recent acquisition of Alstom’s power business.

California-based BrightSource – one of the world’s leading CSP companies – won the Ashalim concession alongside France’s Alstom in 2012.

Since GE’s recent acquisition of Alstom’s power and grids units, the US industrial giant has taken on EPC responsibilities for the project – including the supply of key equipment like the steam generator and turbine.

GE will also stay on to provide O&M services for 25 years, BrightSource says.

Construction is at full steam at the Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station, with more than 1,000 workers currently on site and the project due for completion in 2017. The CSP plant will use 50,600 heliostat mirrors installed across a 3.15 sq km field.

BrightSource could use some good news, given the ongoing challenges with its 392MW Ivanpah CSP plant in California’s Mojave Desert, which is now in its third year of operation.

In addition to controversy regarding bird deaths caused by Ivanpah, the project has so far seriously undershot its expected electricity output, putting its off-take agreements with Pacific Gas & Edison at risk.

Last week California regulators granted the project an extra year to find its footing, with its owners on the hook to pay PG&E for any undelivered electricity required by the PPA.

Ivanpah is owned by BrightSource, NRG Energy and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

BrightSource’s Ashalim project is using the fourth-generation of the CSP specialist’s solar field technologies.

The heliostats at Ashalim are 25% larger than the ones used at Ivanpah. Each mirror is on a dual-axis tracking system capable of 360 degree positioning, whose movement is powered by a small PV panel and rechargeable Li-ion battery unit.

“Ashalim is a showcase of the CSP industry’s most advanced solar field technologies,” says David Ramm, CEO of BrightSource Energy.

Currently, more than 6,000 heliostats have been installed, and the power block is "starting to take shape", BrightSource says. Construction of the 250m "power tower" has also kicked off.

The project is expected to generate the equivalent of 2% of Israel's electricity.

Ashalim is one of two large CSP projects being built in Israel’s Negev Desert, with Spain’s Abengoa building a separate 110MW plant.