Thanks to drip irrigation, the roads to Be’er Sheva in Israel are fringed with fields that were once barren. A simple system of water-carrying pipes have transformed the Negev Desert into productive agricultural land. But a newer addition just south of Be’er Sheva, transforms the desert into something more akin to a science fiction movie.
The first sign of something unusual ahead appears just after you leave the city limits. If you look carefully, you’ll notice a pale orange flame floating just above the horizon. As you get closer, a tall dark tower appears, its pinnacle glowing as bright as the sun. Light radiates towards the ground, seeming like sunbeams. This is the Ashalim Power Station.
Opened in September 2019, Ashalim is the tallest solar power station in the world, standing 260 meters (853 feet) tall. Ashalim Power Station uses an array of 56,000 solar panels known as heliostats arranged around the tower to reflect sunlight onto the pinnacle. The heliostats are computer-controlled and follow the sun as it moves from east to west through the day.
From the barren hilltops surrounding the station, the tower and the heliostats look like a scene from a futuristic story. The system produces enough clean energy to power 120,000 homes, about five percent of all homes in Israel. And development at the power station is still ongoing. While electricity production has already started, further plans will allow Ashalim Power Station to combine solar thermal energy, photovoltaic energy, and natural gas.
Know Before You Go
The tower is 4 km south of the Tlalim Junction on Route 211. It's easy to drive there from Tel Aviv and arrive back the same day. A great view is from Kornmehl Farm parking lot, which is 2 km south from Tlalim Junction on Route 40. The farm also has superb goat cheeses to eat-in or take-away.