The Sunday Times
October 7, 2000
BOOTS, the high-street chemist, is planning an investment in solar power to provide environmentally friendly energy for its stores. Boots executives plan to install several trial units made by Solel Solar Systems, an Israeli company. If the trial is successful, Boots will roll out the units across its stores.
The units trap sunlight in solar panels mounted on the roofs or walls. Solel says they are capable of providing 70% of a building's hot water and air-conditioning yet pose no environmental threat. Once the units have been installed, they do not consume fuel and have minimal maintenance costs.
Avi Brenmiller, chief executive of Jerusalem-based Solel, says the patented system is 50% more efficient than existing alternatives and is suitable for northern Europe, with its relative lack of sunshine.
Solel's Vac 2008 is four metres long with a heat-collecting element consisting of a stainless-steel tube suspended in a vacuum inside a tubular glass sheath. The element is mounted on a parabolic solar reflector coated with silver. This concentrates the sun's rays onto the metal tube, which is coated with a mixture of metal and ceramic particles in a secret process. Water passes through the tube and is heated by sunlight. The special coating and the vacuum insulate the tube so that once it is heated it retains 97% of the energy.
Temperatures inside the element can reach up to 400 degrees centigrade, enabling it to provide air-conditioning without using electricity. In sunny climates, Solel says its generators can produce enough electricity to power a hospital, office building or even a village. Brenmiller says: "It hasn't been possible until now to manufacture such efficient collectors to reach the temperatures needed to produce enough energy at a low-enough cost. The unique methods used to make the system mean it can be used even in climates without much sunshine, such as Britain."
Rionay, an Eastbourne company, distributes Solel systems in Britain.