An Israeli company will build the world's largest solar energy park in Southern California's Mojave Desert to supply enough electricity to power 400,000 homes in Central and Northern California.
The massive $2 billion project was announced last week, following the signing of a 25-year contract between Israel's Solel Solar Systems and California's Pacific Gas and Electric public utility.
David Saul, project leader for the Mojave Solar Park, described the venture as "a landmark" and "the largest solar project built to date" in a phone interview during a brief visit to San Francisco.
When completed in 2011, following two years of construction, the solar park will stretch over 6,000 acres or 9 square miles, use 1.2 million mirrors and 317 miles of vacuum tubing to harness the power of the desert sun and deliver 553 megawatts of clean energy.
The American-born Saul, a UC Berkeley graduate, got his start in Silicon Valley, moved to Israel in 1983 and is now Solel's chief operating officer.
He said his company will design and manufacture the components at its plant in Bet Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, and will be responsible for the development of the park, in cooperation with a number of American firms. Solel's primary development office will be in Los Angeles.
Solel will use its patented solar thermal parabolic trough technology, in which rows of trough-like mirrors will heat a special fluid that generates steam. The steam will power turbines that will generate electricity for transmission to PG & E's electric grid. The technology was developed by another Israeli company, Luz, which built nine solar power plants in the Mojave Desert between 1984-1991.
Luz went bankrupt in the early 1990s, due to a denial of tax breaks by the state of California, Luz officials charged at the time. However, the plants are still operational and have been recently upgraded by Solel.
As the world's largest solar thermal company, Solel is also building a large solar park in southern Spain.
In Israel, the installation of solar water heating systems on practically all homes and buildings is mandatory. Surprisingly, though, there are no solar parks on a scale of the Mojave project in Israel, a failure critics blame on bureaucratic roadblocks. However, the government recently announced plans for a solar plant near Dimona in the Negev Desert.
State agencies must still approve the Mojave Solar Park, but PG & E and Solel spokespersons said they were confident of a go-ahead, because of the state's own clean-energy projections. State regulations mandate that at least 20 percent of electricity provided by public utilities must be based on renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind, by 2010.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Alonim Campers Bring With Them School Supplies for Needy Youngsters
This summer, kids packing up for Camp Alonim began to fill their trunks and duffel bags with the requisite flashlights, cans of bug spray, sleeping bags and ... spiral notebooks?
Over the summer, 850 campers, ranging from second-graders to high schoolers, have been asked to bring school supplies to camp -- from crayons to calculators -- to serve as donations to Tools for School, a new program instituted by Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFSLA). Backpacks full of school supplies will be distributed to children in need through three SOVA food pantries, the Gramercy Homeless Shelter and two domestic violence shelters.
"We want to help children start the school year off on a positive note," said Sheri Kadovitz, JFSLA special projects coordinator.
Tools for School was inspired by JFSLA's Adopt-a-Family program, which provides holiday gifts to low-income families.
"We realized that it must be very difficult to provide essential school supplies for your children when it's a struggle just to cover your basic living expenses," Kadovitz said.
She also wanted to involve the Jewish community.
"A camp is a great place to get a message to hundreds of kids, because you don't have to compete with television and video games," Kadovitz said. "This project is a way of making children aware of how they can help others."
Although Camp Alonim is the only camp undertaking the project this year, Kadovitz hopes to include other camps in the future.
She has visited Alonim several times this summer to educate campers about the program. "We discussed the importance of mitzvot, gemilut hassadim [acts of lovingkindness] and tikkun olam [repairing the world]," Kadovitz said. "The kids have been exceptionally excited about what they are doing."
At the end of three Alonim sessions, JFSLA hopes to have filled 800 backpacks. Campers from the first two sessions already have brought enough for 600.
Alonim director Jordanna Flores said she is awed by the generosity of the campers. "I imagined that each of them would bring a package of pencils, but many have brought backpacks, the most expensive item on the list, and packs of notebooks, not to mention the markers, colored chalk and erasers," she said. "The piles on collection day have been heartwarming."
-- Derek Schlom, Contributing Writer
Jewish Community Library's Summer Reading Club for Kids Back Again
In an effort to promote Jewish literature for children, the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles (JCLLA) has launched its sixth annual Summer Reading Club for Kids. Amy Muscoplat and Sylvia Lowe, the children's librarians at JCLLA, are encouraging kids of all ages to read six grade-appropriate books with Jewish themes over the course of the summer, with the added incentive of a certificate and prizes for their effort.
More than 300 families worldwide participated last summer from as far away as Canada and Israel. This year, the JCLLA, led by director Abigail Yasgur, expects an even higher turnout and has sent out more than 400 participation packets.
Yasgur credited the increase in club membership over the years to parental motivation.
"Parents want their kids to read during what is traditional summer downtime," she said. "Parents are savvy enough to know that reading is the key to all things great, and our program packs a double punch by providing an essential component of Jewishness. Children's Jewish literature is a great vehicle for educating and transferring knowledge of tradition and folktales, and it is just good fun."
For more information, visit http://www.jclla.org.