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Building Small Prototype Homes, an Israeli Solar Experiment

Engineer Hy Brown was the chief engineer of the U.S. World Trade Center in New York City. Years after the terrorist attacks in 2001, he has found a new passion-- developing pre-fabricated solar powered houses in Israel. Ti's his way of using his skills to develop affordable and environmentally friendly housing alternatives. VOA's Paul Sisco has more in this Searching for Solutions report.

In Israel's Negev Desert, engineer Hy Brown is building small prototype homes that run entirely on solar power. He explains, "We have the opportunity by putting solar power on each house, more than what the house(s) use, of turning each house into a mini power plant which is a different way to provide energy for the Neg. Desert."

His partner in the REAL Housing Ltd. project is Michael Brandemuehl. "It’s getting to the point where with good energy efficient technologies the typical roof areas that people have on their houses is more than enough to produce the energy they use over the course of a year and still put more energy back into grid,” Brandemuehl said. “All the roofs that are around the country are in some ways a great resource that is under utilized."

They use typical conventional photovoltaic panels and energy efficient appliances.

Down the road, other work is being done here at the Ben Gurion National Solar Energy Center. Researchers are working with concentrated solar collectors that resemble satellite dishes. Director David Faiman says, "The great feature about concentration photovoltaics that it solves two problems at the same time. The first problem is that it uses less expensive photovoltaic material than a conventional photovoltaic panel. Instead of collecting the light on the panel itself you collect the light on glass and then you concentrate it onto a very small amount of this material. When you do it this way, the efficiency of the cells turns out to be very much higher than it is if you don't concentrate the light."

Faiman says such concentrated solar panels are more than twice as efficient as conventional solar panels. He says strategically placing them throughout the desert could provide limitless environmentally friendly solar energy.