'More Power to You' in the Arava

Two renewable energy giants have partnered on a project to build 15 new mid-sized solar energy fields to yield 100 megawatts of solar energy.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 15:11

Solar panels
Solar panels
Israel news photo; (illustrative)

Fifteen kibbutzim and moshavim have signed long-term contracts with two renewable energy giants to develop mid-sized solar energy fields in the Arava, the Negev and northern Israel. Most of the southern Arava kibbutzim, including Ketura, Yotvata, Lotan, Grofit, Eliphaz and Neve Harif, have already entered into agreements for the project.

The first groundbreaking will be held at Kibbutz Ketura.

Eilot Regional Regional Chairman Udi Gat expressed his hope that the plan would help transform the region into an Israeli “Silicon Valley of renewable energy.”

The announcement comes ahead of the 2010 Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference, set for February 16-18 in Eilat, where the project will make its debut. The conference, an international forum to debate policies, technology, business and investment practices, includes researchers, business leaders, government officials and academics from around the world.

The solar fields will be built by a partnership of two companies, Arava Power Company (APC) and Siemens Israel. APC is a major Israeli solar energy developer specializing in mid-size solar fields and rooftop solar installations. The photovoltaics to be built in the mid-sized solar fields by the partnership with Siemens Israel are expected to produce an average of 6.5 megawatts per field, and the total volume of all the fields is expected to reach 100 megawatts of solar energy.

APC CEO Jon Cohen noted in a statement that the Public Utility Authority (PUA) has created a competitive market for 300 megawatts – the nationwide solar field capacity deemed allowable by law – “and anyone who has the experience, knowledge and ability will be at an advantage over the rest.”

But Cohen called on the Ministry of Infrastructures and the PUA to increase the approved quantity of solar energy produced in mid-sized fields to 1,000 megawatts. “The goal to produce 300 solar megawatts is an important step towards implementing the government's decision to produce five percent of Israel's energy consumption from renewable sources by 2014, but it's not enough; at least 1,000 megawatts are needed,” he contended. Mid-size solar fields are capable of filling that gap faster than any other source, he added.

APC said it will invest some NIS 2 billion in the project. It also will advance rooftop solar installations on cowsheds and factories in the kibbutzim and moshavim that have signed the contracts, in accordance with the directives of the National Planning and Building Council.

Siemens Israel CEO Eliezer Tookman added that his firm would bring to the table, among other things, “training local technical teams in general, long-term strategic commitment, and expertise in maintenance and operation of projects and products for decades at the highest level. We anticipate and are readying ourselves for this task of building multiple fields, and hope that it's only the beginning of a solar revolution in Israel.”