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First Solar Field Approved for Negev Bedouin Community

Two Israeli ministers and other officials gathered to celebrate the approval of the first solar installation for a Negev Bedouin community.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 9/12/2011, 8:03 PM

Israel's Interior Ministry has approved a plan for a photovoltaic solar installation adjacent to the Bedouin community of Tarabin, in the Abu Basma Regional Council. 

The ministry's Southern Regional Planning and Building Committee approved the plan at a ceremony Sunday attended by National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked and MK Einat Wilf. Star performances by David Broza, the Ranot Choir and Shyne brought a festive air to the event. The joint project between the Tarabin tribe and the Arava Power company is expected to result in an eight megawatt, 150-dunam (37 acre) solar installation, the first such building approval granted to the Israeli Bedouin sector.

Built on Bedouin-owned lands in the Negev Desert zoned for agriculture adjacent to the Tarabin community at a cost $30 million, the installation will be used to generate “green” solar electricity

Arava Power Company President Yosef Abramowitz commented that the leaders of all the Bedouin communities in Israel support solar power development. However, he said, the Bedouin are disadvantaged compared to other entrepreneurs and landowners, and added a pointed warning. “If the government doesn't allocate a significant quota specifically for Bedouin solar fields, they will not be able to play a genuine role in the industry.” Community leader Haj Mousa Tarabin thanked the project participants and especially the Southern Regional Planning and Building Committee, adding, “I am glad there are people who are concerned and are helping the Bedouin improve their lifestyle on the economic level as well as with creating various sources of income. 

Arava Power was the first solar company to partner with Bedouin families, having signed five contracts in the course of the past year with such communities to build solar projects on a total of 540 dunam (133 acres) of land. The first wave of projects will constitute more than 30 megawatts of solar energy.

The news came on the same day that the Cabinet approved a plan to restructure compensation agreements and formalize land arrangements with Negev Bedouin, setting off a firestorm of protest among many in the Bedouin sector.