Israel unveils first solar power field

2011-06-05 20:20

Jerusalem - Israel's Arava Power unveiled the country's first commercial solar power plant on Sunday, showing it off to government ministers and dignitaries, and announced plans to erect dozens of other solar array fields, whose total cost could reach $2bn.

The $30m, 4.95MW plant in the agricultural community Kibbutz Keturah which is due to be hooked up to the national grid in the next few weeks, is the first of about 50 photovoltaic power fields that Arava said it will build throughout the southern Negev desert by the end of 2014.

Israel has set a goal of having 10% of the energy it consumes coming from renewable sources by 2020. But there is still some disagreement within the government on how best to proceed, which could delay Arava's plan.

Arava, which is 36% owned by German conglomerate Siemens, said it secured 80% of the funding for the Keturah plant from Bank Hapoalim, Israel's second-largest bank.

"Arava plans to build nearly 50 solar fields for well over 400MW, an investment cost of roughly $2bn," David Rosenblatt, the company's vice chair, told Reuters.

With backing from Siemens, he said, the company is confident it will raise the money without a hitch.

Siemens Israel President Eliezer Tokman said Siemens "certainly sees Israel as a country with high potential for solar energy".

He said the business model was attractive because of the relatively secure income, which will come from the state-owned Israel Electric.

The electric company will pay 45 cents per kW/h from the Keturah plant over 20 years, but that price could drop when the larger plants are in place, Arava said.

The company said it has signed agreements with communities and even with Bedouin families in the Negev to build on their land, but it still needs the government to increase its official quota on solar fields.

The Infrastructure Ministry, which is ultimately responsible for the matter, has decided to allow hundreds of additional megawatts of electricity to come from solar fields. But the Finance Ministry has been holding up the move.

A senior official at the Infrastructure Ministry told Reuters he expected the issue to be resolved soon, while Arava said it expects the quota will be raised by the end of the month.

  • Grayman - 2011-06-05 20:37

    And the South African government is still chasing after fracking in the Karoo. If ever there was a place to build a solar power station it would be there.

      Horst - 2011-06-05 22:25

      Oh no, you can't do that. You will wreck the Karoo, it will never look the same again. Think of all the trucks that have to drive in and out during construction, and what about the chemicals being used as heat transfer fluid. On a more serious note, this could work, we run the solar plant when the sun shines and over night rev up the gas turbines using fracked methane.

  • GonnyVonYuri - 2011-06-05 20:49

    Look how the Israeli's progress in spite of living in a war zone - what resilient people! Now if only their neighbours would stop worrying about 72 virgins in heaven and start living for now! Peace!

      Justin - 2011-06-05 21:57

      The ignorance of this comment is incredible...

      M - 2011-06-05 22:38

      seems like ov thinks it it ok to fire rockets using children as shields into civilian neighborhoods. those folks are not devious murderers???

      BernieK - 2011-06-05 23:00

      GonnyVonYuri - I agree with you. Those petty neighbours worry about 70 odd virgins that do NOT exist! It is almost incomprehensible that people today still believe this crap. Rather work on developing their own countries, no, they worry about Israel. If these lazy neighbours just adopt a new attitude of progress then the walls between Jew and Arab can come down. Then the whole region can be developed and everyone can benefit. That unfortunately seems to be almost impossible. It is always the Jew's fault, but never the Arab. Why can the Arab not get out of their own mind prison and escape the clutches of their own way of thinking and be bold and grasp the opportunities that lay within their reach. It is so simple and easy.

      BernieK - 2011-06-05 23:01

      Justin - I fail to see what is wrong with GonnyVonYuri's comment. I fail to understand you.

      Waleed Toefy - 2011-06-06 10:15

      Wow, Justin is right, both your ignorance is incredable... BernieK.. ever hear of an Arab Jew... they do exist.. by the 1000's, all it takes is for you to open a book or 2 then maybe you and Julius Malema will start to look differently

      Neo - 2011-06-06 10:46

      So this is why they are stealing their neigbours land ... to build solar power fields!!! Ethnic cleansing can never be justified, chop!!!

  • Joy - 2011-06-06 07:56

    south africa is the ideal country for Solar Power - especially in the karoo and desert areas.

  • CPII - 2011-06-06 07:58

    Do tell me this story about the 70 virgins LOL……:)

  • CPChronicle - 2011-06-06 09:03

    There is one thing in this story that makes it possible in Isreal and not in South Africa: the company building the plant is a private company with private investors, who then sells it's electricity to the national power company. Here it would cost $2billion just for all the commities and working groups

  • droplet - 2011-06-06 09:03

    peaj demand is after sunset. what then?

      droplet - 2011-06-06 09:04


  • Oks - 2011-06-06 11:25

    These solar farms are not ugly. They are not polluting. And they will not take up the whole Karoo if one of them were to be built there. Agreed the construction will be invasive on the roads, but it is very short term. The PV arrays just sit there and generate electricity. The solar steam generators use melted salt (400c-800c) as heat transferring fluid and water to generate steam, in closed loops. This is way better than any other alternative, especially noisy and unsightly windfarms.

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