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New Solar Projects in Israel Will Significantly Increase Installed Capacity

Pop quiz: Which country ranks tied with Austria and South Africa for solar energy "attractiveness," and is tied with Saudi Arabia (and just behind Chile and the UAE) for overall renewable energy attractiveness?

The answer: Israel, which ranks 17th and 37th, respectively, in Ernst & Young's most recent index rankings released a few weeks ago.

Israel has laid out targets for 5% of energy from renewable sources by 2014, and 10% by 2020, the latter translating to roughly 2.7 GW of installed capacity. (The EU's own goal is 20% by 2020.) Right now renewables account for less than 1% of Israel's energy mix, and Israel's solar capacity as of last fall was just over 200 MW so there's a long way to go to meet 2015 goals.

In 2009, Israel was the planet's fastest-growing solar market, adding 21.5 MW capacity for a 20-fold annual increase. Cumulative installed capacity was 61 MW at the end of 2011; last year Israel added another 60 MW, and will more than triple its annual demand volumes in 2013, according to Solarbuzz analyst Michael Barker. Most rooftops sport solar water heaters, too. A feed-in tariff (FiT) established in 2008 has been repeatedly scaled back in answer to cheaper prices, though, stalling progress on larger projects.

This week, though, construction has begun on five solar PV projects in the Arava and Negev deserts (in the kibbutzim of Maslul, Shoval, Yotvata, Grofit, and Elifaz), totaling 35-MW installed capacity and with investment of nearly 500 million shekels (€100 million). Arava Power and Soluciones Técnicas Integrales Norland (STi Norland) are developing the projects, with backing by Midgal Insurance Company, Bank Hapoalim, and Amitim. Siemens Israel, which also partnered with (and took a 40 percent stake in) Arava Power to build the first PV field in Israel (the 50-MW Ketura Sun, commissioned in 2011) is the general contractor, and JA Solar is supplying 123,000 of its high-efficiency (around 15 percent) polycrystalline modules (average output: 290 Wp). These projects, announced last May, will come online this summer, all with signed PPAs with the Israel Electric Company.

Arava and EDF Israel are also developing three other solar projects totaling 23 MW in southern kubbutzim of Kerem Shalom, Mishmar HaNegev, and Bror Hail.

Lead image: Sand dunes in Arava desert, via Shutterstock

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