Arava Power Company (APC) and Bank Hapoalim signed an agreement Monday securing financing for the first mediumsized solar field in Israel. The cost of the project is estimated at NIS 100 million, and Bank Hapoalim’s credit line extends to 80 percent.

“A lot of belief and determination has brought us to this moment,” APC CEO Jon Cohen said in a statement.

“The company’s founders saw before their eyes from the very beginning the first solar field in Israel being built at Kibbutz Ketura. Today, as a result of their vision and the courage of their decision, we are closing the first circle here.

“Today, we give the ‘go’ order to Siemens Israel, which will begin building the field immediately,” he went on. “This is just the first of dozens of fields APC will build across the Negev and Arava. We are grateful to Bank Hapoalim for their belief that APC can meet the goals it has set for itself.”

Miryam Gaz, project finance department head at Bank Hapoalim, declared that the bank “has chosen to be a pioneer in assisting the transition to solar energy and has initiated a process over the last two years which will enable the business and the private sectors to fulfill their potential in using renewable energy. We hope that securing financing for the Ketura project will be an incentive toward completing more projects in the field of solar energy.”

APC traversed the bureaucratic gauntlet over the past three years and was the first company to finish the regulatory process. It signed a power purchase agreement with the state in late November.

The 4.9-MW field is owned by Ketura Sun – a joint company of APC and Kibbutz Ketura.

Siemens, which owns a 40% stake in APC, will be planning and building the field itself.

According to APC, the field will be completed in nine months. It is expected to generate, in addition to electricity, revenues of NIS 12.5m. annually for the next 20 years – about NIS 250m. in total.

David Rosenblatt, one of the founders of APC (along with president Yosef Abramowitz and Kibbutz Ketura) and chairman of the board, urged the government to raise the cap on medium-sized fields.

“We call on the government to increase the cap on mediumsized fields from 300 MW to 1000 MW and thereby reach the goal of 5% of electricity to be produced from renewable sources by 2014, [that] the government has set for itself,” he said.

Abramowitz has argued that medium-sized solar fields using photovoltaic panels are the only way to reach that interim goal. Larger fields using solar thermal technologies cannot possibly be built by 2014, he has argued. The government decision calls for 10% of electricity to come from renewable resources by 2020.

Meanwhile, according to a Knesset Research Center report about that government decision, the Public Utility Authority – Electricity is set to announce feed-in tariff rates for large solar fields in the coming weeks. A feed-in tariff is the amount the government pays per kilowatt hour produced. It is usually given for periods of 20 to 25 years as an incentive to build power generation plants that would not be costeffective otherwise.

Separately, according to the report, the Ashelim project will likely take at least four years to complete once the tender is finalized early next year. The Ashelim project consists of two solar thermal plants with an output of 220 MW and a PV plant of 30 MW.

The Knesset report was prepared for a session of the Health and Environment Committee on Monday on the interministerial report and national plan on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That plan does not specifically mention alternative energy as a way of reducing emissions, nor does it discuss the makeup of the fuel basket – something that has drawn the criticism of environmental groups.

According to the report, the Israeli standard for small wind turbines is also set to be published in about a week. However, the Planning Administration has just begun work on an overall plan for erecting small wind turbines. That plan will take about six months to complete, which means that the small wind turbine industry probably won’t begin to pick up for at least another six months. Of a cap of 30 MW, just 3.5 MW have been utilized so far.

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