The Israeli government has not demonstrated any solid commitment to developing a
wind energy sector, and must establish clearer zoning regulations that will
enable entrepreneurs to develop their projects, experts say.
Day, which was technically on Friday, is being celebrated in Israel on
While large wind installations can potentially cause interference
with military surveillance as well as disturbances to birds in flight, the
proper combination of strategically placed large farms and small, residential
installations could be the perfect addition to Israel’s developing renewable
energy repertoire, field advocates agreed.
“Global Wind Day is supposed
to raise the awareness of the governments to the benefits of wind power,” Eitan
Parness, head of the Israel Renewable Energy Association, told The Jerusalem
in an interview last week. “Wind power has a special advantage when you mix
it with solar. It produces energy in times when solar shuts down.”
an increased use of photovoltaics alone, the country would still need to turn to
fossil fuels by sundown, Parness explained. Instead, he said, Israel should be
optimizing its use of wind energy during those hours.
“Israel is far
behind the western world in terms of renewable energy and we might even be
behind other countries in the Middle East,” said Dr. Daniel Farb, CEO and
founder of Leviathan Energy.
Leviathan Energy last year launched the
vertical, small wind turbine called the Wind Tulip – actually in the shape of a
tulip – which aims to provide silent, cost-effective wind energy from rooftops.
In addition to its work in wind, Leviathan is also building a hydroelectric unit
with 55 percent efficiency – currently in its experimental phase at Kibbutz
Re’im, after which it will be sent to Italy.
“Everybody has big plans
except for Israel,” Farb added, noting that Saudi Arabia has massive solar
plants, while Egypt already has many wind farms.
Denmark supplies over
20% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, while Israel does so with
less than 1%, according to Farb.
“I believe that there has to be a real
commitment to it from the prime minister on down,” he said. “The minister of
energy is a really wonderful advocate, but there are so many other industries
and stakeholders involved in renewable energy.”
While there are many
companies with wind technology solutions that work and can be implemented
quickly – including his own, the quiet, vertical Wind Tulip – there is
essentially no government financing for developing such wind projects, Farb
Perhaps first and foremost, however, the Israel Lands Authority
needs to make zoning policies easier for constructing wind facilities, the
“It’s a specifically neglected area,” Parness said,
stressing that zoning issues continue to cause a bureaucratic mess when dealing
with wind. “It’s not from logic or facts – they just don’t know the
Banks in Israel do not yet view wind as secure an investment
as solar energy because it is a territory that simply has not been explored
here, according to Parness.
“Those things are not being done for wind
because it’s like an egg and chicken [scenario],” he said. “You need a market
and then the financial players will come and act. But you need to jumpstart the
market. The government has not only not allowed this jumpstart, but it
has sabotaged it by not dealing with zoning.”
When developers construct
apartment buildings, they usually want to maximize the number of floors.
However, turbines at the moment constitute another entire floor, Parness
explained. This policy, which he called “completely wrong,” is in the process of
being overhauled by the Interior Ministry, and new rules will likely be in force
in about a year and a half, according to Parness.
Nimrod Rosenblum, a
partner in the Epstein, Rosemblum and Maoz law firm – which specializes in
energy – agreed that a national zoning plan defining exactly what must be done
in order to construct wind farms is absolutely critical.
investors do not yet understand the risks of wind energy as they have not yet
received clear-cut regulations, and therefore “feel that it is too early to
commit to anything,” Rosenblum said.
After establishing zoning laws,
Israel should be following in the footsteps of advanced wind countries like
Denmark, which not only invests in wind projects but also finances technology
development, according to Rosenblum. Companies in Israel with these innovative
technologies, such as Leviathan, should likewise be receiving backing from the
Israeli government, Parness agreed. “What has happened here is that because
there is no special clause exempting Israeli innovative technology from the
zoning law, technologies like [Farb’s] are being closed out from development,”
While the experts agreed that Israel should have a combination
of both small and large-scale turbines, small-sized facilities are likely easier
to implement at the moment. Due to military interference concerns, for
example, large fields have to be in very isolated areas, Farb
For the 30-megawatt cap for small-scale wind installations,
developers are set to receive a feed-in tariff of NIS 1.6 per kilowatt-hour for
up to 15-kilowatt installations, and NIS 1.29 per kilowatt-hour for between 15
and 50-kilowatt installations, Parness said. For the large-scale wind energy
quota, which is 800 megawatts, developers will receive around 60 agorot per
kilowatt-hour. Electricity prices are currently about 62 agorot per
kilowatthour, including taxes.
A single small turbine that is about 4.5
meters tall by 2.5 meters wide, on a flat rooftop, costs about $10,000, while a
cluster of 15 would cost about $135,000, Farb said. The 30- megawatt quota has
hardly been used at all, with only two small turbines built since the quota’s
establishment in 2009, while the 800-megawatt quota approved last July has not
yet been touched. Israel will likely never see more than 15 large projects of
wind energy, and the government’s decision to approve such an enormous quota is
“completely artificial,” 4according to Parness.
“They have approved a big
quota of wind because it is hard to fulfill,” he said. “It is quite funny that
the decision-makers have decided up on wind without even seeing one wind
turbine,” Parness added, noting that the government conducted no studies of wind
turbines abroad before determining these numbers.
Parness, however, was
optimistic that changes for the better are on the way. For example, the old
Golan Heights wind farm is slated to expand soon from its current 6 megawatts to
14 megawatts, although funding is a huge obstacle due to its politically
controversial location. Meanwhile, a 55-megawatt project is being promoted in
the Eilat region, and Gilboa as well as certain areas in Judea and Samaria show
great potential for wind energy, Parness said.
“I think the awareness of
the damages of fossil fuels is transforming the public opinion throughout the
world,” Parness said. “Also, in a place as small in Israel, when this summer you
won’t be able to drive without seeing black smoke coming out of the chimneys,
the public will be aware and will make it easier for a small number of projects
to be built.”
“I believe that when wind turbines will be built and the
public will see them, it will be out there – they will see that it’s not as
frightening as it seems now,” he added.
A cocktail hour and short
conference in honor of Global Wind Day will take place on Monday evening in Tel
Aviv, arranged by Parness’s Renewable Energy Association of Israel, the Global
Wind Energy Council and the European Wind Energy Association.