‘Israel must provide stable, predictable framework for future wind industry’

Secretary-general of the Bonn-based World Wind Energy Association tells companies to reinvest in green energy.

By
August 28, 2013 18:34
4 minute read.
Wind turbines in the Golan Heights

Wind turbines in the Golan Heights 311 (R). (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

As Israel gears up to get its wind energy sector going, it will be crucial for the government to create an investment framework defined by stability and predictability, an international industry expert stressed on Tuesday night.

Companies looking to invest in wind farms must see that the government will not be constantly changing rules and regulations because in doing so, “you destroy confidence, you destroy companies,” said Stefan Gsänger, secretary-general of the Bonn-based World Wind Energy Association, at a conference in Tel Aviv that night.

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Key to creating a successful policy for wind energy is not only providing investment security but establishing a level-playing field for companies, including newcomers, Gsänger explained. In addition, because wind farms are decentralized and require many more locations than traditional power generation sites, communities seeing wind farms pop up in their midsts must see a direct benefit from these new additions, he said.

On a national level, a welldesigned feed-in tariff can also provide necessary market stability, Gsänger added, speaking at a conference titled “Israel and the World Wind Energy Roadmap,” organized by the Israeli Wind Energy Association (IsraWEA) and held at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday.

In comparison to that of many other countries around the world, the Israeli wind energy sector is still in its infancy. In the summer of 2011 the cabinet approved an 800-megawatt allocation for future wind farms. Thus far, the Public Utility Authority has approved licenses for the 6-megawatt field in the Druse village of Hurfeish, the 6.8- megawatt Sirin farm in the Jordan Valley, the 10-megawatt Ma’aleh Gilboa site just above Beit She’an and the 6- megawatt Tel Asania facility in the Golan Heights. Meanwhile, in the Emek Habacha region, the Northern District Planning and Building Committee approved in January the future construction of a 120-megawatt farm.

These limited approvals are not to say, however, that Israelis have not been long involved in the wind industry.

Since Prof. Avraham Kogan began investigating the option of implementing wind farms in the 1960s at the Technion, Israeli academics have been involved in the forefront of global research in optimizing wind energy, explained Prof.

Aviv Rosen, from the Technion’s aerospace engineering faculty. Rosen himself has been teaching a course on wind turbines and energy production at the Technion since the 1980s, one of the first courses in the world on this subject.

Rosen and other Israeli colleagues have been key participants in the Model Experiments in Controlled Conditions (MEXICO) project within the EU’s Fifth European Framework Research Program, as well as in the International Energy Agency – Wind’s Task 29 Mexnext program, to improve the understanding of wind turbine aerodynamics and the advantages and disadvantages of employing various models.

Domestically, Israeli academics are also working on enhancing wind energy production in complex terrain, which constitutes many of the potential wind-farm sites in Israel, Rosen explained. Some specific efforts in this arena include ongoing intensive research on atmospheric aspects of wind dynamics, led by Prof. Pinhas Alpert, head of Tel Aviv University’s Porter School for Environmental Studies.

“There is ongoing research activity in Israel on various aspects of wind energy,” Rosen said. “It is time now to go from research to using real wind energy in Israel.”

Commercially, however, there are still very few companies dealing directly with wind energy in Israel. Despite the fact that Israel is a world leader in innovation, only four percent of cleantech grants at the Economy Ministry’s Office of the Chief Scientist currently go to wind energy, according to Dr. Abraham Gross, the deputy chief scientist for technology.

While the companies may be small in number they represent a wide spectrum of areas of expertise.

Ophir Gore, director for renewable energy and alternative fuels at the Economy Ministry’s NEWTech investment promotion center, presented some of these companies, including BirdVision, which develops mechanisms for deterring birds.

Others include EVR Motors, focusing lightweight, high efficiency drive generators for turbines; Leviathan Energy, increasing power output through aerodynamic modeling for new and existing wind turbines; Ocean Bricks, supplying offshore support for deep-water turbines; and Pentalum, using remote wind speed and direction measurements to improve turbine performance.

Still others include Smart Wind, producing small vertical axis turbines; Renso, providing wind power solutions for off-grid telecom sites; WindSL, reducing turbine maintenance costs; WindWells, locating high wind concentrations and optimizing turbine positioning; and Winflex, providing rotors made of flexible, light and inexpensive composite material fabric.

Gadi Hareli, founder and CEO of IsraWEA, said he is sure that there are many, many more wind energy firms that are not yet in contact with the Economy Ministry, and he emphasized his opinion “that the prospects in this field are tremendous.”

Despite the still lagging Israeli participation in the wind industry, Oded Distel, director of NEWTech, said he felt that “renewable energy as a whole is gaining momentum.”

“We have to gain momentum and be part of this global trend and be part of the game,” Distel added. “I think it is pretty much doable because the resources, the brainpower, everything is in place. You just have to bring it together and push it forward.”


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