An Israeli green energy firm that has focused primarily on photovoltaic installations is now shifting gears and adding wind farms to its future inventory by signing a cooperation agreement to erect turbines in six Golan Heights communities, the group announced on Tuesday.

The company, called Enlight Renewable Energy, is a publicly traded firm that merged in June 2010 into Sahar Investments Ltd., a public subsidiary of Eurocom Communications Ltd., and has been installing solar panels on a number of kibbutzim and moshavim throughout Israel since its 2008 establishment, according to company data.

While involved mostly in photovoltaics thus far, Enlight is interested in expanding to other forms of renewables, and since the cabinet approved an allocation of 800 megawatts to large wind farms as part of its mid-July decision to increase renewable energy quotas, the company finds this the ideal time to head in this direction, according to CEO and Director, Gilad Yavetz.

“We initiated the development of wind potential about a year ago, but most of our activities until today were on the business-development side,” Yavetz told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “We started on photovoltaics in our first three years because this was the most pure in terms of regulations in Israel.

“We also firmly believe in wind-energy potential, and now that there is the legal framework to do it, we are entering this field as well.”

While Enlight has currently signed the cooperation agreements with six Golan communities, Yavetz said he expects to be able to establish about eight to 10 systems, each at between five to 10 megawatts capacity – adding up to a total of about 50 megawatts in the area. Each individual connection cannot currently exceed these amounts, as the Golan Heights is only hooked up to the “high voltage” grid, and not the “supreme voltage” grid, which the Israel Electric Corporation is considering extending there in the future, Yavetz explained.

“It’s a little bit difficult in this preliminary phase to estimate what exactly is the potential,” he said. “But the way we are assessing is by crossing both the wind potential that we mapped until today, together with the land areas and the electrical grid that are available in these areas.”

Enlight is viewing the agreement as “cooperative” because the communities themselves will have a share of the profits, as will investment partner firm Aviram, according to Yavetz.

“We gave the settlements the option to hold up to 39 percent of the equity of all the ventures eventually,” he said.

While Yavetz wouldn’t specify the exact communities involved, he said they are located in the northern and eastern parts of the Golan Heights.

Aside from the 1990s-established Golan Heights Wind Farm near the town of Quneitra, no other large wind farms currently exist in Israel, something that Yavetz tributes to “the lack of regulation” prior to the recent cabinet approval.

“For us, the constitutive condition in order to develop this potential is to have a regulation that will enable us to establish and finance these developments in the future.

One of the main problem in the past was that there was no feed-in tariff,” Yavetz said.

“Now the policy is there and we hope the regulations will be published.”

One of two current obstacles that still stands in the way of getting the wind turbines on the ground is the Public Utility Authority’s need to approve regulations with all the terms and conditions about applying for a license, as well as prices for a feed-in tariff, which will probably be between 45 and 54 agorot per kilowatt hour, Yavetz estimated.

“It is in very advanced stages, and we hope it will be done in the near future,” he said of the application conditions.

The second item, statutory measures to issue building permits, may take up to a year, because this requires “a national policy in the statutory side that provides all the rules for the local committees to assess and provide all the permitting phases,” according to Yavetz.

Enlight expects that the company will be able to start erecting the turbines in about two years, he continued, and that with the estimated feed-in tariff, the growth revenue from the projects will be about NIS 5 million per year for 20 years.

“The potential in the Golan Heights in terms of electricity production is much more than the electricity consumption of all the settlements in the Golan Heights, which means that this electricity will be used in the feed-in grid and will also be used to provide answers to all consumption in the northern parts of Israel and additional parts of Galilee,” Yavetz said.

“One of the interesting changes in the way the electricity market is going to be built in the future of Israel is that we are shifting from very centralized production in the power plants... to very distributed production that will be done by multiple green partners,” he added.

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