Beginning to harness the desert’s light
LAST UPDATED: 12/28/2011 19:00
The Top Environment story of 2011, according to JPost reader votes.
New solar field in Arava Photo: Sharon Udasin
The results are in: Over 60 percent of readers voted Israel's first medium sized solar field as the biggest environment story of 2011. In second place Israel's natural gas supply, with almost 20% of the vote.When
I first saw the sea of blue panels amid the scorched desert sands,
driving along Highway 90 this June, I knew that Ketura Sun was a crucial
– albeit late-coming – addition to the uniform landscape of the Arava.
At 4.95 megawatts, the medium-sized solar field was the first of its kind in sunny Israel.
The field is capable of powering a supply equivalent to seven percent
of Eilat’s energy needs and aims to fulfill one of David Ben-Gurion's
original visions, Arava Power Company president, Yosef Abramowitz, had
told me during a Jerusalem Post visit
to his company's field. The visionaries behind the gleaming field –
which is made up of 18,500 photovoltaic panels from Chinese company
Suntech – were, along with Abramowitz, Ketura resident Ed Hofland and US
businessman David Rosenblatt.
it took way too long – and quite a great struggle on the part of Arava
Power – to get this field going, leaving Israel trailing far behind
cloudy Germany and several other European nations in its efforts to
harness the sun's light, and transform it into usable, clean energy.
Abramowitz, dubbed “Captain Sunshine” by kibbutz residents, and his
partners fought a five-year, uphill battle with 24 government offices to
get the permits necessary to start building the field. Yet despite the
ever-present bureaucratic challenges, the company plans to press on with
its solar ventures.
Next in Arava Power's plans is to construct
Israel's first large-sized solar field, at 40 megawatts, directly across
Highway 90 from the current photovoltaic oasis.
And with the
government's July decision to approve a widespread increase in renewable
energy allocations – with specifically 460 megawatts for large solar
fields, in addition to the 300 megawatts total available for medium
fields – it is the hope of clean energy entrepreneurs that more fields
like Ketura Sun will be popping up across the country's deserts sooner,
rather than later. The hope among industry experts is that solar energy
and other renewable sources, combined with natural gas, will eventually
be able to power the country and minimize its reliance on “dirty”
sources, like coal, jet fuel oil and diesel.
On winning the Post's poll for top environmental story of the year, Arava Power echoed these sentiments.
“Arava Power is gratified to share the excitement of The Jerusalem Post readers
in naming the launch of Ketura Sun, Israel’s first commercial solar
field, the most important environmental story of the year,” said
Rosenblatt, co-founder and vice chair of the Arava Power board. “Ketura
Sun is both proof of concept and a down payment on the solar revolution
that is expected in Israel in 2012 and in which Arava Power expects to
continue to play a meaningful role.”
Rosenblatt emphasized his hope that the successful launch of Ketura Sun
would be a catalyst for similar such ventures all over the country.
“Hopefully next year, Jerusalem Post readers
will have to make the tough choice for top environmental story of the
year between launch of first Beduin commercial solar field, the
groundbreaking on Israel’s first large field (40 megawatts at Ketura) or
increasing Israel’s renewable target by 2020 from a low 10 percent to
the European Union standard of 20%,” he added.