Construction of a 40-megawatt photovoltaic power plant in Kibbutz Ketura – the
first large solar field in the country – was approved by the National Planning
and Building Council on Wednesday morning.
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The plant is part of a
nationwide effort to promote energy production through solar sources, the
council announced later in the day.
The field will be built by the Arava
Power Company on a 600-dunam (60 hectare) plot and will produce 2,200 hours of
electricity per year, during daylight hours only, according to the council,
which is a division of the Interior Ministry under the leadership of Dr. Shuki
The council said that nature and agricultural areas would not be
harmed in the building process.
The electricity produced at the Arava’s
photovoltaic field will pass through a transport line onto the Israel Electric
Company’s national grid, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and shortening the
electricity transport time to the city of Eilat, the council said.
large field in Ketura constitutes a historical landmark in the local solar
industry and will turn Israel into a country that benefits from a significant
production of electricity from solar energy,” Jon Cohen, the CEO of Arava, said
in a statement.
“We expect and believe that the Israeli government will
act quickly to deploy the resolution for large fields, which will enable the
beginning of electricity production in the large field in Ketura,” he
“This is the biggest victory yet in our efforts to get Israel to go
solar,” the company’s president and founder, Yosef Abramowitz, told The
Arava Power is currently installing the country’s first
medium-sized photovoltaic solar field of 4.95 megawatts, also located in Ketura,
and slated to be launched on June 5 and interconnected to the grid sometime this
During Wednesday’s session, the council also approved the
extension of natural gas lines to a future 250- megawatt solar-thermal
industrial power plant in Ashalim, 35 km. south of Beersheba, a project that has
been delayed for years.
Once this project is built and operational, 30
km. of underground pipeline alongside Roads 40 and 21 will deliver natural gas
to the facility from Ramat Hovav, which can serve as a backup to the system in
case of emergency, according to the council’s decision.
The gas could
also be channeled in the more distant future to the planned Ir Habahadim “city”
of IDF training bases to be created in the desert, the council added.
both plans – the Arava field and the industrial solar-thermal plant – now will
be reviewed by the district planning councils, giving the public the opportunity
to review the campaigns, the council said.
“This is very important
because until today, when you wanted to construct such a solar plant, you needed
to go all the way to the National Planning and Building Council,” Environmental
Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who was involved in advancing this plan, told
the Post. “Now this can be discussed on a district level, which is much
In addition to hiding the large Arava plant from Road 90 behind
a date orchard, the council has said it has ensured that reflections emanating
from the panels will neither blind drivers nor aircraft pilots passing through
the area. He added that Arava will take the necessary precautions to
stabilize the structure properly in a region that is susceptible to
According to the company, the 40- megawatt field will be
capable of providing one-third of Eilat’s power needs.
“It will not only
enable the flow of clean electricity to the city of Eilat, but it will eliminate
the need to burn expensive and polluting gases in order to satisfy the demands
of electricity there,” Abramowitz said in a statement. “Clean electricity will
cost about half the price of polluting electricity in Eilat.”
because the plan has been approved by the Interior Ministry doesn’t mean the
spades will be hitting the ground anytime soon. While the plan has the approval
of a ream of ministries – including the Agriculture, Environmental Protection
and National Infrastructures ministries – it faces the opposition of the Finance
“Now that the national planning board has approved Israel’s
largest solar field... all eyes go back to the Treasury and whether it
will continue to hold up the process,” Abramowitz said.
Ministry, Abramowitz contends, erroneously believes that solar power will make
electricity more expensive when in fact it shaves expenses at peak hours and has
no effect on electricity prices.
Erdan agreed that this is going to be a
difficult fight and added that the vote on Wednesday does not necessarily “mean
anything, because the budget still has to pass,” but said that Prime Minister
Binymain Netanyahu has instructed Eugene Kendal, the head of the National
Economic Council inside the Prime Minister’s Office, mediate between the solar
advocates and the Finance Ministry.
“If the Treasury unfroze the program
and the regulator [the Public Utility Authority] approved the provisional
license, then we would start building on January 1, 2012,” Abramowitz said,
adding that the plant would take about a year to complete once work
“We’d love to interconnect the launch with Hanukka, the festival
of lights, in 2012. If they come through we can do it,” he said.