'PV energy investment a waste of public funds'

Israel Energy Forum tells PM solar panels are not worth investment; Greenpeace: "Clean energy must replace lethal coal-fired power plants."

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
February 15, 2010 23:37
3 minute read.
solar panels 248.88

solar panels 248.88. (photo credit: )

The Israel Energy Forum and several professors sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday claiming that the current focus on photovoltaic solar panels as the top renewable energy priority for the country was a waste of taxpayer money.

Calculating the cost of feed-in tariffs to the government over the next 20 years, the Forum wrote that the government would be spending NIS 16 billion on PV panels.

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PV solar panels are the most expensive and inefficient of the various forms of renewable energies, the Forum wrote, and in addition take up large tracts of land. Moreover, the fields would not generate a very high percentage of the country's electricity, it wrote in the letter.

Instead of a massive investment in PV technology as it stands today, most of which is imported from abroad, the government should invest in Israeli technologies that have a higher yield, such as solar thermal and concentrated photovoltaic (CPV), it said in the letter. Two of the signatories to the letter were CEOs of a solar thermal company and a CPV technology company.

The signatories also urged the government to
maximize construction of panels on rooftops rather than open spaces - a policy the government is already starting to adopt.

The government, they said, should also increase investment in research and development so that Israel can remain a leader in solar technology.

Israeli-developed solar thermal technology has been in use for decades in California and elsewhere.

The Forum also contended that current R&D funding was in the millions, when it should be in the hundreds of millions.

It advocated serious investment in energy efficiency as the cheapest, fastest and most effective of the clean technology options, both in the short and long term.

The letter was based on a recent study by the Israel Energy Forum.

Greenpeace was quick to fire back.

"Renewable energy, as a source of clean and environmentally friendly energy and as an up-and-coming export, will bring in huge profits to the Israeli economy and generate thousands of new jobs," the organization said in a statement.

"While energy efficiency is important, it does not make superfluous the need for incentivizing clean energy to replace lethal, coal-fired power plants.

"Presenting the investment in solar energy as a waste of public funds exemplifies a narrow and irresponsible viewpoint that in the long term will only help the polluters," read the statement.

The Forum's letter highlights some of the divisions within the cleantech and environmental communities.

While the government has set aside land for solar thermal at Ashelim and Timna, it has allowed PV solar power facilities to be built on private land throughout the Negev, Arava and other places.

The quota for Ashelim for solar thermal is 80-100 megawatts and the first solar thermal projects at Timna are expected to be 100 MW, whereas PV is at least 300 MW.

The license for solar thermal for Ashelim was approved Monday, the Public Utility Authority-Electricity announced.

In addition, CPV technology companies are attempting to break into the market with their newer, less proven technology, which they say will increase panel efficiency quite significantly.

PV solar panels also raise the question of open spaces. While a clean technology, they also reduce open spaces and replace them with fields full of industrial equipment. Utilizing solar thermal or CPV would reduce that loss, the Forum argued.


The letter was also signed by Profs. Gershon Grossman of the Technion, Yaakov Karni of the Weizmann Institute, Avraham Kribus of Tel Aviv University, Isaac Berzin of IDC, and Naor Yerushalmi, executive director of Life and Environment, the umbrella organization of environmental organizations in Israel. Israel Energy Forum head Yael Cohen Paran also signed the missive, and the two company CEOs were Uri Zik of Heliofocus and Roi Segev of Zenith Solar.


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