Planning and Building Council okays solar power plan

Sun-oriented energy sector overcomes one more bureaucratic barrier to getting off the ground.

November 10, 2010 06:42
2 minute read.

The National Planning and Building Council on Tuesday approved National Master Plan 10D, which dictates guidelines for the construction of solar power plants, removing one more bureaucratic barrier for an industry that some contend has suffered from a complex licensing process.

The plan gives preference to the construction of solar installations on rooftops and up to 750 dunams of land in the periphery. It completely prohibits installations in open spaces in the center of the country, and provides protection for open spaces of environmental or natural value.

Ground-based systems will require a lengthier licensing process than rooftop installations due to the need for rezoning and other issues.

The planning and building council said the master plan represented the way forward in implementing a government decision to produce 10 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable resources by 2020. The plan must still be approved by the cabinet.

Private entrepreneurs have long complained that incomplete bureaucratic guidelines have been stifling the potential growth of the Israeli solar market.

There have also been claims that the licensing process of the Public Utility Authority–Electricity (PUA) is too complicated and requires too many affidavits of various types.

The PUA has been quick to counter that its goal is to enable measured growth of the solar industry by minimizing costs as the price of constructing solar fields drops. It is not quite yet interested in giving free rein to the solar market so that it rises or falls on the back of free market forces.

Earlier this week, the PUA granted the first tariff approval for a mediumsized field to Ketura Sun, which plans to build a 4.9 MW solar field adjacent to Kibbutz Ketura. The tariff approval confirms that the government will pay NIS 1.49 per kilowatt produced for the next 20 years.

Approval is conditional upon Ketura Sun securing financing within 90 days.

However, tariff approval is generally the key to obtaining financing.

In other solar news, Sunday Energy and geothermal energy company Ormat last week signed an agreement to build rooftop solar energy installations for a total output of 22 MW at an estimated cost of NIS 350 million.

Two years ago, Sunday contracted with Ormat to install 1 MW worth of solar panels on the roof of the latter’s factory in Yavne.

Fifty kilowatts of that installation have already been constructed.

Last week’s agreement marked the third deal between the two companies in the past two years. Last year, they signed an agreement to develop 36 MW of open-land-based solar fields. However, since the national master plan, which regulates the rezoning of land, had not yet been approved and was seen at the time to favor roof-based systems, the 22 MW installation will probably precede the 36 MW plant, being completed in 2011.

Sunday has 200 MWworth of projects in the pipeline, with 40 MW, including those in the latest agreement, on rooftops.

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