Bidding opened on Thursday for companies wishing to build and operate a new solar power plant in the Negev.The company that wins the tender will be in charge of designing, constructing and operating the photovoltaic power plant in the western Negev community of Ashalim, 35 km. south of Beersheba, for a period of 25 years. The plant will have the capacity to produce between 30 and 40 megawatts.This plant would join three other solar power facilities in the area that are in varying stages of development.Two of the power stations will generate electricity with thermo-solar power and each have the capacity to generate 121 MW of electricity. The third plant, using photovoltaic cells, will have the capacity to generate 30 MW.The tender committee accepting bids is made up of representatives from the Finance Ministry, the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry, and the Electricity Authority.Shaul Meridor, director- general of the Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry, spoke proudly of the project, saying that photovoltaic solar power is “at the heart of the renewable energy market,” and noting that 10,000 photovoltaic systems around Israel currently generate 800 MW.However, speaking at a meeting on Wednesday proposing a renewable energy law, Yuval Zohar, head of renewable energies at the ministry, said that 800 MW is minuscule since there is a quota for private producers to generate 3,000 MW of power (which would be bought by the Israel Electric Corporation) from renewable sources. Currently, renewable resources generate only 2.6 percent of the country’s electricity, he said. The government is aiming for renewable resources to power 10% of the nation’s electricity by 2020 and 17% by 2030.According to the Finance Ministry, the Ashalim solar power plant is part of a renewable energy program, approved by the previous Knesset in October 2014, which calls for 520 MW of electricity to be generated from photovoltaic cells by 2034.Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.