$15-million deal marks the largest-ever foreign investment in an Israeli solar development firm.
By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
German industrial giant Siemens signed a $15m. investment agreement with Israeli solar power company Arava Power on Thursday at Kibbutz Ketura.
The agreement gives Siemens a 40-percent stake in the company, with the controlling 60% remaining in the hands of the local firm. It is the largest-ever foreign investment in a solar development company in Israel.
Siemens has also committed to providing the technology and project management for future solar fields projects. Arava Power has already reached agreements with a number of kibbutzim in the Negev and Arava to utilize their lands for solar fields. It is also the first to have a commercial license to produce electricity from solar energy.
Arava Power has focused its efforts since its inception in 2006 on laying the regulatory and financial groundwork for solar fields. Once the feed-in tariff for medium sized photovoltaic (PV) plants of up to 5 MW is approved by the government, the company should be well situated to start building and operating solar fields to provide electricity to the national grid.
The government is expected to approve a NIS 1.60 tariff in the near future.
Israel has set a goal of 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
"Israel is an ideal place to develop our solar business because of its intense sunlight, and its constant demand for energy. This investment will enable construction of commercial solar fields in Israel from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea for the first time," Peter LÃ¶scher, president and CEO of Siemens said.
"This is the most comprehensive investment in an Israeli solar power company so far," Johannes Schmidt, CEO of Siemens Financial Services, added. "Because of its early entry and wide activities in the field, Arava Power has become the leading solar power company in Israel. Siemens will support the local solar projects with our variety of technologies, professional expertise, and funding capabilities."
Drawing substantial foreign investment is an indication that others beyond Israel's borders see serious potential in the country's domestic market.
Solar fields are likely to be Israel's best bet for alternative energy production. While solar panels on roofs of buildings generate some electricity, it is the solar fields which will have to generate the power for Israel to meet its 10% goal.
In fiscal 2008, Siemens had revenues of â‚¬77.3 billion and income from continuing operations of â‚¬1.859 billion. Its environmental technologies brought in â‚¬19 billion.
Siemens and its subsidiaries employ about 430,000 people worldwide.
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