Israel last week presented its first giant commercial solar field that will power three villages (or Kibbutzim, in Hebrew) in the Arava desert. The Arava Power Company inaugurated this 4.95 megawatt sea of solar panels at a festive ceremony last week.
According to Arava’s co-founder and president, Yosef Abramowitz, the energy supplied by the panels will be equal to 7 percent of the energy needs of the town of Eilat, one of Israel’s busiest resort towns and a major port.
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The field, named Ketura Sun, is made up of 18,500 photovoltaic panels manufactured by Chinese company Suntech, according to Abramowitz. Arava, which is 36 percent owned by German conglomerate Siemens, said it secured 80 percent of the funding for the Keturah plant from Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s second-largest bank.
“The 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.
Siemens told news agency Reuters that the business model was attractive because of the relatively secure income, which will come from the state-owned Israel Electric Corp. The electric company will pay $0.45 (NIS 1.52) per kilowatt-hour from the Keturah plant over 20 years, but that price could drop to as low as $32 (NIS 1.08) when the larger plants, which Arava plans to build, are in place, according to Reuters.
Arava said it has already received permissions from various other communities, as well as Bedouins in Israel’s Negev desert, to build solar fields on their land. However, Arava is still waiting for the Israels Infrastructure Ministry and Finance Ministry to increase the official quota on solar fields.