Israeli solar arena gets big boost with inauguration of 11 new projects, by Arava and EDF-EN

Israel’s power grid will receive a boost this week, as 11 new solar power plants go online in the Negev and Arava, the Jerusalem Post and Globes reported.

Solar energy developer Arava Power Company will today inaugurate six solar fields in the Arava and Negev, generating 36 megawatts of electricity altogether, Globes reported. The six solar fields are at Maslul, Shoval, Elifaz, Yotvata, Grofit, and Erez, all of which are kibbutzim or moshavim in the Negev and Arava Valley. The solar fields cover an aggregate 512 dunam (128 acres) and cost NIS 500 million ($143M) to build. Siemens Israel was the contractor for five of the projects, and Nextcom built the project at Erez.

Arava Power was the first company to inaugurate a solar field in Israel – the Ketura Sun project. It was completed in 2011, and has since supplied nine million kilowatt/hours of clean power annually to Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).  A few weeks ago, 84 robots, made by Ecoppia Ltd., were installed at Ketura Sun to clean its 28,200 solar panels. This is the world’s first automated solar panel cleaning system.

Arava Power has also just begun construction of a large 40-megawatt, 600-dunam (150-acre) solar field at Kibbutz Ketura. The solar field can provide more than a third of Eilat’s electricity.

“It’s a wonderful accomplishment for Arava Power Company and the State of Israel that multiple medium-sized fields are being launched simultaneously,” Arava Power co-founder and executive vice-chairman David Rosenblatt told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “It shows that Israel is at the start of beginning to bring scale to its solar program.”

EDF-EN will be launching its five new fields in the Negev Desert, and amounting to an approximately NIS 330m ($94M) investment in total. The largest of the facilities is an 8.5-megawatt field in Kibbutz Gvulot, located in the northwestern Negev in Eshkol Regional Council. EDF-EN also has four other completely constructed facilities that will soon be connected as well, the company said.

“We believe there is real intrinsic potential for solar energy in Israel,” Ayalon Alain Vaniche, CEO of EDF-EN Israel, told the Post on Monday.

In addition to its solar activities, EDF-EN will over the next year also be focusing its on developing wind energy fort northern Israel. EDF-EN, 85% owned by the French government, first entered Israel in 2009.

While Arava Power and EDF-EN are launching their many solar fields one day after the other, the two companies actually have a long history of working together.

Arava Power remains an investor in three of the EDF-EN fields, including two that will be launched on Tuesday and one of the future sites: Mishmar HaNegev, Kerem Shalom, and Bror Hayil. While Arava now only has a 5% stake in these projects, the company was the initial developer of these projects prior to EDF-EN purchase.

EDF-EN is also a partner in the engineering work and financing of Arava Power’s future 40-megawatt solar field at Kibbutz Ketura, which is in the race to become the country’s first large-scale solar field. The partners have received NIS 250m., or 80% of the project’s total cost, from Bank HaPoalim.

For the full Globes article click here.

Israël Science Info