Arison plans Negev's largest private solar plant

The planned $400-500 million thermosolar power station will reportedly produce at least 100 megawatts of electricity.

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Arison Holdings Ltd. subsidiary Housing and Construction Holding Co. Ltd. (Shikun u'Binui) (TASE: HUCN) plans to build a huge thermosolar power station in the Negev at an investment of several hundred million dollars. Industry sources estimate the cost at $400-500 million.

The project was discussed at a secret meeting last week at the Ministry of National Infrastructures. The participants also discussed the possibility of a publishing a tender for the project, after Housing and Construction asked the Israel Land Administration (ILA) for land for its proposed project.

The thermosolar power station will reportedly produce at least 100 megawatts of electricity on a 3,500-dunam (875-acre) site. If the project goes ahead, it will be Israel's largest privately owned solar power station.

Housing and Construction is Israel's largest solar energy company after making the strategic decision to expand its renewable energy and cleantech activity. The company is currently bidding in two government tenders for the construction of solar power plants at Ashelim in the Negev, at an estimated investment of $700 million. One tender is for a 125-250 megawatt thermosolar power station at a cost of $600 million, and the second is for the construction of a 70-megawatt photovoltaic power station.

Housing and Construction has partnered with Solel Solar Systems Ltd., and Bateman Litwin NV (AIM:BNLN) in the tender for the thermosolar power plant. It has partnered with Spain's Elecnor Group SA (IBEX: ENO) in the tender for the photovoltaic power station.

Energy market sources believe that Housing and Construction wants to move forward on renewable energy project regardless of who wins the Ashelim tenders, which will be announced in April. Ten consortia are bidding in the tenders, and Housing and Construction's desire to move forward on another solar energy project fits in with its policy to ensure become a leading player in the industry.

Energy market regulations stipulate that a company may obtain a private power license when the electricity rate is known in advance. The current price per kilowatt/hour for thermosolar energy is NIS 0.70 for plants of up to 20 megawatts and NIS 0.876 for plants up to 100 megawatts. Sources believe that the construction of large solar energy plants will be feasible only if these prices are revised.

A senior government official said, "There is no reason not to allow Housing and Construction to build another solar power plant in the Negev, provided it meets the criteria. The project should have no effect on the state's solar energy tenders."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on February 16, 2009

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009

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