Greens delay Israel's wind energy program

wind energy

The environmental organizations are concerned about birds being injured by wind turbines in the Golan Heights.

Wind turbines are a clean source for producing renewable energy. They are more efficient than solar energy, and do not take up much space. Each turbine is 180 meters high, and features three large rotating blades revolving at high speed and creating electricity from wind. They are actually a modern version of the wind mills once used to grind wheat into flour.

In Israel, the best place to station turbines in is the Golan Heights, where wind speeds are almost double the speed in the coastal plain. One wind turbine generates one megawatt of electricity, and can supply the electricity needs of a medium-sized industrial plant.

The potential of wind energy in Israel is estimated at 1,000 megawatts. Nevertheless, only two wind farms, which were built in the 1990s, are active in Israel, and produce a total of only 20 megawatts. There are currently 15 projects in the construction stages, but it will take at least two years before the first of these becomes active.

The use of wind turbines is common all over the world. Denmark, the pioneer in this industry, produces nearly 40% of its electricity from wind energy. Germany produces 20%, the US 5.5%, and China 4%. Israel? Less than 1%.

Why? The reason for the small number of wind turbines is that they arouse vigorous opposition, mainly from environmental organizations, which are concerned about the birds nesting on the Golan Heights. For example, the eagle and the red falcon are two species in danger of extinction. The opposition by nature lovers has even reached the High Court of Justice, which is due to rule next year whether the plan to build wind turbines was assessed properly.

The dilemma for the environmental organizations is a difficult one. On the one hand, the energy involved is renewable and completely clean and free of many polluting emissions - exceptionally friendly to the environment. On the other hand, the birds are in danger. Dozens of birds are liable to be injured each year. In Europe, where there just as many birds and just as many environmental organizations, the disputes are usually solved through negotiations between the parties, and are not brought to court. This is probably the reason why it takes four years to complete a wind project in Europe, compared with over a decade in Israel.

Wind energy prices are significantly lower than prices of energy from conventional sources. On stormy days in Europe, the prices per kilowatt-hour of energy produced by turbines can even fall below zero, in which case the companies pay the consumers for using electricity. The most recent tender in Israel for building a wind farm set a price of NIS 0.30 per kilowatt-hour, more expensive than solar energy, but substantially cheaper than the over NIS 0.50 per kilowatt-hour that we pay Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) (TASE: ELEC.B22).

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - - on January 23, 2018

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