Israel’s largest solar energy array inaugurated

Cahuzac, Valls, and Vaniche (Photo: EDF-EN)

The 200,000-panel Zmorot facility – owned by French utility EDF – will produce 50 MWp.

The largest solar energy array in Israel was inaugurated this week. The Zmorot solar park, owned by the French electric utility company EDF, is expected to generate 50 MWp of clean energy.

The plant is the French company’s eleventh solar array in Israel. The NIS 330 million project is trailed by the former largest solar park - also owned by EDF - at Kibbutz Ketura (40 MWp). EDF began planning the project in 2010 with its local partner Solex and received all the necessary permits by 2013. It installed 200,000 photovoltaic panels over 153 acres at the site.

EDF Israel CEO Ayalon Vaniche said, “With the commissioning of the Zmorot facility the company now generates 160 MWp of electricity in Israel. The company is currently working to advance new solar projects (including electricity storage) and wind projects.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Environmental Protection Avi Gabai, EDF Energies Nouvelles CEO Antoine Cahuzac, Israel Electric Corporation Chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal, and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

During his visit to Israel, Valls will hold meetings with senior Israeli politicians including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Israel lags in renewable

Among OECD nations, Israel ranks last in the proportion of power generated from renewable energy. In comparison to the paltry 2% generated in Israel, Iceland produces 100% of its electricity from renewables, gas giant Norway generates 97% (by relying on the kinetic energy of water), and Spain creates 39% of its power from such sources. The OECD average is 21%.

“This is the direction in which we are heading. In the next ten years, 60% of installed power capacity will be generated from renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and water,” says Cahuzac. “Even third-world countries - China, India, Chile, and Brazil - which have been relying on coal are changing the mix of fuels they use and are starting to generate electricity from renewables. There is no reason Israel should not follow strongly down the same path.”

At the last climate conference in Paris, Israel committed to produce 17% of its electricity from renewable sources, but Cahuzac says “That must be the minimum. Israel can and should do much better. It is blessed with sun, and it has another advantage - its peak demand is at midday, the time when the sun is shining. In France, for example, peak demand is at 7 pm, after the sun has set.”

Until a few years ago, most countries neglected renewable energy projects because of their relative costs and the high tariffs the governments had to provide entrepreneurs. But then, Cahuzac says, “the reality changed.”

“Because of the advances in technology, in recent years the costs of solar and wind systems dropped darmatically, making them competitive with other fuels, even coal,” he says. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), for its part, says solar panels cost an average of $5.70 per unit twenty years ago but have now reached an average price of less than 50 cents.

In Israel, the 2% of electricity generated from renewable sources is produced solely from solar energy. Israel hosts two small wind farms, but they rely on older technology. EDF is currently in the process of applying for permits to construct a 150 MW wind farm, but the project has been opposed by some environmental organizations which claim the farm would obstruct birds and bats and by the Electricity Authority as well because of disagreements over the tariff.

“The advantage of wind energy over solar energy is that it is generated even at night,” says Cahuzac, who also notes that it is the second most common renewable energy source after water energy. “Until a few years ago, wind technology was cheaper than photovoltaic, but that has been changing and the prices now are fairly close.”

Israel, where 60% of electricity is generated from coal, has discovered natural gas reserves which should meet its demand for decades. Should the state not first invest in developing the reservoirs and convert some of its electricity generation to natural gas?

“They are not necessarily contradictory. Renewable energy is cheaper than natural gas, and it is much cleaner. If we want to protect our world and to prevent the global warming which threatens us, we have no choice but to invest in renewable energy. I hope Israel understands this and does not only invest in developing its natural gas reservoirs.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 24, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

 

Cahuzac, Valls, and Vaniche (Photo: EDF-EN)
Cahuzac, Valls, and Vaniche (Photo: EDF-EN)
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