Israel - a land of sunshine, so where's the solar industry?


By: SGN Staff


Israel has plenty of sunshine and some of the most advanced solar technology available, but critics in the country's solar industry say government policies are blocking, or at least neglecting, the potential for a strong solar generation industry.


According to an Associated Press report published in U.S. News and World Report, solar generation contributes only a meager bit of power to Israel's energy supply, noting that 50 years ago the country was a world leader in the field. Now, the country's solar companies are stalled and many are taking their business abroad, frustrated by government bureaucracy.


ZenithSolar built a solar installation for a kibbutz in the small community of Kvutzat Tavneh in 2009. Company founder Roy Segev said "This is, unfortunately for us, our only project in Israel. I think there was a poor policy from the Israeli government. It was a total neglect of the possibility to create a big industry in Israel." He added that the government simply has not invested enough in solar manufacturing or startup companies - and that the country's solar generation has been far outpaced by countries like Germany and Italy which do not have solar resources as consistent or powerful.


Arava Power Co. CEO Jon Cohen led Israel's first major commercial solar project, the Ketura Sun plant, but no additional large-scale plants have been built since Ketura Sun began operating last year. The consequences? "No one in the international community is going to take Israel seriously going forward," Cohen said. "The natural resource exists, the real national need exists - and it's really a mystery why (solar) is being blocked," he was quoted as saying.


He said he has 10 projects on tap that could generate a total of 100 megawatts of power when finished. But three have not received government approval, a process he described as "tense and endless."


A U.S. Israeli consortium does have an agreement with the Israeli government for three large-scale solar plants, but they won't be online until 2015 or later.


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