Israel’s Negev great for Solar Energy: Arava Power’s Ketura Sun generates renewable electricity

American Yossi Abramowitz, Kibbutz Ketura member Ed Hoflind, and their US-based partner David Rosenblatt have built Ketura Sun, Israel’s first commercial solar energy field. On these twenty acres of land in the Negev desert, 18500 photo-voltaic plates convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Only 1% of Israel’s electricity currently comes from renewable energy sources, but entrepreneurs like Abramowitz hope to change that. With funding from Siemens, Ketura Sun began operating last June, and it now generates nearly five megawatts for the national grid at peak performance. Although it’s a fraction of Israeli’s daily peak usage of 11000 megawatts, the Arava Power Company plans to build 50 more solar fields in the next five years. This is expected to greatly alleviate Eilat’s dependence on diesel. Israel has a national goal to generate 10% of its electricity using renewable sources by 2020, which will be 2.76 gigawatts. There is also an interim goal of 1.6 gigawatts by 2014, and the government expects 460 megawatts from solar power. Arava has plans for 500 megawatts capacity, and competitors are expected to add a further 1000 megawatts. This puts the country largely on schedule for the 2014 and 2020 targets, although some say the government is not doing enough. However, solar energy is still more expensive than natural gas, and analysts say removing restrictions on solar energy fields could result in price increases for consumers. SOT Arava Power Company President Yossi