June 15 - Israel's Arava Power Company unveils the country's first commercial solar field in a bid to start a ''Solar Revolution'' in the mainly arid country. Jim Drury reports.
Israel is waking up to its huge potential for solar energy. Almost permanently bathed in sunshine, the country is ideal for producing renewable, environment-friendly, power. And now, private company Arava Power is showing off Israel's first commercial solar plant. Located in the southern Israeli desert and costing 30 million dollars, the plant is built on land leased by a kibbutz in Ketura. Arava President Yosef Abramowitz. SOUNDBITE (English) YOSEF ABRAMOWITZ, PRESIDENT OF "ARAVA POWER" COMPANY, SAYING: "Sixty percent of Israel is desert. We have only 15 days of clouds down in the southern region in the Arava. The spot that we're in today has 2247 kilowatt hours per square metre (of solar energy) which is more than double than, let's say, Germany, which is the world's leader in the production of solar energy." The 4.95 megawatt plant is the first of 50 photovoltaic desert fields Arava will build in the next three years. All will be constructed on land leased from various kibbutzes and Bedouin families. The company's total bill could reach two billion dollars. But the potential for profit is even greater, says Arava co-founder Ed Hofland. SOUNDBITE (English) ED HOFLAND, CO-FOUNDER OF "ARAVA POWER COMPANY", SAYING: "We are hoping to be the leading developer of solar energy in Israel. We are in the middle of creating a large pipeline, where, hopefully, with the regulation in place from the government we'll be able to develop it within a five year period." Israel wants to produce 10 percent of the energy it consumes from renewable sources within the next decade. Arava director Tareq Abu Hamed says renewable energy is vital for Israel. SOUNDBITE (English) TAREQ ABU HAMED, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY CONSERVATION IN THE ARAVA INSTITUTE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES, SAYING: "Israel relies 95 percent on energy imports for electricity production, for transportation, for oil imports. So it is very important for Israel's energy security to invest more and to develop more renewable energy technologies." The Ketura plant will go online in the coming weeks. The company is waiting for the government to increase its official quota on solar energy before it builds any more plants. But getting the green light appears a formality. Arava believes its future looks very sunny indeed. Jim Drury, Reuters