The first-ever license for a solar project has been awarded this week to Israel’s bedouin community by Israel’s Public Utility Authority. Yosef Abramowitz of Arava Power Company promoted and led the solar project, to make a solar energy dream come true for Bedouin living in the Israel’s Negev desert.
The Obama Administration is supplying 80 percent of the $30 million of financing it will take to build the small photovoltaic solar farm, using the little-known Overseas Private Investment Corporation of the US government: OPIC.
(Lest Americans wonder why the US is investing in foreign energy, OPIC actually generated net income of $269 million in Fiscal Year 2011, making a profit for the 34th consecutive year. In addition to generating revenue with its loans, OPIC recorded a three-fold increase in the amount of capital the agency’s financing mobilized, rising to $4.4 billion.)
Arava eventually plans an investment of approximately $1.5 billion to build a proposed pipeline totaling over 400 MW, spread among similarly small rural ectrification projects as this one. Arava inaugurated a small 5 MW solar PV installation at the Kibbutz Ketura last year at a cost of $20 million, that marked Israel’s first solar PV plant.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) by contrast utilizes the kind of direct conversion of sunlight to electricity – this is the solar that most people associate with the typical image of a solar panel. This kind has come down 80% in recent years with much cheaper panel production in China, so its advantage is its economy.
The concentrated solar-thermal power (CSP) varieties of solar, which were pioneered by Israeli engineer Lutz, actually hold more promise for making solar a 24 hour energy source, because energy storage is possible to provide after dark.
In the past year, five contracts have been signed with Bedouin families to build solar PV projects totaling 31 MW of energy. No other power company has ever formed solar partnerships with Bedouin families.
“A thriving and developed solar industry among the Bedouin communities will grant an economic and social solution for one of Israel’s disadvantaged populations,” said Jon Cohen, CEO of Arava.
“I hope the government of Israel will view this as a long-term investment that will advance the Bedouin population in the Negev. I am proud that Arava Power is pioneering entrepreneurship that integrates social justice into an economical and green business project.”`