Israel’s Electric Production

August 22nd, 2008

Hi Everyone!

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. Many Israelis go on vacation during the last 2-3 weeks of August before school starts. Once everyone comes back from vacation we will be in contact with the solar energy companies in Israel to get news items regarding new developments.

This week there was an interesting item in the news.
The Haifa municipality has decided to establish a large-capacity electric bus route called the Metronit which will begin operating in 2010. Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv are working on a light-rail (also electric) but those projects are very expensive and it may take several years to start the service. In my opinion, Haifa is doing something good that all municipalities should start considering. Not only does electric buses reduce pollution they also reduce our dependence on gasoline for transportation.

This brings me to another popular project that made headlines early this year - ‘Project Better Place’. An Israeli by the name of Shai Agassi has proposed and has gotten the endorsement of the Israeli government, to develop an infrastructure in Israel for the electric car. ‘Project Better Place’ of Palo Alto, California, will provide the lithium-ion batteries, which will be able to go 124 miles per charge. They, also, will provide the infrastructure necessary to keep the  cars going. The infrastucture will include parking meter-like plugs on city streets that will recharge the batteries. Renault and Nissan will provide the electric cars.

What does all of this got to do with solar energy ?

The Israel Electric Company has an installed generation capacity of about 11,323 billion watts (Dec. 2007). In 2007, the company consumed 409,000 tons of fuel oil, 13.4 million tons of coal, 883,000 tons of diesel fuel and 1.8 million tons of natural gas. IN 2007, natural gas generated about 20% of IEC’s electricity production. By the end of 2010, 40% of its electricity will be generated by natural gas. A large part of the natural gas will be supplied to Israel from Egypt. I am not sure if it is a wise move putting Israel’s energy security in the hands of one leader.

Coal is available from many places but it is a dirty fuel and Israel is trying to reduce its usage.

As I mentioned in a previous message, Israel is slowly working toward its first large solar enery power plant in the Negev. The problem is that electric consumption continues to rise and the price and availability of fossil fuels may be very problematic in just a few years. Now is the time to work agressively on developing large solar energy projects. The Israeli technology has been proven all over the world and the benefits of investing in these type of alternative energy projects will pay off in the long run. It would be nice if we do not have a real local energy crisis before taking the right steps to secure our energy resources.

Shabbat Shalom,
Jacob

 

The Israeli Government and the Solar Industry

August 7th, 2008

Hi Everyone!

This week the Israeli government approved a plan to establish a research and development center for renewable energy technologies. The center will be located in the Negev and the government will invest NIS 70 million over a period of five years. This is a good step toward helping Israel increase its share of renewable energy exports. In fact, the Israeli Negev is becoming a magnetic for companies working on solar and renewable energy technologies. Rotem Industries, Luz II, Zenith Solar are based in the Negev and all three are working on technologies to make solar energy less expensive. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, said: “The future of Israel lies in the Negev”. Well, it looks like the future is here.

This week I read an article in the Jerusalem Report that had experts in the field criticize the incentive program that was introduced in July to buy surplus electricty generated from rooftops using PV (photovoltaic) panels. The people interviewed implied that the government was wasting money on this limited project. I disagree. I think the government should encourage the installation of PV panels as a first step in a solar energy policy. Many countries around the world are giving their citizens incentives to install PV panels. In time, the technology will improve, prices will go down and subsidies will not be needed. It is important to keep the relatively small local manufacturing and installation companies in the game as we wait for the technology to improve. Based upon the current, fast paced technological developments worldwide, I think we will see more compact and efficient PV panels within the next 3-5 years.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the U.S. Congress has gone on vacation without passing the energy bill. This is not good at all. The tax credits for purchasing solar and wind systems expire at the end of December 2008. Many alternative energy projects will be put on hold or cancelled if the tax credits are not extended. Both the Republicans and Democrats have added so many extra items to the bill, that passing the bill has become problematic. However, a group of 10 senators (five Republicans and five Democrats) are hammering out a bipartisan compromise. Let’s hope that the bill passes and that we do not see a repeat of history like the 1980’s when oil prices fell, the tax credits were not renewed and the solar and wind industries went into hibernation. This important piece of legislation will also affect Israeli companies that are making inroads in the alternative energy field in America. Congress will be back in session in September and I hope to report good news by then.

Until next week…..

Shabbat Shalom,
Jacob

Israeli Solar Thermal Technology

July 31st, 2008

Hi Everyone!

From 1984 to 1991 I worked at Intel Electronics in Har Hotzvim, Jerusalem. In the backyard of one of the buildings in Har Hotzvim were several rows of curved mirrors which were lined up toward the sun. Why were these mirrors lined up in the back of the building ? I asked around and I found out that these parabolic reflectors were owned by the Luz company. In fact, these refectors were part of the development of the largest solar energy system in the world.

The general idea is very easy to understand. The reflectors focus the sun on a tube filled with liquid. The liquid in the tubes becomes super heated. The liquid is passed through heat exchangers which generate steam. The steam is used to power a turbine which creates electricity. There are more details but the concept is well understood and has been in use for several decades. In fact, when I was a kid back in the 60’s, I remember going outside with a magnifying glass and focusing the sun’s rays to burn things. The power of the sun has been around for a long time (even before I was a kid) but only in the last few years has it caught the world’s attention. Maybe the fossil fuel pollution and high oil prices have something to do with that.

I do not think the reflectors are in that backyard any more. The company that bought Luz’s technology (when Luz 1 folded) was Solel Inc. based in Bet Shemesh. Solel is developing a 553 Megawatt power plant, in California’s Mojave Desert. It will be the largest solar thermal power plant in the world. In Spain it is working, together with a local partner, on the development of three 50 MW solar thermal power plants. I am sure there are many other countries seriously considering using this Israeli know-how. The technology that started in the backyard at Har Hotzvim in Jerusalem, is bringing solar powered electricity to the masses. A literal “light unto the nations”. Kol Hakavod!
- - - - - - - - - - -
Several people have contacted me regarding solar air conditioners. I am in the process of gathering information and I will let everyone know when I have a complete picture of what is available in Israel. I may also create a new FAQ, Cooling & Heating Your Home or Business with Solar energy.
- - - - - - - - - - -
If you live in the Jerusalem area and are planning to install a new solar energy photovoltaic system, please let me know. I would like to follow the actual process with you and take pictures (maybe a movie) of the process.

Until next week…..

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,
Jacob

Israeli Bank Loans for Solar Energy Systems

July 24th, 2008

Hi Everyone!

Thanks to all those that wrote to me with comments, suggestions and well-wishes regarding the launch of the new solar energy website. Many of the suggestions included links to additional solar energy companies in Israel and additional resouce links. I added them to the companies and links pages on the website. I plan on adding additional resources to the site as they come in.
- - - - - - - - - -
During the past 3 weeks since the new electric feed-in tariffs were announced, interest in purchasing solar energy systems in Israel has increased. However, the cost for a residential system is still expensive (around 75,000 shekels).  Banks are now beginning to offer long term loans for purchasing a solar (photovoltaic) energy system for your home or business.

I contacted Bank Hapoalim this week to get the specifics about the loans available. Here is what they said:

For private individuals the official loan terms are:
up to NIS 110,000
up to 10 years
Interest rate is floating rate at Prime + 2%.
(the prime rate is currently 5.25%)
All terms and security/collateral arrangements need to be finalized with the branch involved.

I assume that many of the other banks will be offering similar loans. If you apply for such a loan and the terms are better, please let me know so I can tell everyone.
- - - - - - - - - -
Several people emailed me about a company in Israel that is planning to build affordable solar homes in Israel. The company called Real Housing Ltd. already contstructed  a 70 square meter model home in Ashalim, Ramat Negev. To reduce the need to turn on energy-using equipment these houses will be well insulated. They will be heated and cooled using high-efficiency heat pumps and they will integrate solar pannels (for electricty and hot water) into the roofing system. As the projects develop I will keep everyone posted on the developments.
- - - - - - - - - -
Last but not least, if you read the large-scale power plants faq on the site, you  already know that Israeli companies have been in the forefront of developing large scale energy systems using parabolic trough collectors.
As in many advanced technologies that Israel exports, implementing these technologies within Israel has been a struggle both on the economic side and there have been various bureaucratic government obstacles.
After many years of delays, early this year the Israel Ministry of National Infrastructure issued the application for the first tender for developing large scale solar power stations for the production of electricity. The solar power plants will be constructed at Ashelim in the Negev. Many companies around the world have shown an interest in this tender. Let’s hope that the project stays on course and part of our electric needs will be generated by these new plants.
- - - - - - - - - -
If anyone has started the process of purchasing a home solar system, please let me know. I am sure everyone would like to know the exact steps and procedures that are actually involved in buying and installing these systems in Israel. Thanks!
- - - - - - - - - -
It is time to end this long first posting.
Feedback and suggestions are always welcome.

Until next week…….

Shabbat Shalom,
Jacob

Welcome to the Solar Energy in Israel Blog

July 14th, 2008

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to the Solar Energy in Israel Blog.

The purpose of the weekly blog is to update you with developments in the solar energy field in Israel and to let you know of additions made to the Solar Energy in Israel website.

Feedback, comments and suggestions are always welcome.

You can read the blog updates three ways:

1. On the website - www.solar.co.il/blog

2. Via a newsreader (Subscribing to the RSS feed)

3. Via the weekly email Newsletter

Looking forward to keeping you informed.

Have a good day,

Jacob