Fifty years ago, Israel was on the cusp of developing a promising solar industry. Solar hot water systems in particular made a splash in the country, but many decades later, those same systems are just about all that exists for solar development in the country.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that while the climate is appropriate for solar in Israel–and more so than European countries like Germany that have heavily developed solar power–the government has so far failed to support the industry’s growth.
Although the country has set a 2014 energy goal of 1,480 MWs of solar power, it currently only generates about 212 MW. This is about 2 percent of the electricity generated overall.
Solar industry professionals in Israel are mystified as to why solar is not taken more seriously as an energy source by the government. For example, a U.S.-Israeli consortium was given the go ahead by the Israeli government to develop three commercial-scale solar plants that would produce 250 MW total, but these projects would not be operational until 2015.
There are some solar success stories in Israel today though. Among them is the Ketura Sun solar plant in the Negev desert. Launched in 2011, Ketura is a 5 MW facility that receives 330 days of sunshine annually. It’s located in a remote region of southern Israel and is the country’s first commercial-scale project. But to date, it remains the only commercial project of its kind with no new developments on the horizon.
Cohen’s company worked for 4 years to get the project constructed, working to obtain necessary approvals and permits. Cohen believed Ketura would be “the pioneer” flag, the first of many for Israel, but he says that a year later, the company hasn’t gained any ground with 10 projects tied up in the tedious government approval process.