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Solar Power Is Working…on an Israeli Kibbutz

Via Meadia has been down on green industries a lot lately, but far be it from us to hide news that plays against type: Over in Israel’s Arava Desert, where the sun shines strongly almost every day of the year, one solar project might be heading for the big time.

After more than five years of political and regulatory battles with the Israeli authorities, the company [Arava Power] has transformed 20 acres of a sand-colored field on the edge of the communal farm [near Ketura in southern Israel]. It now glistens with neat rows of photovoltaic panels from China — 18,600 in all — that harness the sun. There is no smoke, only a slight buzz in the spotless rooms where the panels’ current is turned into electricity that can be fed into the electrical grid. Small openings in the perimeter fence allow animals to cross the field…Arava Power’s pioneering work has not gone unnoticed. Other communal farms and communities in the arid reaches of southern Israel are rapidly turning to renewable energy: solar energy is a harvest that does not require irrigation.Last month, Israel’s Public Utility Authority issued licenses for nine larger solar fields, including a 150-acre site at Ketura that will eventually meet one-third of the peak daytime energy needs in the nearby city of Eilat…

As Yosef Abramowitz, Arava’s founder, said recently, “God could not have invented a better place to do solar power.” Yet Arava’s success is about more than just finding a sunny place to set up a few Chinese-built solar panels; they are cooperating with nearby Bedouin communities, which sometimes get the short end of the stick in Israel, renting land from the Bedouin clans and providing jobs for locals. Other environmental projects are underway nearby—including a high-tech algae research center. Best of all, Arava Power is (so far) commercially successful.

This article comes from the NYT, notorious for sunny views on green technology. The author mentions lots of fights with regulators and “renewable energy quotas,” so it is not quite clear whether this is just a subsidy farm or an actual example of solar energy working on the market. Typically, reporters in the MSM collude with green energy buffs to hide any blemishes, so we really don’t know.

Nevertheless, this is a hopeful story, and Via Meadia hopes it works. We have nothing against cheap renewable energy and would be glad to see more of it around.

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  • Polliwog

    I’m also curious about the long-term financial via ility. I wonder if NYT will give us up-dates regardless of the outcome. Actually, I’m quite sure that anything but success will get buried inthr back pages if mentioned at all.

  • Polliwog

    Sorry for mis-spellings. Tablets are less than great for writing.

  • Brett

    God knows Israel needs this type of power, at least until they can start extracting natural gas from their own territorial waters. 40% of their natural gas comes from Egypt, which just canceled the deal they had with Israel for it. It’s not wise to be dependent on such politically unstable trade.

  • WigWag

    “Other environmental projects are underway nearby—including a high-tech algae research center.” (Via Meadia)

    The algae research projects mentioned by Professor Mead are actually even more promising than the solar project; but as he mentions, they are still experimental so only time will tell if they end up amounting to anything.

    The algae research projects that this post alludes to are taking place at a laboratory affiliated with Ben Gurion University of the Negev, one of Israel’s premier research universities located in Bersheva. The research center is located in close proximity to the famous “Well of Abraham” where, according to the Bible, Abraham and his son Isaac made oaths of non-aggression with the Philistines, represented by a king named Abimelech.

    The algae researchers are attempting to do several interesting things; perhaps their most well known work is the attempt to turn algae into a biofuel. Less well known but probably more promising is their attempt to develop and produce human proteins for therapeutics, a process that reduces the currently steep drug production costs associated with using mostly mammalian cells and bacteria. The company has already made great progress in synthesizing human growth hormone from algae; who knows, perhaps someday they will achieve Professor Mead’s fondest dreams and he will be able to enjoy a T-bone steak constructed from algae.

    Ben Gurion University is an interesting institution; its scientists have already developed several products that are commercialized all over the world. The most sophisticated drip irrigation and hydroponic growing systems now available almost everywhere were pioneered at Ben Gurion University and the University has been the leader in developing systems related to fish farming.

    While the University is located in a water-starved desert environment it is located above a large reservoir of ground water; unfortunately this ground water is too brackish to drink. It is, however of the almost perfect salinity for several fish species which are grown in tanks fed by the brackish ground water. Catfish for example thrive in these systems although, ironically, many Israelis won’t eat catfish because it isn’t kosher. The Japanese are particularly fond of ornamental fish and the keeping of ornamental fish is a popular hobby in Japan. Amazingly, farmed ornamental fish coming from the middle of the Israeli desert are one of Israel’s most important and lucrative exports to Japan (it is absolutely amazing how much the Japanese will pay for ornamental fish).

    For better or worse (probably worse), Ben Gurion University is also the home of several leftist intellectuals who make a habit of trashing their own nation. One of these, Amos Oz, is a world-famous author and a likely winner one day of the Nobel Prize for literature. More notorious is Neve Gordon, a member of the social science faculty who has advocated boycotts of Israel.

    Most ominously, Bersheva, Ben Gurion University and its algae research center are well within range of rockets launched from Gaza and both the city and the university have been hit several times.

  • CR

    It is subsidized. There is a press release (in Hebrew, see on the website of Arava Power saying that they are paid NIS 0.96 per kWh whereas the cost of kWh produced by fossil fuel is NIS 0.75, which includes NIS 0.18 to cover the damage to the environment.

  • Larry, San Francisco

    I have a friend in the solar industry in California who told me that cheap Chinese solar panels can generate electricity at 6 cents a kilowatt hour in a desert with nearly continuous sunlight. This is better than gas (8-10 cents) and competitive with coal (at 4-5 cents). His gripe was that environmentalists (irony alert) would not allow them to develop these fields in the Mojave.

  • Alex Schindler

    First, i Just wanna note that a subsidy for solar power in Israel’s geopolitical environment is as much a national security subsidy as an energy sector one. Israel really can’t afford to be in the dark (literally) during “the next war,” whatever and whomever that happens to involve. oil and natural gas dependency is more dangerous for them than for most nations, for fairly obvious geographical reasons.

    so a subsidy keeping this afloat should not be seen either as proof that this is just more foolish envirosocialism at work, or as any kind of model for what other nations (such as America) should do.

    with regard to bedouins getting the short end of the stick — WRM, i certainly agree with that description, but why, for the love of God and intellectual honesty, would you link to Max Blumenthal for ANYTHING related to Israel (or anything at all, really)? He’s a professional spin doctor. The link in question, a year and a half old, was about a nonstory he made into some human rights crime. The process is, bedouins build without permit on land marked for construction of a national forest, bedouins get evicted from said illegal structures and the latter are razed, bedouin children cry because no one likes to see their house destroyed and legality has no role to play in that emotional response, photojournalists get good pictures of crying children, max blumenthal writes a blog, anti-semites crawl out of the woodwork to comment things like the following from the page you linked to:

    “ss18 says:
    August 8, 2010 at 6:48 pm
    can’t believe the lies these hasbarats spew out every day as they desperately con people into thinking this land of Palestine belongs to them. not gonna happen. countless people now know how the land of Palestine owned by its true owners, the Palaestinains, is being stolen by these khazar squatters who don’t even have a tinge of semite blood in them. these smelly ashkenazi bastards would like us to think the tall tale that Palestinians are raining rockets at them by the thousands (hahaha no. it’s true, that’s what they say) every day. they also would like us to believe in the fairy tale that a certain god told them Palestine is their land even though most of the were born in europe (no this is not a comedic script, they say it is true) and the Palestinians and those who care for the Palestinians plight are anti semitic, which they say is a fact even if the Palestinians are true semites and they are, well, let’s say descendants of mongols and turks and bolshevik bastards which make them mostly sons and daughters of terrorists and smelly europeans. i guess lies are the truth of these inbred smelly israeli cockroaches. one thing s true, these people have the devil as their god and father for the truth never comes out of his mouth just as these israeli liars live and breathe lies. no truth will ever come out of these crazy and delusional bastards. no one not even the most idiotic person (except the zionist christians who are brain dead assholes anyway) )believe in your absudities. to all the israeli hasbarat vermin here, you are a bunch of pathetic desperate liars. the good jews who oppose this evil would be saved from the wrath of the world but you hasbarat and zionist cockroaches will wish you had never been born when the time comes for payback.”

    rinse, and repeat.

    You couldn’t have used a less ludicrous source, or an actual case of problematic behavior from the israeli government, for that side point?

  • Walter Sobchak

    The only way to make solar economically viable is for Joshua to return:

    [12] Then spoke Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand thou still at Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Aijalon.”
    [13] And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
    [14] There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD hearkened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.

    Josh. 10.

  • Mick The Reactionary


    “reporters in the MSM collude with green energy buffs to hide any blemishes, so we really don’t know.”

    Posting distilled: we have no idea but we will bloviate anyway.

  • Luke Lea

    Solar power is ugly. Really ugly.

  • Luke Lea

    WigWag nitpick: “The most sophisticated drip irrigation . . . now available almost everywhere were pioneered at Ben Gurion University. . .”

    Are you sure it wasn’t pioneered on the kibbutzes? As a retired professional gardener and old kibbutz buff that’s my impression.

  • Larry

    ‘i hope it is a sucess. but being that it is almost free someone out there will try to block it or tax it into extinction! its a shame people seem to always look to make the most money

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