Israel: Arava given go ahead for 40 MW PV project; Suntech unveils plans

16. March 2012 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends, Top News | By:  Becky Stuart

Photovoltaic activity in Israel is heating up: Arava Power Company has unveiled its US$150 million project plans; and Suntech discusses upcoming policy changes, which may result in higher photovoltaic quotas, and provides updates on its Israeli activities, including project pipelines and the market pullout of one of its modules.

Israel Plan of Arava's 40MW solar photovoltaic plant

A plan of Arava's proposed 40 MW photovoltaic project.

Israel-based Arava has been granted a provisional permit by the country’s Public Utility Authority (PUA) to install a 40 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic plant at Kibbutz Ketura, located in the south of the country. The "complicated" environmental and related planning processes have already been completed.

Construction on the plant – expected to be the largest of its kind in the country when complete – is scheduled to begin in the last quarter of 2012 and should last for around 1.5 years, according to Arava. It will be built across an area of 148 acres.

Last June, Arava unveiled Israel’s first solar field – a 4.95 MW installation, also located at the Kibbutz Ketura. The Arava Power Company took five years to realize its first utility scale installation. At the time, Rosenblatt, described the process of working with various arms of Israeli government as being a "challenge". But, he said that the solar market has stability and certainty looking to the future.

Bigger quotas

Roi Feder, a spokesperson for Suntech told pv magazine that there are currently discussions underway to increase the photovoltaic quotas in Israel, since wind is not fulfilling its quotas. This, he said, is due to two factors: (i) migrating birds from Europe to Africa; and (ii) national defense.

He added, "There was an interesting story … of a 30 MW power plant in the Negev [which has just won its tender] where the FIT was priced at … about 12 or 13 cents per kilowatt hour, which is quite low – probably at grid parity. The government is already looking at this as maybe something that’s going to involve changing policy and allowing for more quotas and licenses if this price can be maintained by other companies … There is a lot of pressure to release more quotas for PV, and that’s probably going to happen, especially now with this new power plant going for such a low feed-in tariff rate."

Decisions are expected to be made by the government and PUA in next two months.

Strategic moves

Suntech has said it is "moving strategically into Israel" and plans to maintain its position of having the "largest market share" in the country: it has been active there for three years and reportedly holds 40 percent of the market.

Ryan Ulrich, Suntech communications supervisor for the MENA region, said the Chinese module manufacturer has planned, over the next two to three years, for 50 MW worth of 50 kilowatt (kW) systems for commercial rooftops, and 300 MW worth of systems for projects ranging between 51 kW and five MW. "The 300 MW will divided for two to three years depending on the license," added Ulrich.  This year, as much as 30 MW is being targeted, "depending on the government policies coming in".

He did not elaborate on whether Suntech would supply modules to Arava Power again, as the company did for the first solar field, but he did say that Suntech works closely in Israel with Siemens.

New products

He went on to say that Suntech has just launched a new module on the Israeli market – the SuperPoly, a 300 Watt module, which has been described as "perfect" for the desert like climates in Israel. Last July, the company launched the Suntech 300W Vd series photovoltaic module for the Israeli market. Ulrich says, however, that this has now been "pulled" from the market and replaced with the SuperPoly.

Both modules, he explained, are based on the company’s Black Pearl technology. However, the new SuperPoly module is said to perform better in the heat, based on the usage of a different part of the solar cell. When asked if the heat was a problem for the 300W Vd series, he replied, "It was more a matter that this was an even cheaper way to obtain the same high efficiencies."

Suntech is further launching a "hybrid solar solution", which combines diesel and solar, for the APMEA (Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa) region. It is also being considered for the Israeli market. Currently Ulrich said it is in the beta phase right now, but that it can reduce diesel consumption by up to 90 percent.

Technology development

Referring to Israel’s rich technological background, Feder said that Suntech is "not only looking at Israel as a market to sell panels, but also as a market that has a lot of technology development." He explained, "This is certainly something that Suntech has begun to consider." While no decisions regarding partnerships have been made yet, it is on the company's radar.


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