from the June 2012 issue

Using Solar Energy

Solar power in Israel refers to the use of solar energy in Israel, which began in the early years of the state. In the 1950s, Levi Yissar developed a solar water heater to address the energy shortages that plagued the new country. By 1967 around one in twenty households heated its water with the sun and 50,000 solar heaters had been sold. With the 1970s oil crisis, Harry Zvi Tabor, the father of Israel's solar industry, developed the prototype of the solar water heater now used in over 90% of Israeli homes. Israeli engineers are at the cutting edge of solar energy technology and its solar companies work on projects around the world.

With no oil reserves and the country's tenuous relations with its oil-rich neighbors, the search for a stable source of energy is a national priority. Solar technology in Israel has advanced to the point where it is almost cost-competitive with fossil fuels. The high annual incidence of sunshine in the Negev Desert has spurred an internationally renowned solar research and development industry. At the end of 2008, a feed-in tariff scheme was approved which has led to many residential and commercial solar energy power station projects.

The irony of the energy situation is that sufficient oil and gas has been found and Israel will no longer be dependent as it is still today. As we went to press an Israeli oil and gas exploration firm announced that it had discovered a major oil and gas bed in the Mediterranean Sea, off the Haifa coast.

A statement said that its Pelagic fields contain an estimated 1.4 billion barrels of oil and 177 billion cubic meters of natural gas, according to a business daily.

"The quantity of gas discovered in the licenses, and the high probabilities, make it the third largest offshore discovery to date," according to company chairman Ronny Halman, who said that the findings were better than initial estimates.

The five contiguous offshore fields - Aditya, Ishai, Lela, Yahav, and Yoad - are located 170 km west of Haifa, and cover 500,000 acres. They are adjacent to the larger Leviathan (450 billion cubic meters) and Tamar (240 billion cubic meters) fields, which were discovered several years ago.

"This quantity guarantees Israel's energy future for decades, and makes it possible to export Israeli gas, and boost the state's revenues without worrying about gas reserves for domestic consumption," Halman said of the estimated $100-project, due to begin drilling by the end of the year.

Israel's smaller Yam Tethys rig, located off the Ashkelon coast, is fast depleting as it is the country's sole source of natural gas. Israel decided to rely solely on the platform's flagging output, due to over a dozen bombing attacks by saboteurs on the Egypt-Israel pipeline near el-Arish throughout 2011 and into this year.

Israel's Water and Energy Minister Uzi Landau has made switching over from Egyptian gas a linchpin of the country's energy development policy.

Together, the oil and gas finds could, potentially, change the strategic face of the region and turn Israel into an energy exporter.

However, a visiting energy expert told The Jerusalem Post that the country would likely not see a revenue stream before 2020.

"This is a developed economy," said Nick Butler, a former British Petroleum Group vice president of strategy. "I don't see why Israel could not develop gas grids in major cities to bring it to every business and every home. That is what has worked in most European countries, and there is no physical reason that cannot be done here," Butler said.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report June 2012

Click HERE to request further information.
Click HERE to go BACK.