Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Israel plans 250-MW solar power plant

Israel recently announced plans for the construction of a 250 megawatt solar power plant in the Negev, which is estimated will cost $600-$700 million. When completed, it will be one of the largest solar power plants in the world.

"Globes" reports that the World Bank is considering financing the project.

According to Ha'aretz, the tender for building the plant will not give preference to local firms, meaning that foreign firms can participate in the tender without a local partner. The decision was made, among other things, to avoid the impression that the tender was written for the benefit of the only two Israeli companies who could compete for the power station: Solel and Luz II, a subsidiary of BrightSource Energy.

The cabinet hopes that this change will make the tender more attractive to international firms with experience in the solar energy industry, and that the new conditions will allow the setting of appropriate minimum requirements for professionalism and financial strength for the bidders on the project.

Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer recently announced that the first stage of the tender will likely be published next month.

The power plant, which will be located near Ashalim in the western Negev and produce 250 megawatts of electricity, will be Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), similar to Route 6, the Trans-Israel Highway. The winning bidder builds the plant, operates it for the license period, and at the end of the franchise transfers full ownership to the state.

A number of foreign companies have already expressed interest in the project, including Spanish energy giant Abengoa. Abengoa created a U.S. subsidiary earlier this year, Solucar Power, Inc., to respond to utility requests for electricity using concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies.

The real remaining question is which technology will be required for the power station: solar thermal or photovoltaic. The solar thermal method harnesses the sun's energy to heat a material, such as oil or water, from which it is possible to generate electricity, while the photovoltaic system transforms solar energy directly into electricity.

However, it also appears that even if one of the possible two tenders requires a photovoltaic system, the total amount of electricity from such a plant will not be over 50 megawatts, out of the total of 250 megawatts.