People from Canada freak out when I say that pretty much every day in Israel is a beach day. It’s so hot and sunny here most of the year. Even in the winter it can be like a cool summer day in Canada, with plenty of sun. While the days shorten here in the winter like they do in Europe or North America, Israel has so much potential to be a net producer of energy. Yet, consumers and the millions of apartments and homes in Israel are not yet getting in on the potential.
And it’s needed. Polluted city air, a reliance on foreign energy, the use of natural gas, a limited energy source — Israel has so many reasons why every home should convert to solar energy for personal use. Luckily there are some larger projects developing the Ashalim solar energy plant in the south which will be creating 0.75% (for 70,000 households, equivalent to removing 50,000 cars a year from the road). The plant is already online, but maybe a bit too late.
If you read this article above you might be surprised that because of the new Ashalim solar plant consumers will be paying 2% more for energy! Crazy? It’s because the plant that just went online using solar thermal energy technology – mirrors to boil a gas which creates power. Years ago it was a good idea, but now solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has dramatically reduced in price in the last year making the Israeli solar plant more expensive than solutions now on the market.
But back in 2007 when the Israeli government was hot for giving out tenders for clean energy, they promised the builder of Ashalim a guaranteed feed-in tariff. While solar thermal energy might be considered old school for today’s standards (it took a decade to get it up and running), one bonus is that can produce energy into midnight while in photovoltaic systems when the sun goes down, the energy is finished.
Today the burning of coal is only used for 30% of Israel’s electricity supply, with the rest being supplied by natural gas (the majority) and solar energy. While Israel can do much better than that by not burning polluting coal at all, another issue is at stake which is the consumer price points and payments they make for energy. The cost of energy is considerably higher for consumers and industry in Israel even with the introduction of cleaner energy sources like solar and now natural gas.
While it makes sense that investors are offered incentives to prospect for natural gas and install solar energy factories, the incentives that were once offered to consumers to cover solar energy are practically non existent in the headlines anymore. Back in 2007 there were promises of 10 to 20% returns on investment over 20 years to even consumers who installed solar energy panels on their homes. The process was complicated due to the bureaucracy here and only a certain number of contracts were handed out. There is a great historical review on solar energy and Israel here on Wikipedia. According to this source Israel only produces about 2% of its energy from renewable sources, though on some days it has peaked to 13%.
Consumers are the key to growing solar
Most Israelis live in apartments and most roofs in cities like Tel Aviv are not being used. These could all be used close to the source without massive infrastructure and contracts to install plants. The sun is right there. Still, it’s still not easy for consumers trying to figure out the best solar panels to buy for the home. You need a certain amount of technical information and know how, not only for day to day operation but also if you go away. For those not feeding into the grid at regular intervals or all day, you need to drain the batteries in a special way. If you don’t your system can be destroyed. Happened to a friend of mine in Canada, and he lost a $20,000 investment.
Also consider neighbor relations. One would need a city-wide effort and special agreements in place so that entire buildings would have the right to buy in or buy out of going solar. With the climate change marches going on around the world today it makes it clear that the younger generation want us to go 100% renewable everywhere and for Israel it really is a no brainer. It’s not only about common sense and savings. It’s a do or die situation. But there are other small ways to start going solar:
Other applications include solar-powered lights, accessories, batteries, and cameras. You can take small steps to integrate solar into your everyday life.