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$20 million deal seen as key to Israel’s solar revival

Large photovoltaic fields in the Negev could save 13,000 tons of coal annually

A photovoltaic field in the Negev (Photo credit: Courtesy Enerpoint)
A photovoltaic field in the Negev (Photo credit: Courtesy Enerpoint)

In one of the biggest single deals in recent years in the Israeli solar industry, Suntech announced that it would develop two large photovoltaic projects for the Israeli construction company Shikun Binui.

Suntech will build a five-megawatt photovoltaic field at Kibbutz Sde Boker, and a six-megawatt version at Kibbutz Hatzerim in the Negev.

The solar panels will be supplied by Enerpoint Israel, a large distributor of Suntech products in Israel. The projects will generate up to 19.91 gigawatt/hours of electricity per year, replacing about 13,000 tons of coal, Enerpoint said.

Suntech and Shikun Binui did not put a price tag on the deal, but industry insiders told The Times of Israel that it was worth about $20 million. If so, it would be one of the largest single deals ever in the solar energy field in Israel.

In recent years, the luster has worn off the alternative energy industry, both in Israel and around the world. A recent report by Bloomberg points to a precipitous fall in investments in solar and other alternative energy projects worldwide, with 22 percent less invested in alternative energy projects in the first quarter of 2013 compared to a year earlier. The $40.6 billion invested during the period was the lowest amount in four years, Bloomberg said.

The reasons for the falloff in interest in alternative energy among investors are varied, analysts quoted by Bloomberg said, including unclear bureaucratic regulations in many countries, scandals that have scared off investors, lower oil and gas prices, and the continued high price of electricity production from alternative energies as compared to production from fossil fuels.

Officials in the Israeli solar industry expressed hope that the Suntech-Shikun Binui deal would represent a turning point for the local market.

Commenting on the deal, Ron Shen, vice president of the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region for Suntech said, “These solar fields at Sde Boker and Hatzerim will be some of the largest in Israel. Our valued partner, Shikun Binui, has worked for a long time to successfully complete these projects. Now that Israel has hit grid parity, we look forward to continuing to work closely with each other to develop the market.”

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