On a cloudless day, Israel breaks its solar power production record
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On a cloudless day, Israel breaks its solar power production record

At precisely 12:07 P.M. on Saturday, solar energy produced 13.4 % of the total electricity being consumed nationwide

50,000 mirrors, known as heliostats,encircle the solar tower in the Negev desert, near in Ashelim, southern Israel, December 22, 2016. (AP/Oded Balilty)
50,000 mirrors, known as heliostats,encircle the solar tower in the Negev desert, near in Ashelim, southern Israel, December 22, 2016. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Saturday was a perfectly cloud-free spring day — perfect for Israel to break its solar power record.

At precisely 12:07 P.M. solar energy was producing  13.4 % of the total electricity being consumed in the country, a new record, the Israel Electric Corporation said.

However, officials said that while Israel has been working to increase its power derived from renewable energy, Saturday’s results were caused by a specific confluence of events — high solar production and low overall consumption.

“We are very proud of this,” said Oren Hellman of the corporation. “But it is a specific record. The high percentage level comes because it was a Saturday and the weather was perfect for renewable energy. This proves we can do it.”

“The sun is the biggest source of energy in Israel and we can achieve much greater solar energy production,” he said.

Jonathan Aikhenbaum, a campaign manager at Greenpeace Israel praised the event.

“This proves that when you want, when obstacles are removed, the solar revolution is gaining strength,” he told the Ynet news site. “A combination of sun and innovation is finally putting Israel on the map. The day is not far off where we will reach 100 % from solar energy, like Denmark achieved from wind energy last year.”

While Israel is blessed with abundant sunshine and a robust solar energy industry, production in Israel has traditionally been low, with much of it going to export. The discovery in recent years of huge natural gas reserves has also hampered the adoption of solar energy.

Israel announced in 2015 that as part of the Paris Accord it aims to have 10% of the country’s energy come from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and biogas by 2020, and 17% come from renewable energies by 2030.

The figures are far below the OECD goals of 20% energy from renewable sources by 2020 and 27% by 2030, and many countries are well beyond that. In 2016, 32% of Germany’s energy consumption came from renewable forces.

Currently, just 2.6% of Israel’s energy currently comes from renewable sources. Although the southern Negev region and the Arava lead the way in solar production.

Currently, the Arava region is 70% powered by the sun during the day, and at 2020 will be at 100%.

This summer, Arava Power installed a 40-megawatt field at Kibbutz Ketura, which supplies a third of Eilat’s daytime energy. In the next five years, a 60-megawatt field will be constructed around nearby Timna.

50,000 mirrors, known as heliostats,encircle the solar tower in the Negev desert, near Ashelim, southern Israel, December 22, 2016. (AP/Oded Balilty)

In 2018, the three plots of the Ashelim project are expected to be completed. The centerpiece is a solar tower that will be the world’s tallest at 250 meters (820 feet). Ashelim is set to generate some 310 megawatts of power, about 1.6% of the country’s energy needs — enough for about 130,000 households, or roughly 5% of Israel’s population, according to the Israel Electricity Authority.

 

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