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Energy from the sun gets off the ground: After a long delay, the tender for building the Negev solar power plant will be published

Jan 3, 2008 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Dalia Tal Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel

The Ministries of Finance and National Infrastructures will publish the BOT (build, operate, transfer) tender for the Negev solar power plant at Ashelim, after years of delay. This is Israel's first tender for a solar powered plant. Many other countries already have such power stations in operation or under construction.

The tender will be for the construction of two power stations that will generate 250 megawatts altogether, amounting to 2.5 percent of Israel's power production. While this is only a marginal quantity, it is unquestionably a step in the right direction towards renewable energy production, and might also give Israel's solar power industry a boost.

The project's cost is estimated at $300 million. The bidders in the tender will compete for the lowest price per kilowatt/hour to ask the state to pay. Currently, the lowest price for solar energy is $0.12-0.15 per kw/h, compared with $0.05-0.06 per kw/h generated by fossil fuels.

The tender winner will not only win the right to produce energy, but also rights to the 4,000-dunam (1,000-acre) site, which will handed over at no cost. Although the price is high, but if the savings in air pollution and the potential for improving the system are taken into account, the tender will ultimately be a good deal for both the government and, most of all, the environment.

The participating consortia will probably comprise a financing company, a generator and turbine manufacturer, and a solar receptor manufacturer, or some other composition. Solel Solar Systems Ltd. is a global leader in the manufacture of solar receptors, and it will probably participate in one of the consortia. At this time, the banking system does not know how to evaluate projects of this kind, and there is concern that the manufacturers and contractors may face financing difficulties.

Solel Solar CEO Avraham Brenmiller told "Globes" that he welcomed the publication of the tender and that Solel Solar would decided whether to bid in it after reading the documents.

Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said that construction of the Ashelim solar power station was another step by the ministry towards meeting the government's target of generating 10 percent of Israel's electricity production from renewable sources by 2020.