Last Sunday I headed down to Kibbutz Ketura in southern Israel for the launch event of Israel’s first solar-energy field. It is also the first of its kind in this region of the Middle East. The field was built by Arava Power Company, a leader in solar power. One of the co-founders, Yosef Abramowitz, was just named one of the “Top 50 Most Influential Jews in the World” by the Jerusalem Post.
After quite a long bus ride I walked off the bus and immediately felt like I was in a sauna. I then decided that the canyons of the desert are much more beautiful when you are viewing them from inside an air-conditioned vehicle. Some sweaty hours later I was running around helping the media. Unfortunately due to the event falling on the same day as Naksa Day (“Day of the Setback” – a commerorative day for displaced Palestinians after the 1967 Six-Day War) there wasn’t as much media as originally planned. But even still the event ran very smoothly; it was very inspiring, and the coverage of it has been great since the launch.
In attendance were Kibbutz members, friends and family of Arava employees, students and supporters of the Arava school and environmental efforts, and members of the government — Of which included, Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, the Head of Municipality Udi Gat, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, and the Head of the Independence Party MK Dr. Einat Wilf.
I’m hoping you’re thinking how great the building of this solar field is — helping the environment, utilizing energy from the sun, Israel becoming more independent, etc. etc. As it stands, there is really only one problem. And unfortunately it isn’t just a minor problem. The Israeli Finance Ministry believes that solar power will make electricity more expensive. Accoring to the solar-kings this is in fact not true, but until they receive the financial backing from the Government they unfortunately can only go so far.
Gil Troy, an author and Professor of History at McGill University, wrote a blog entry just this morning on Yosef and his goals with solar energy. In it Gil said, “Those of us who long yearned for an Israeli Manhattan Project, to find an alternative to oil, which despoils the environment and empowers the Arabs, should be cheering. And the government, which in Decision 4450 in 2009 committed to using renewable sources for 10 percent of Israel’s energy needs by 2020, should be thrilled. Yet, in February, the Treasury Ministry froze the development of all large solar fields and future medium fields, amid Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s silence. Political uncertainty now risks killing an industry the government should be nurturing — and championing.”
Yosef was quoted in the blog entry saying, “”Three ‘S’s make Israel ripe for solar revolution – it is small, sunny, and sophisticated. Instead, “We are a Start-Up Nation that can’t get more than the first major solar field built.””
Being someone who chose not to eat meat because of the harmful effects it can have on the environment I think you know what side of the playing field I am on. I can only hope as time goes on positive progress will be made.
At the event Shyne performed his new song entitled, “Solar Energy.” He wrote the song specifically for the launch of the solar field, but he told me that it is one of his favorites that he has ever written. I have to say, after a long day of trying to get people up on their feet to rally for solar energy, Shyne did the best job at it.
It was a long day, but a very inspirational one. I am looking forward to continuing to read about Arava’s efforts and feel fortuante that I got to work with them for such an important event for not only their company’s history, but also Israel’s.