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Solar power in Israel and the Israeli solar energy industry has a history that dates to the founding of the country. In the 1950s, Levi Yissar developed a solar water heater to help assuage an energy shortage in the new country. By 1967 around one in twenty households heated their water with the sun and 50,000 solar heaters had been sold. With the 1970s oil crisis, Harry Zvi Tabor, the father of Israel's solar industry, developed the prototype solar water heater that is now used in over 90% of Israeli homes. Israeli engineers are on the cutting edge of solar energy technology and its solar companies work on projects around the world.

Israel has embraced solar energy. There is no oil on Israeli land and the country's tenuous relations with its oil-rich neighbors made the search for a stable source of energy a national priority. Israeli innovation and research has advanced solar technology to a degree that it is almost cost competitive with fossil fuels. Its abundant sun made the country a natural location for the promising technology. The high annual incident solar irradiance in the Negev Desertmarker has spurred an internationally renowned solar research and development industry, with Harry Tabor and David Faiman of the National Solar Energy Center two of its more prominent members. At the end of 2008 a feed-in tariff scheme was approved, which immediately put in motion the building of many residential and commercial solar energy power station projects.

History and development

In 1949 prime minister David Ben-Gurion sent a letter to England to offer Harry Zvi Tabor a job on the 'physics and engineering desk' of the Research Council of Israel, which he accepted. His first task was to create the Israeli National Physical Laboratory to create standards amongst the different measurements in use in the country, primarily British, Ottoman and metric. Once the laboratory was established, he first focused on solar energy for research and development.

Solar energy was particularly attractive for two reasons. First, the abundance and strength of the sun's rays on Israeli land. Israel's geographic latitude location is on the 30th parallel north, where the annual incident solar irradiance is 2000 kWh per sq.m. Second, Israeli land lacks oil, and the conflicts with its neighbors made the procurement of a stable source of energy a national priority. In particular, it is argued that the best defense against missile attack felling the national power grid would be to build a distributed power network, which would mean solar fields of 25–50 megawatts across Israel.

Early in the 1950s, Harry Tabor began to examine why solar installations were inefficient. He eventually devised ‘selective black surfaces’, which his team at the National Physical Laboratory modified using nickel and chrome methods to blacken metals. These surfaces became known as Tabor surfaces, which are particularly effective at trapping heat for use in solar water heaters.

Tabor and French immigrant Lucien Bronicki developed a small solar power unit, the Organic Rankine Cycle turbine, for developing countries with problematic power grids. It was designed to neutralize the maintenance issues of reciprocating engines so it had only one moving part, the rotor. A 3 kWe prototype was exhibited at the 1961 United Nations Conference on New Sources of Energy in Romemarker, but it failed to find commercial success.

Dead See Solar pond

In 1965 Lucien Bronicki established Ormat Industries to commercialise the Organic Rankine Cycle turbine concept. In the 1970's and 1980's Ormat build and operated one of the world's first power stations to produce electricity from solar energy; the plant was located just north of the Dead Seamarker in Israel.

The plant utilised a technology know as Solar pond, a large-scale solar thermal energy collector with integral heat storage for supplying thermal energy. It was the largest operating solar pond ever build for electricity generation and operated up until 1988. It had an area of 210,000 m² and gave an electrical output of 5 MW.

Solar water heaters

In the 1950s there was a fuel shortage in the new Israeli state, and the government forbid heating water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. As the situation worsened, engineer Levi Yissar proposed that instead of building more electrical generators, homes should switch to solar water heaters. He built a prototype in his home, and in 1953 he started NerYah Company, Israel's first commercial manufacturer of solar water heaters. By 1967 around one in twenty households heated their water with the sun and 50,000 solar heaters had been sold. However, cheap oil from Iran and from oil fields captured in the Six Day War made Israeli electricity cheaper and the demand for solar heaters dropped. After the energy crisis in the 1970s, in 1980 the Israeli Knessetmarker passed a law requiring the installation of solar water heaters in all new homes (except high towers with insufficient roof area). As a result, Israel is now the world leader in the use of solar energy per capita (3% of the primary national energy consumption).

As of the early 1990s, all new residential buildings were required by the government to install solar water-heating systems, and Israel's National Infrastructure Ministry estimates solar panels for water-heating already satisfy 4% of the country's total energy demand. Israel and Cyprus are the per capita leaders in the use of solar hot water systems with over 90% of homes using them.

The Ministry of National Infrastructures estimates solar water heating saves Israel two million barrels of oil a year.

Feed-in tariff

On June 2, 2008 the Israeli Public Utility Authority approved a feed-in tariff for solar plants. The tariff is limited to a total installation of 50MW during 7 years, whichever is reached first, with a maximum of 15 kWp installation for residential and a maximum of 50kWp for commercial. Bank Hapoalim offered 10 year loans for the installation of solar panels. The National Infrastructures Ministry announced that it would expand the feed-in tariff scheme to include medium-sized solar-power stations ranging from 50 kilowatts to 5 megawatts. The new tariff scheme caused solar company Sunday Solar Energy to announce that it would invest $133 million to install photovoltaic solar arrays on kibbutzim, which are social communities that divide revenues amongst their members.

Educational and research facilities

National Solar Energy Center

The world's largest solar energy dish is located at the Center.
The National Solar Energy Center was founded in 1987 by the Ministry of National Infrastructures, and is part of Ben-Gurion University of the Negevmarker. In 2007, David Faiman, the Center's director, announced that the Center had entered into a project with Zenith Solar to create a home solar energy system that uses a 10 square meter reflector dish. In testing, the concentrated solar technology proved to be up to five times more efficient than standard flat photovoltaic silicon panels, which would make it almost as cheap as oil and natural gas. A prototype ready for commercialization achieved a concentration of solar energy that was more than 1,000 times greater than standard flat panels. According to Faiman, who led the Israeli team that developed the technology, 10% of Israel’s population (1,000 megawatts) could live on the energy from 12 square kilometres of land.

Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research

The Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research facility was founded by Amos Richmond, and its faculty is part of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negevmarker. It has a solar energy research program that have assisted in the development of passive heating, involving how extremes of heat and cold in the desert can be mitigated through efficient storage from day to nighttime. One research project is an inhabited adobe house with rational fenestration. Prism that absorb heat during the day are situation in the room, and they can be rotated to allow the heat to discharge at night.

There is a double skin greenhouse that uses copper sulfate solution as a heat screen during the day. The liquid is pumped between the two skins, protects the interior from ultraviolet rays and collects heat. At night the liquid is recirculated returning the heat to the greenhouse.

Weizmann Institute Solar Research Facilities Unit

In addition to a solar reactor, the solar research facilities of the Weizmann Institute are among the most advanced laboratories in the world for concentrated solar energy research. They have tested solar technology in the production of hydrogen fuel, which has been successfully trialled on a large scale. Tareq Abu-Hamed, an Israeli scientist at the University of Minnesotamarker, with colleagues Jacob Karni and Michael Epstein, head of the Solar Facility at Weizmann, were the developers of a new method to produce hydrogen fuel more cheaply, efficiently and safely while solving storage and transportation issues.

Other innovations include: harnessing sunlight for space communications and meteorological information; controlling light-dependent chemical reactions; and developing photodynamic cancer therapy.

Solar power stations

The Negev

The Negev Desertmarker and the surrounding area, including the Arava Valley, are the sunniest parts of Israel and little of this land is arable, which is why it has become the center of the Israeli solar industry. David Faiman, a world expert on solar energy, feels the energy needs of Israel's future could be met by building solar energy plants in the Negev. As director of Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center, he operates one of the largest solar dishes in the world.

A 250 MW solar park in Ashalimmarker, an area in the northern Negev, was in the planning stages for over five years, but it is not expected to produce power before 2013. In 2008 construction began on three solar power plants near the city; two thermal and one photovoltaic.

The Rotem Industrial Complex outside of Dimona, Israelmarker has dozens of solar mirrors that focus the sun's rays on a tower that in turn heats a water boiler to create steam, turning a turbine to create electricity. Luz II, Ltd. plans to use the solar array to test new technology for the three new solar plants to be built in California for Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Farming and kibbutzim

Israel's first solar power station opened in August 2008. Moshe Tenne built the 50 KW plant on his Negevmarker farm for NIS 1.3 million, and he expects to earn NIS 220,000 a year from selling excess electricity to the national power grid. After the National Infrastructures Ministry announced it would expand its feed-in tariff scheme to include medium-sized solar-power stations ranging from 50 kilowatts to 5 megawatts, Sunday Solar Energy announced that it would invest $133 million in photovoltaic solar arrays for installation on kibbutzim. In December 2008, the Sunday company announced that it would make Kibbutz Reimmarker, in the western Negevmarker, the first community in the world to rely entirely on solar energy. The Reim installation's cost is estimated at NIS60-100 million and will generate at least 2.5 megawatts during peak consumption. Excess energy will be sold to the Israel Electric Company. The investment is expected to pay for itself in 10 years, and the costs and revenues will be divided evenly between the kibbutz and Sunday.


The largest solar installation in Israel, so far, was built by Sunday Solar Energy on the Dalton Winery. The installation is 100KWp, hence twice bigger than other projects in Israel. The panels are made by American manufacturer Sunpower.


The large Chinesemarker solar company Suntech Power and Israeli company Solarit Doral built Israel's largest solar power station, a 50KW rooftop project in the northern town of Katsrinmarker, and connected it to the electric grid in December 2008.

Kibbutz Samar

The Aora solar tower is the world's first solar hybrid power plant comprises 30 heliostat solar reflectors and a solar "flower" tower. The plant switches to natural gas-powered turbines after dark so that it can continue producing power 24 hours a day.

Finance and business

See also


  1. Petrotyranny by John C. Bacher, David Suzuki, published by Dundurn Press Ltd., 2000; reference is at Page 70[1]
  2. At the Zenith of Solar Energy, Neal Sandler,BusinessWeek, March 26, 2008.
  3. Israel Pushes Solar Energy Technology, Linda Gradstein, National Public Radio, October 22, 2007.
  4. Looking to the sun, Tom Parry, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, August 15, 2007.
  5. Solar Energy in Israel, David Faiman for the Jewish Virtual Library.
  6. Bright ideas, Ehud Zion Waldoks, Jerusalem Post, October 1, 2008.
  7. Harry Zvi Tabor, Cleveland Cutler, Encyclopedia of the Earth, 2007.
  8. The solar vote, Yosef I. Abramowitz and David Lehreer, Haaretz, November 2, 2008.
  9. Infrared Technology Fundamentals, by Monroe Schlessinger, Irving J. Spiro; CRC Press, 1995, ISBN 0824792599; reference is at page 68[2]
  10. Israeli Section of the International Solar Energy Society, edited by Gershon Grossman, Faculty of Mechanical Energy, Technion, Haifa; Final draft.
  11. Carl Nielson, Aliakbar Akbarzedeh, John Andrews, Humberto R Becerra L and Peter Golding, 'The History of Solar Pond Science & Technology', Proceedings of the International Solar Energy Society, 2005.
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  13. The Samuel Neaman Institute for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology — Publications — Solar energy for the production of heat Summary and recommendations of the 4th assembly of the energy forum at SNI
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  15. Hapoalim offers loans for domestic solar panels, July 3, 2008.
  16. Ben Gurion National Solar Energy Center
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  19. Zenith Solar’s Light of a Thousand Suns, Green Prophet, December 17, 2007.
  20. The Climate of Israel by Y. Goldreich, [5], Published by Springer, 2003, ISBN 030647445X
  21. Jacob Karni and Michael Epstein, Weizmann Institute, July 2002.
  22. Solar Energy Project at the Weizmann Institute Promises to Advance the Use of Hydrogen Fuel, American Committee for the Weizmann Institute, August 6, 2005.
  23. Forget gas! Fill your tanks with water, Weizmann researcher says, Nicky Blackburn, Jerusalem Post, September 20, 2006.
  24. The Crystal Connection: Solar Lasers in Space
  25. Head of Kibbutz Movement: We will not be discriminated against by the government, Ehud Zion Waldoks, Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2008.
  26. Giant solar plants in Negev could power Israel's future, John Lettice, The Register, January 25, 2008
  27. Solar energy could raise electricity prices Haaretz, 6 August 2008
  28. Calif. solar power test begins — in Israeli desert, Associated Press, June 12, 2008; accessed December 23, 2008.
  29. Israel site for California solar power test, Ari Rabinovitch, Reuters, June 11, 2008.
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  31. Israel's first solar power station up and running in Negev, Avi Bar-Eli, Haaretz, September 18, 2008.
  32. Sunday Solar powers Israeli kibbutzim, news, October 17, 2008.
  33. The first solar kibbutz, Amir Ben-David, Ynet, December 22, 2008.
  34. [7], October 19, 2009.
  35. Israel opens largest solar plant with Chinese help, December 10, 2008.
  36. Chinese PV pioneer helps build Israel's biggest solar power station, Xinhua, December 9, 2008.
  37. First Hybrid Solar/Natural Gas Power Station Goes Online in Israel Popular Science Australia
  38. A solar revolution dawns in the desert, Ehud Zion Waldoks, The Jerusalem Post, November 4, 2008.
  39. 150 Solar Start Ups, Eric Wesff, Green Tech Media, December 4, 2008.
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