The Enigma of Israel and Solar Energy

(By Juan Cole)

Israel ought to be a pioneer in solar energy. It is mostly sunny and the amount of energy it could realize from solar panels is enormous. It has a robust scientific and engineering establishment. Israel doesn’t have that much in the way of hydrocarbons. It has little oil, and its richest natural gas reserves are offshore in the sea. That location makes gas expensive to extract at a time when American fracking is driving down prices. Morover, ownership of the fields is contested by the Palestinians and Lebanese, promising more conflict.

Then, Israel is forced to import petroleum, and in the Middle East region that means importing indirectly from the Arab oil states. If the Israeli political elite were really devoted to self-reliance, they would be more eager to get off petroleum. Indirectly, Israel ends up importing from the Arab and Muslim worlds, and therefore being dependent on the latter.

only 2 percent of Israel’s electricity is generated by photovoltaic cells

In fact, as Yosef I. Abramowitz notes, only 2 percent of Israel’s electricity is generated by photovoltaic cells. The country’s right wing government has only pledged that 10% of energy will be from renewables by 2020, whereas most European countries have plans to get to 20% renewables by then.

Israel had been a pioneer in using solar for water heating (80% of homeowners use this technology), but that momentum has been lost.

While government policy hasn’t helped. Israeli entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers are working on the problems.

All is not gloom. In order to meet its goal of 10% renewable energy by 2020, the country will construct the fifth largest solar power station in the world. Arava Power Co. is building a large solar farm outside the southern city of Eilat, which will power 1/3 of its buildings.

But solar firms speak of having to fight the government every inch of the way.

Solar is the path to peace in the Middle East. Whereas Israelis and Palestinians could fight over natural gas or petroleum, there is plenty of sunshine to go around. (That doesn’t mean that the Israelis are acting rationally, since they are demanding that Palestinians pull down solar panels in the West Bank.)

Moreover, the region’s looming water crisis of drinking water can only be resolved by solar-powered hydrolysis.

One has a dark suspicion that elements in the ruling Likud government are tied to natural gas exploitation or otherwise have unworthy motives in “fighting” the solar industry. As with the Likud’s irrational obsession with colonizing and annexing the Palestinian West Bank, its odd romance with Big Oil and Big Gas endangers Israel’s long-term security rather than guaranteeing it.

Related video:

Arava solar farm being constructed :

9 Responses

  1. I have always said that Israel would go to the top of my list if they would set up solar panel manufacturing plants using native sand in Palestinian territories, allowing and ensuring the Palestinians get the profits.

    Can one imagine, jobs?

    • Where will the energy to run those solar plants come from?
      With few resources and unable to feed it self, Israel is no a viable State. It will be a beggar Nation for as long as America is willing to fund it.

  2. Israel could — with lots of solar power — make desalinized water in quantity and SUPPLY Gazas and WB instead of stealing water from them.

    But that goes exactly contrary to the Zionist desire to acquire land without people.

    It would be good for peace adn for human rights.
    Israel has (it seems to me) no interest in either where Palestine is concerned.

  3. Every country that has abundant sunshine and access to minerals could develop parabolic heat collectors and molten salt thermal storage. There is no technological reason for a power or water shortage in Palestine, Lebanon or Syria.

  4. And yet Iran with its immeasureable gift from nature is no where to be seen in quest for ultimate clean and relatively cheap energy.
    Faramarz Fathi

    • Actually . . . here’s what Iran’s doing, despite American grand theft of its property

      “Yazd solar thermal power plant is the world’s first integrated solar combined cycle power station using natural gas and solar energy. It is the largest solar power plant in the Middle East and the eighth largest in the world.”

      link to

      Were it not for the Israeli-instigated American hostility towards Iran the country would’ve been riding the solar train even faster….

  5. Maybe “Israel” is so involved in its rulers’ destructive paternalism, and of course their heavy and profitable participation in the whole global post-trans-national arms-bazaar consortium, that there’s not a lot of money or energy left over to be taking care of ordinary-person needs like water and energy and housing and such. Of course, it’s all very complicated and obscured…

    As to how and why the people who live behind the mask and shibboleth of “Israel,” are the way they are, use your favorite search engine with “Israel corruption” as a search term. Some of the context:

    link to

    Regarding Israel’s military/industrial “leadership,” there’s this: link to

    Of course, there’s always hope:
    link to

    Those 200 or 400 or 600 nukes, and those Krupp-built submarines, and all that other power-projection stuff that “we” winked at or supplied, sure start to loom large. Wonder what our War Planners have up their sleeves should the “Israelis” go all “USS Liberty” on the 6th Fleet, that is supposedly there to “advance security and stability in Europe and Africa.” Bearing in mind that in war games, even a US asymmetric General running the “Arab Force” was able to sink most of that fleet in a few hours…link to

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