Published: 22.6.2010 By Avi Bar-Eli Source: Haaretz

Arava Power Company has signed deals leasing land from Bedouin in the Negev for the construction of three giant solar-power fields. The company has earmarked NIS 400 million for the photovoltaic projects, which are supposed to produce 20 megawatts.

The company signed agreements with the Tarabin and Abu-Qrenat clans, which own land zoned for agriculture near Lehavim.

Arava Power has undertaken to build the fields within four years, and to pay NIS 6,000 per dunam.

Arava Power means to get funding from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which offered to finance 80% of the project. The U.S. government agency invests in development projects outside the United States.

Arava Power Company, which is based in Eilat, says this is the first solar venture to be carried out with the Bedouin community, and adds that it means to sign similar contracts in the future.

Arava Power is owned by Kibbutz Ketura and a group of U.S. investors. Its main shareholders are Joseph Abramovich (55% ), the German conglomerate Siemens (40% ) and the Jewish National Fund (5% ).

A month ago the company received the first permit of its kind in Israel from the Israel Utilities Authority – Electricity for the construction of a mid-sized power station, at an estimated cost of NIS 100 million.

Arava Power CEO Jonathan Cohen commented that the company is proud to be the first to initiate the establishment of solar fields in the Negev in general, and to forge a collaboration with the Bedouin community in particular. The company views it as an economic and social investment, he said.

Siemens also owns a controlling interest in another Israeli solar energy company, Solel Solar Systems.