12/27/2010 05:01

Solar installations will be allowed in the area around Beersheba, Gaza envelope, and Golan Heights in order to bring business to the periphery.

The cabinet approved on Sunday the national master plan for photovoltaic (PV) solar installations of up to 750 dunams (75 hectares).

National Master Plan 10D simplifies the bureaucratic process and also lays out the planning guidelines for receiving licenses.

The cabinet’s decision to approve the plan was unsurprising as it has traversed the planning bodies and received the input of nearly every ministry, as solar installations concern the domains of many ministries. The plan will be in effect for five years.

The plan lays out a clear preference for rooftop installations as opposed to ones in fields. However, there are provisions in the plan for ground-based solar fields as well.

Likewise, installations which adjoin existing infrastructure, industrial areas or built-up areas are also preferred. However, there are provisions for more isolated solar fields – particularly in areas where the ground is unsuitable for agriculture. Dual land use – for food and energy – is also encouraged under the plan.

Preserving open spaces, nature and natural beauty are also important tenets of the guidelines. Solar installations on agricultural land will be permitted in the area around Beersheba, the Gaza envelope, and the Golan Heights in order to bring business to the periphery.

In other areas of the Negev and the Arava, agricultural land will need to be rezoned for industrial purposes, which the companies that are interested in the kibbutzim and moshavim in that area have been pushing forward for three years.

Installations of up to 750 dunams are included under the guidelines approved on Sunday, whereas larger installations will require their own separate plan.

The plan is a necessary bureaucratic step to get the domestic solar industry off the ground. Other bureaucratic measures needed for the industry included feed-in tariffs, licensing and land grants. Most of those have already been arranged.

The government decision setting the goal of 10 percent of electricity production from renewable resources by 2020 was approved nearly two years ago, in January 2009. An interim goal of 5% of electricity production by 2014 was included in that decision.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the issue of the large amounts of red tape inherent in the process so far at the start of the cabinet meeting.

“I think that when I talk about efficiency it needs to be understood that there’s a built-in paradox. We are a country awash in sunshine; in Europe there are snowstorms and here there’s sun.

“Similarly, we are a country awash in technology, and solar technology. We are among the most advanced in the world and the paradox is that when we attempt to connect our technologies with the sun, we can’t, because it’s very hard to erect installations because of the bureaucracy,” he said, at the start of the ministers’ weekly meeting.

“What we are doing today in the cabinet is to set and simplify the bureaucracy so that we can enjoy our relative advantage – sun and brains – and build these installations in Israel,” he said.

National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau praised the decision but called on all of the government ministries and agencies to now do their utmost to enable these installations to be built.

“This is a multi-ministerial team effort that has borne fruit. What we have here is the signpost that entrepreneurs can now use to get to work. A detailed framework has been given, which, if used, would warrant that all of the branches of government be praised. The achievement is clear, but there is still much work to be done to remove all the obstacles,” Landau said.

“Right now, after our success in reaching agreement regarding National Master Plan 10D, all of the agencies must pitch in, cooperate and see the implementation of the government decision regarding renewable energy as a national goal,” he said.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel also praised the cabinet decision.

“The plan provides a balance between the desire to encourage and build solar energy installations and the need to prevent unnecessary development in the middle of the open spaces which are disappearing in Israel,” SPNI said in a statement.