05/21/2012 09:00
Company secures largest ever funding for solar power in Israeli history for 58 megawatts and NIS 800 m. of new projects.

Arava Power Company, the firm responsible for the launch of the country’s first solar field last June, has completed financial closure on an unprecedented 58 megawatts and NIS 800 million worth of new projects, the company announced on Sunday.

The closures are the largest ever to occur in the country’s solar history.

The first five fields – which Siemens Israel is set to build at Grofit, Elifaz, Shuval, Maslul and Yotvata – encompass 35 MW and NIS 500m. in total, according to Arava. The NIS 400m. worth of debt will come from a combination of Migdal, Amitim and Bank Hapoalim, the last of which was a financier of Arava Power’s original 4.95- MW Ketura Sun field.

The remaining 20 percent, the NIS 100m. in equity, will come from a combination of Arava Power, the Noy Fund and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, with the Noy Fund contribution comprising NIS 60m. of that share. Cooperation with the Noy Fund has existed since the company’s first plant.

“This investment is a direct continuation of the first investment we made in Arava Power and is part of the overall strategic vision of the fund to carry out significant investments in the solar field,” said Noy Fund chairman Pini Cohen.

Meanwhile, Tzahi Cohen, business staff director at Bank Hapoalim, said that members of his company viewed their financial participation as “a continuation of the success of the first transaction in the field of solar energy that was performed with Arava Power.”

In addition to the five original closures, Arava closed on three more projects later Sunday, which Siemens Israel is set to build in Mishmor Hanegev, Kerem Shalom and Bror Hayil, according to the company. Of the total NIS 300m. required for these projects, Bank Hapoalim will be providing the debt, at 80%, and Arava Power and Electricity of France (EDF) will be sharing the 20% in equity.

While pleased with the progress his company is making in the country’s solar industry, Yosef Abramowitz, president and co-founder of Arava Power, noted that “much work lies ahead.”

Part of that work would be adopting energy policies and goals similar to the European Union’s – such as moving Israel’s renewable energy target to 20% by 2020, according to Abramowitz.

“In achieving this milestone, Arava Power Company proves that it is possible to, and [that] we can, reach this destination,” he said. “In addition, it is necessary to assign to the Beduin population quotas of its own solar energy, and thereby repair the injustice against this population, which finds itself outside the national solar plan.”

But all in all, company executives were excited to see that the country’s deserts would be continuing to harness their light for electricity.

David Rosenblatt, Arava cofounder and vice president, added, “Together we fulfill the vision of David Ben-Gurion to transform the Negev into a center of solar energy production.”