Israeli Energy Plan Slashes Space for Solar, Places Power Lines in Fragile Areas

Zafrir Rinat
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A solar power station in the Negev desert, 2019.
A solar power station in the Negev desert, 2019.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Zafrir Rinat

The newly approved master plan for energy in Israel will significantly cut back on the open spaces where it will be possible to build solar power plants – but at the same time it will allow high voltage electric power lines to run through many forests and ecological corridors.

A subcommittee of the National Planning and Building Council approved the new master plan this week before sending it for the full council – and it seems it will be approved soon without any changes.

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Previous meetings of planning committees decided it was best to promote photo-voltaic solar power plants in built-up areas, or on top of reservoirs or infrastructure facilities.

While preparing the master plan, 37,000 dunams (9,250 acres) of open land was identified as available for the construction of solar power plants – but the subcommittee’s decision will slash this by more than half, to just 15,000 dunams. Among the places previously proposed but now removed from the list is land in Oron in the Negev, Uvda and the southern Arava.

The national master plan for the energy industry – known as Master Plan 41 – is a joint initiative of the Energy Ministry and the Planning Administration for the years 2030 through 2050. For the first time, it presents an overall plan for Israel’s energy infrastructure – including reserving land for future planning.

The government recently decided to increase the target for renewable energy production to 30 percent by the end of the decade, and therefore sought to allocate land for solar energy in the near future. The Energy Ministry said some of the land used by the Defense Ministry would be used for building solar facilities.

The new master plan, however, also has ecological implications concerning the construction and path of new high voltage power lines.

In many cases, the subcommittee accepted the objections of regional planning committees to keep such power lines out of ecological corridors and forests, but approved the construction in a few others, such as in the Tefen, Yodfat and Atzmon forests in the Galilee.

The subcommittee also ruled that the detailed planning of these lines would examine the environmental and scenic implications of the construction.

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