Homes, Periphery Businesses to Be Allowed Unlimited Solar Installations

After two months of uncertainty, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau set new quotas over the weekend for small solar production facilities. The new limits will be in effect for the next five years.

The installation of solar panels for home electricity consumption (up to 4 kilowatts) will be permitted nationwide without limitations, through the end of 2014. Industrial installations (up to 50 kilowatts) will be permitted without limitations in national priority zones - the north, south and West Bank - while the rest of the country is subject to a 50-megawatt cap. This affects 1,000 to 1,200 individual systems.

To encourage the use of solar power in Israel, companies possessing solar-power devices are allowed to sell excess electricity to the Israel Electric Corporation. The incentive is in the price the IEC pays them for the power - NIS 2 per kilowatt hour, about four times the price consumers pay the IEC for electricity. Until now, that incentive had been capped at 50 megawatts.

Last December, the IEC unexpectedly announced that the state's quota for subsidizing solar installations for businesses had been used up, throwing the entire sector of companies that install and integrate solar panels into confusion.

Now, new excess production permitted beyond that initial 50-megawatt cap will be purchased at a rate of around NIS 1.6 per kilowatt hour.

In addition, the minister decided to reserve a 30-megawatt quota for public buildings, mainly educational institutions.

Another quota of 2 megawatts at the original rate - NIS 2 per kilowatt hour - will be reserved for residents of the West Bank, as compensation for the fact that until now they could not sell excess solar energy because the Civil Administration had not given approval. The quota was set based on West Bank residents' percentage of the population.

These quotas are for small photovoltaic installations.

During the Eilat-Eilot International Renewable Energy Conference & Exhibition, which is scheduled for this week, the ministry will unveil its quotas for mid-sized and large photovoltaic installations, and for thermosolar, wind-based and biomass electricity production facilities.

"The new guidelines advance the vision of green rooftops," Landau said. "The benefits for national priority zones are based on the general policy of developing the periphery and are intended to encourage the employment of local manpower."

Many people in the solar power sector have expressed satisfaction with the minister's decision.

"Landau showed that he's good for his word and kept his promise to see through the green rooftop vision," attorney Eitan Parnas, CEO of the Association of Solar Companies, said yesterday.

"The National Infrastructure Ministry's declarations are the opening shot in the large-scale solar power revolution. The removal of the limitations will increase the public's awareness about electricity issues, change consumption habits and direct the financial benefits to places that need it most."