Windmills, Solar Panels Compete for Green Dominance of Golan

The huge wind turbines on Bashanit ridge in the northeastern Golan Heights have become a symbol of the area. But these days, the monster turbines have taken a back seat as an alternative energy source to the solar panels installed in the region over the past year.

Shimon Keinan has installed photo-voltaic cells on the roof of his shofar factory in Moshav Givat Yoav in the southern Golan Heights, and is very pleased.

"I'm glad to be part of a 'green' enterprise in the Golan, in which dozens of systems like mine have been installed," he said.

Back at the Bashanit ridge wind farm, Avi Zeira was working all day to tighten the screws of the turbines. Zeira, the head of Ruhot Hagolan (Golan Winds) first built the turbines 25 years ago.

His dream that some day there would be dozens more like them of various sizes throughout the region still has not come true and Avi sounds as depressed as Keinan sounds pleased.

"Bureaucratic obstacles are what is preventing the great breakthrough in wind energy," he said.

Some 150 photo-voltaic systems have been installed on rooftops of the Golan's poultry runs and cowsheds to utilize the sun's energy. Avi Malka, head of the Golan Regional Council, says about 200 systems have been approved for installation.

"At this point the solar systems produce about seven megawatts of electricity, while the 10 wind turbines on Basahanit ridge produce six megawatts altogether," Malka said.

In Katzrin, the Golan's unofficial "capital," the plates have also been installed on the roof of commercial premises in the industrial zone by a private entrepreneur, at a cost of NIS 1.2 million.

But in about five years, if the giant initiative to produce "green" energy throughout Israel comes to fruition, wind energy could win out after all.

"We are promoting a plan to establish about 150 wind turbines in the northern Golan," with each turbine which will produce two megawatts of electricity. "The Golan will produce energy for the whole Eastern Galilee," Malka says.

A company has already been established to build a wind farm will in the northern Golan valley known as the Vale of Tears with investments already made amounting to some $120 million.

As for Avi Zeira's project, he may have the wind at his back after all: His 10, 30-meter-tall turbines are to be dismantled and replaced with eight new ones - 80-meters tall.