On Saturday afternoon March 17, with not a cloud in the sky, Israel set a new record in solar power. At precisely 12:07pm, solar energy was producing 13.4 percent of the total electricity being consumed in the country, the Israel Electric Corporation said.
Though new technologies and massive solar projects have helped put Israel closer to its renewable energy goals, officials said the record broken on Saturday was caused by a specific combination of events – high solar production and low overall consumption.
“The high percentage level comes because it was a Saturday and the weather was perfect for renewable energy. This proves we can do it,” said Oren Hellman of the corporation.
“The sun is the biggest source of energy in Israel and we can achieve much greater solar energy production,” he said.
Jonathan Aikhenbaum, a campaign manager at Greenpeace Israel, praised the event.
“This proves that when you want, when obstacles are removed, the solar revolution is gaining strength,” he told Ynet News. “A combination of sun and innovation is finally putting Israel on the map. The day is not far off where we will reach 100% from solar energy, like Denmark achieved from wind energy last year.”
Despite Israel’s abundance of sunshine and solar energy technologies, currently only 2.6% of Israel’s electricity is generated from renewable sources. Much of the solar energy produced is exported, plus discoveries of natural gas reserves have interfered with the adoption of solar energy in recent years.
However, new energy projects in the Negev and Arava are aiming to increase the country’s renewable energy percentage. The Ashalim Thermo-Solar complex, currently being constructed in the Negev, is expected to provide approximately 300 megawatts of electricity daily to the Israel Electric Company’s national grid, contributing 2.5% toward the government’s goal of 10% renewable energy by 2020.
Scheduled to be up and running by summer 2018, the amount of energy produced by the complex will be enough for about 5% of Israel’s population when it is completed.