Israel Unveils Nation's First Solar Field

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KIBBUTZ KETURA, Israel -- Israel is pushing forward on many fronts to take care of its future energy needs. The Jewish state's latest search for renewable power isn't underground -- but in the sky.

Arava Power Company recently opened its first commercial solar power field. More than 18,000 solar panels are positioned in a 20-acre field at Kibbutz Ketura, located deep in the Arava Desert where temperatures soar to 115 degrees in the summer.

When the panels are connected to the Israeli power grid, they will supply enough electricity for the surrounding communities.

Arava Power co-founder and Vice Chairman David Rosenblatt told CBN News the $20 million field will light up some 8,000 homes and help the environment.

"Solar power really represents a way to get off carbon-based fuels. And today, a lot of what Israel is powered by chiefly is coal… And so renewable energy really offers a way to break that cycle," he explained.

All of this is welcome news for the Ketura community.

"We like to consider ourselves to be a very environmental friendly kibbutz and thus the project is perfect for us," said Arava Power Chairman Ed Hofland, a Kibbutz Ketura resident.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Michael Cohen of the Ketura-based Arava Institute for Environmental Studies praises the company for its biblical principles.

For the next 20 years, Arava will dedicate funds from the four corners of the solar field to non-profit organizations.

"In the Jewish tradition, the biblical tradition, there's the notion of Pe'ah, that you leave the corners of the field for the poor," the rabbi told CBN News.

"We're familiar with that from the story of Ruth," he continued. "For example, there's a famous incident of that. And so we're leaving, or taking, from the profits 'that we get' from the four corners of the field and giving it 'tzedakah,' giving it to charity."

Rosenblatt says his company is planning to build roughly 50 additional solar fields around the country.

"Israel has a stated goal of reaching 10 percent renewable energy by 2020," he said.

He told CBN News he hopes these fields will eventually help power the more populated areas of israel.

"We'll start exporting energy up north because we'll produce more than the south needs," Rosenblatt said.  "And now, you actually have a change in the economy so entire region can develop in ways that before it could not."

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Bureau

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