Shikun & Binui Renewable Energy impressed participants at the Eilat-Eilot convention with a pilot power station, which gave an idea about the thermo-solar field they plan to establish in Kibbutz Ze’elim with a NIS 2 billion (about $0.5 Billion) investment. The company heavily relies on Israeli-made technological upgrades.
The highlight of the Eilat-Eilot pre-event this past February was the launch of Shikun & Binui’s pilot thermo-solar power station, a facility designed to create thermal energy (heat) at a capacity of 3MW, an energy level equal to 1MW of electricity. The Eilat-Eilot event served as a discussion platform for Israeli policy makers in the energy field, and was the perfect venue in which to launch the power station. The unveiling also proved to be a highly promising stepping stone toward the establishment of large thermo-solar power stations in Israel.
Shikun & Binui are an infrastructure and real estate subdivision of the Arison Group, one the largest in its sector in Israel. They recently made the strategic decision to enter environmental areas such as renewable energy and water solutions. The proposed power plant purports to show regulators, financial bodies and potential partners, that the company has the capability to establish a thermo-solar plant, with an energy production capacity of 120MW, located on Shneor field’s 750 acres, right outside Kibbutz Ze’elim in the Northern Negev area. Shikun & Binui currently has full ownership over the Shneor project, both as instigator and ECP developer, but in the future intends to take on a large contractor with experience and knowledge in the thermo-solar sector, as a strategic partner.
Shikun & Binui is currently in an advanced regularization stage, their project having been officially named a national infrastructure project. The company also has a conditioned license for electricity production, and was authorized to approach the Committee for National Infrastructures in order to further promote the building and licensing process. The planned investment in Shneor field will be NIS 2 billion, with the intention to wrap up the finance by mid-2013.
According to Amir Levi, CEO of Shikun & Binui Renewable Energy, Shneor could represent the first of many of Shikun & Binui’s thermo-solar related activities, with eyes fixed firmly on the international arena. Currently, the main platform in the Thermo-Solar world is taking place in South Africa, India and the US, and Shikun & Binui plans to be active in these locations once their plans are implemented successfully in Israel.
Adding 400MW to the Economy
To understand where Shikun & Binui’s activities stand within the governments’ overall thermo-solar plans, it should also be mentioned that, alongside Shneor’s 120MW field, a 60MW project is in the pipeline in the Mashabei Sadeh area. This project will be managed by well-known entrepreneur, Hezi Kugler. In addition, there is the Ashalim project, still at tender stage, which is in 2 divisions of 110MW each (220W in total). The government’s thermo-solar plans in the near future include the production of 400MW in total.
And back to the pilot power station. The experimental field, constructed over 5 acres in Ardum’s industrial area near Kibbutz Yotvata, is based on Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology. Parabolic troughs with integrated mirrors capture and concentrate the sun’s energy, and through high optic accuracy, transfer this solar energy to a main pipe, which conserves heat using thermal oil that reaches a temperature of 400 degrees Celsius. In a fully operational power station, this heat, which is conserved in oil, is converted and used to power steam turbines, the engine responsible for electricity production.
Israelis are familiar with this practice, due to the fact that the Israeli-based company Luz led the world in this field during the 1970s and 1980s. Luz later became Solel , and eventually became the thermo-solar division of engineering giant Siemens. In fact, SCP Siemens (Solel-Siemens) and Shikun & Binui are working together on the Ashalim tender.
According to Mr. Levi, the pilot that was launched is based on Israeli technological upgrades, which can be credited to the company’s engineers. These talented individuals are mainly alumni of Ormat Technologies and Solel, and are led by Gilbert Cohen, a Luz alumnus who stayed and operated the power stations Luz built in California between 1985 and 1992. According to Mr. Levi, Shikun & Binui’s innovative receiver is capable of decreasing costs and improving the solar field’s performance. Furthermore on the financial issues related to Shneor field – the company has finalized the project listing process through the (CDM), the United Nations’ emission reduction entity.
Today, the thermo-solar field is subsidized, but according to Mr. Levi “The more the market develops, the more prices will decrease and will become competitive with prices of electricity and natural gas – in the long run, the field simply should not be subsidized”.