The photo-voltaic (PV) technology, which is the mainstream technology to harvest solar energy and transform it into electricity, is forming a growing share of the electricity production segment in Israel and worldwide. The global rate of PV deployment has grown exponentially for many years, due to a strong demand for a cheap, reliable and environmentally clean technology for electricity production. PV facilities are utilized for both off-grid energy generation in remote areas and for grid-connected applications. Moreover, complementary technologies have been introduced into the market over the past few years, including distributed harvesting optimizers, micro-inverters, facility planning software solutions, real-time monitoring and more, while distributed electricity storage solutions have first appeared on the market during the past year. Within Israel, one can encounter solar facilities all over the country, though several challenges still exist ahead of converting PV technology into mainstream means for electricity generation. Recent developments in the PV segment and standing challenges in Israel are overviewed in this article.
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Grid-connected solar PV segment was introduced into Israel in the year 2008, with the first government-subsidized feed-in tariff program. Since summer 2008, solar installations have been ongoing within the country, producing an ever growing capacity of grid-connected facilities, despite various delays and challenges. Later on, in 2009, governmental decision 4450 determined a target of 5% renewable electricity production by the year 2014 and 10% renewable electricity production by the year 2020, largely relying on solar energy. Though the 2014 target was missed out, two important decisions have recently complemented the existing solar PV deployment plans: one diverting much planned capacity from solar thermal and other renewable technologies to solar PV and another decision, accepted towards the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, setting the targets for renewable electricity production in Israel at 17% by 2030. Altogether the planned framework in line with modified regulations and new financial models (such as net metering) may get Israel close to its 2020 targets.
Figure 1. Solar PV new annual installations (blue) and total capacity by the end of each calendar year (purple). 2016 figures are an estimate.
The total capacity of grid-connected PV facilities in Israel had reached nearly 500 MWp by late 2014 and about 580 MWp by the end of 2015. According to Public Utilities Authority Electricity, In August 2015 some 882 MWp of solar facilities had already been licensed and thus, with inauguration of several large scale solar fields and continuing connection of small and medium facilities to the grid, the PV capacity is estimated to reach 800 MWp by the end of the calendar year. In terms of production, according to Public Utilities Authority Electricity, 872 million kWh (1.4% of total electricity) were produced by grid-connected renewable sources in 2014, whereas 1,276 million kWh (2.0% of total electricity) were produced in 2015; the vast majority of renewable sources are PV, so the figures mostly represent electricity production from solar PV sources.