Last Updated: June 21, 2023
Rooftop Solar Panels
A mix of ground-based solar installations and a dual-use installations on rooftops where electricity demand exists, is seen as the most viable approach for Israel
With a lot of sun-hours, yet too little space, Israel faces an obvious challenge to build large utility scale solar. To support the growing population and at the same time meet its goal of using a 30 per cent renewable share in total electricity capacity by 2030, Israel will soon require all new non-residential buildings to have rooftop solar panels.
Harnessing solar energy seems to be the most crucial element to fulfilling the country’s renewable needs. Israel is unsuitable for wind power and lacks water for hydropower.
Ron Eifer, who heads the Energy Ministry’s Sustainable energy division, said Israel stands apart as a developed country in its dependency on the sun as a renewable source while lacking land for solar farms.
Israel has fallen behind schedule on its goal to get 30 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030.
“We have to take some dramatic steps,” Eifer said. The government of Israel has passed a regulation requiring new non-residential buildings to be equipped with rooftop solar panels. This decision was made during the recent state budget discussions, with a deadline of 180 days for the implementation of the new requirement.
For residential buildings, the regulation states that roofs must be prepared for easy installation of solar panels in the future. This follows the successful adoption of sun-powered water heaters in the country decades ago, which have become a dominant feature on rooftops across Israeli cities. The widespread use of these heaters has led to an 8 per cent reduction in electricity production requirements.
Israel’s commercial solar fields have primarily been established in the southern Negev desert or remote areas in the north, far from major urban centres. However, there are challenges associated with transmitting electricity over long distances and the need to preserve open spaces. Consequently, a mix of ground-based solar installations, which are cost-effective and scalable, and dual-use installations on rooftops where electricity demand exists, is seen as the most viable approach, Eifer added.
Approximately 60 per cent of the solar installations will be dual-use, serving both as roofing and power generators. This strategy aims to balance energy production with the preservation of open spaces.
While environmental campaigners have criticized the government’s decisions on issues like disposable plastics and air pollution regulations, they have welcomed the new solar policy, considering it a step in the right direction. However, they emphasize the need for further action to accelerate the adoption of photovoltaic installations on rooftops.
Industry watchers would like to see more comprehensive economic support, such as loans and green bonds, as seen in many developed countries. Currently, Israel’s government incentives for solar energy include permit exemptions, tax benefits, and premium payments for small-scale electricity producers. Israel is one of the region’s largest renewables producers, along with Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, to lift green capacity to new highs in 2022.
In May this year, the country also launched a five million shekels ($1.38 million) investment plan to promote projects of energy efficiency, energy management, storage, and transportation, and accelerate the transition to sustainable energy in household and business sectors in the Gaza envelope area seven km from the Gazan border in southwestern Israel.
With some notable global solar players from the country, from SolarEdge to Ecoppia, airtouch and more more energy focused startups, the country can be expected to make many more moves soon linked to energy storage and other innovative uses of solar.