Near major oil spill, a solar field grows in Israel

By Ben Sales

TEL AVIV (JTA)-In the sun-parched fields near where the largest oil spill in Israeli history poured millions of liters of crude oil into the desert on Dec. 4, an ambitious effort is underway to help reduce global dependency on petroleum for energy.

Known as the Eilot Belt, the area is the site of Israel’s largest solar energy field. It’s the locus of an effort to provide by next year the daytime energy needs for the area’s 55,000 residents and all their energy needs by 2020.

The area’s eight commercial solar fields are part of a wider initiative that aims to reduce the world’s reliance on the black liquid that befouled a 3.5-mile stretch of Israeli desert. The plan also includes a model village subsisting entirely on renewable energy sources and an incubator for clean energy high-tech start-ups.

“We have a lot of sunlight and a lot of open space, so this is the most appropriate for us,” said Dorit Banet, CEO of the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative, a local government body that aims to transform the region into a global hub of renewable energy research and development. The spill, Banet said, “strengthens the fact that we don’t want to stop with oil, that we want to do clean energy.”

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