Israel looks for firms to build its largest solar power facility

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel is planning a tender for building its largest ever solar power facility, which will have a capacity of up to 500 megawatts, in the southern Negev desert.

The photovoltaic (PV) field will be “unprecedented” in size for Israel, covering about 6 square kilometers (2.3 square miles) of land near the town of Dimona, the Finance Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The project will be handled as a Public Private Partnership, the ministry said, in which a company that wins the tender will fund, build and operate the facility for a pre-determined period, after which it will be handed over to the state at no cost.

The statement did not specify whether the facility will be comprised of a single power station or a number of smaller ones.

The government will publish in the coming months an announcement regarding the pre-qualification round.

The Finance Ministry also said 10 groups have been approved to take part in a tender to build and operate a second, smaller 40 megawatt PV station nearby, in the desert town of Ashalim. That field is expected to come online by the end of 2018.

Both projects are part of an Israeli push to have 10 percent of its energy production come from renewable sources by 2020.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch