JERUSALEM, May 22 (Reuters) - Israel's Arava Power said on Tuesday it secured 780 million shekels ($204 million) in funding to build eight medium-sized solar energy fields - the largest financial closing in the country's solar power industry.
Much of Israel is covered by desert with favorable conditions for harnessing the sun's energy, and while Israeli firms have developed a number of pioneering technologies used around the world, the country has yet to invest heavily in solar fields at home.
The government recently set a goal of 10 percent of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.
Five of Arava's fields, totaling 35 megawatts, will be built by Siemens Israel in the southern Negev desert at a cost of $130 million, the company said in a statement. Construction on the first of the five fields will begin in a few months.
German conglomerate Siemens owns 40 percent of Arava.
The other three fields, totalling 23 MW, will be built in southern kibbutzim, or agricultural communes, in partnership with EDF Israel, the renewable energy branch of the French operator EDF in Israel, Arava said.
EDF has said it sees the potential for further investments in Israel and has already submitted requests to the state to close on five more similar projects.
"These installations to be built in the Negev Desert are yet another step towards energy independence for the State of Israel," said Arava CEO Jon Cohen.
Tuesday's announcement is part of a larger plan by Arava to build over 40 solar projects, from fields to rooftop operations, totaling over 400 MW and an investment of about $1.5 billion.
"Our work is not yet done. Israel needs to adopt the European Union goal of 20 percent renewables by 2020 and this major milestone by Arava Power is proof positive that it can be reached," said Yosef Abramowitz, co-founder and president of Arava Power.
Financing for the eight fields was secured by Israel's largest commercial lender, Bank Hapoalim, Migdal Insurance and pension fund Amitim.
$1 = 3.82 shekels Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Steven Scheer