The Defense Ministry is threatening to withdraw its support for a plan to generate electricity on the Golan Heights using wind turbines. This is because no budget has yet been found for the technological solutions the Defense Ministry says are necessary to prevent the turbines from interfering with Israeli Air Force operations in the area. Without the support of the Defense Ministry, it is very likely that the turbine plan will not be approved.
Four different projects for building wind turbines to generate electricity in the Golan are currently in various stages of approval. All together, they will generate over 500 megawatts, which would make the Golan the center of wind power in Israel.
The Defense Ministry’s consent was one of the conditions for approval of the plans in their early stages because the turbines can reach a height of 150 meters – and will be situated in an area in which the air force has routine operations.
The Defense Ministry made it clear in the past that building turbines in areas such as the Golan Heights could harm Israel’s strategic interests and its ability to conduct operations. As a result, the ministry required the development of a technological solution that would allow the air force to continue to operate in areas where the turbines are built. Such a system is estimated to cost about 250 million shekels ($73 million) for the Golan, and will take three years to complete. The ministry says the technological solution is needed only in order to build the turbines, so the necessary budget must come from outside the Defense Ministry.
So far, the Defense Ministry has supported the wind energy projects in the planning committees, including in the National Infrastructures Committee, where the ministry has a representative.
A few weeks ago, Defense Ministry director general Maj. Gen. (res.) Udi Adam wrote the Finance and National Infrastructure, Energy and Water ministries: “Since the contacts to budget the technological solution did not bear fruit, given the lack of an appropriate solution the Defense [Ministry] will be forced to withdraw its support for continuing the advancement and implementation of the plans for wind turbines.”
In his letter, Adam proposed convening a meeting with all the parties involved in the plans to find a solution, but as of last week no solution had been found. Without the support of the Defense Ministry it will be difficult for the National Infrastructures planning committee to approve the projects, and experience shows that such opposition is taken very seriously by the planning committees.
The National Infrastructures Ministry said the matter is under discussion with the relevant bodies in order to reach a solution that will allow the production of cleaner electricity.
A number of environmental groups also object to the wind turbine plans because of fears the turbine blades will kill a large number of birds and bats. Over the next few weeks, the National Infrastructures planning committee is scheduled to discuss the public’s objections to the largest of the projects, slated to go up near Mount Peres on the Golan.
The public submitted over 4,500 objections to the plan after the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority conducted a campaign against the turbine projects. One of the objections raised was that the project would bring about the extinction of vultures on the Golan. The Mount Peres plan includes 42 turbines, each 150 meters high, which would produce a total of130 megawatts of electricity.