The IDF is about to inaugurate its largest solar project yet when it begins running a solar farm at the Ramon Airbase, which is expected to produce half of the base's electricity.
This is a drastic increase from the currently low percentage of electricity (about 2%) that the IDF gets from solar energy, which mirrors the national figure.
"On lots of bases, we have photovoltaic cells with low output," said Maj. Ofir Samsanov from the Engineering, Infrastructure and Building Department. He heads "Blue Builds Green," the IDF section dedicated to making the military more environmentally friendly. "We understood that lots of our bases—and our country as a whole—are in a place where the sun is to our advantage. We understood that we wanted to go bigger to set up a power plant with a huge field."
The Ramon Airbase solar farm produces 5 megawatts. Its size is 50 dunams of which 30 dunams contain an active 16,000 solar panels. It was built with budgetary assistance from the USA.
That solar farm is part of an overall plan that the IDF is implementing to vary its power sources. In 2011, the military installed solar panels on the roves of army bases, and by 2011, nearly 20 such systems had been installed throughout the country with the Enlight Renewable Energy company.
The head of the environmental protection and infrastructure branch of the Ministry of Defense, Eitan Aram, explained that they are working according to the BOT method: Build-Operate-Transfer. In this framework, Enlight will maintain the infrastructure for about 15 years, and they will split the profits.
Thus, the army also benefits from electrical consumption at no extra charge and also receives part of the proceeds from the Israel Electric Corporation for generating electricity. Today, 95% of the electric used by the defense establishment purchases is produced with gas. This project has saved the IDF millions of shekels since 2014.
"Solar energy is the main direction that we're heading in the coming years. There's an intention to invest tens of millions of shekels in this field," Aram explained.