Germany’s Solar Millennium AG Pulls out of Israel Bid

israel negev desertSolar Millennium AG is the next in a string of companies to withdraw its bid from the tumultuous Ashelim tender in Israel.

In their recent newsletter, Bloomberg reports that the German solar power plant developer Solar Millennium AG has withdrawn its joint bid for a 240 MW solar thermal project with the Israeli firm Minerva Holdings in Israel’s Negev desert. Valued at $1 billion, the Ashelim project is expected to provide approximately  2% of Israel’s electricity needs, but Solar Millennium is not the first company to drop out. 

“I can confirm that we have canceled our partnership with Minrav,” a spokesperson for Solar Millennium AG told Bloomberg. Without giving specific reasons for the withdrawal, the spokesperson added that Solar Millennium has no plans to withdraw from construction but is now in negotiations with potential new partners whose names he did not disclose.

A history of dropouts

In May 2010 Clal Industries dropped its joint bid with Spain’s Abengoa Bioenergy SA “in part because of the commercial risks from the tender’s terms, and in view of the conditions in global capital markets,” according to the Israeli business daily Globes.

In addition to the Clal Abengoa bid a joint bid by BrightSourceVeolia was also withdrawn from the tender competition.

The tender process that started in September 2008 has been plagued with changes to the teams that have been running it as well as the structure of the tender.

New tender structure

Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure decided to restructure the tender so that it now includes two 100 MW solar thermal installations; the initial tender called for one bid per installation. The Ministry plans to announce the winner in September 2010 and production is supposed to start soon after.

Shlomo Wald, a Tender Commission representative of Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure, told Bloomberg that once the two Ashelim plants have been awarded “at the beginning of 2011 we will announce winners for a 15- to 30-megawatt PV project in the same location.”

Clearing military tract

Wald also blamed the Israeli Defense Ministry for holding up the tender process over concerns that the area needed to be clear of any potential military leftovers. While the Negev Desert looks barren and uninhabited on a map, large parts of it are under the control of the Israeli army.

Headquartered in Germany with shares sales in 2009 at $265, Solar Millennium is a world leader in the field of solar thermal power plants, and is behind the development of the first European parabolic trough power plant that started operations in southern Spain in 2006; the plant is currently the largest of its kind in the world.

:: image courtesy of Joost. J Bakker Ijmuiden

Read more about the Negev:

Immersion Arabic Course in First Solar Bedouin Village in Israel

Israel’s Bedouin Want Their Rightful Share of the Sun

Arava Power Company Signs Solar Deals with Negev Bedouins

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