Billion Dollar Electric Plant Begins Operating in Ashkelon

Israel’s new billion dollar electric power station, the largest in the country, went into operation last weekend.

The first of two coal-fired generating units at the new Rutenberg plant in Ashkelon produced 100 megawatts of electricity on its first day. Output will be boosted gradually to 550 megawatts over the next few months.

The power station cost about $1 billion, including the purchase and installation of its fuel-burning and generating equipment. A second generating unit is expected to be in operation within a year.

Israel has opted for coal-fired plants because coal is cheaper to import than oil. Its first coal plant, in Hadera, began generating power in the early 1980s.

According to Yigal Porat, head of research and development for the Israel Electric Corp., the utility has saved nearly $750 million since it switched from oil to coal.

The new Rutenberg station at Ashkelon will help the government-owned Electric Corp. keep pace with growing demand for power.

Demand rose from about 2,000 megawatt-hours in late 1988 to 3,760 megawatt-hours by late 1989. It is expected to reach 3,800 megawatt-hours this year.

The Rutenberg plants are named in honor of the late Pinchas Rutenberg, the Russian-born Jewish engineer and industrialist who founded the Palestine Electric Corp. in 1923.

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