It makes economic and environmental sense to develop technologies that exploit renewable energy resources
Israel has relied in recent decades almost solely on imported fossil fuels, especially oil and coal, and more recently its own offshore natural gas fields. Even huge offshore discoveries of natural gas in Israel's Mediterranean exclusive economic zone have not altered the fact that it makes economic and environmental sense to develop technologies that can exploit renewable energy resources.
Exploiting Israel’s Year-Round Sunshine
In the case of Israel that means first and foremost the sun. The country has for decades been a world leader in the development and utilization of solar energy technologies. Israeli scientists and engineers through Luz in the 1980s (eventually forced out of business due to low oil prices) designed the world’s largest solar power stations in Southern California.
In addition, most Israeli homes use solar heaters for warming their water and for many years government regulations have mandated the installation of such heaters in new houses. It is estimated that more than 70% of Israeli homes have such rooftop water heaters. Chromagen, Nimrod and Aran are the country’s leaders in this sector, which provides Israel with 2% to 3% of its electrical consumption.
In recent years, there has been a surge in cleantech technological developments in Israel as oil prices spiraled, and even though prices have recently fallen, there is still the concern that fossil fuels abuse the environment and in the long term are exhaustible.
BrightSource Energy (formerly Luz II) generates electrical power by using solar energy to convert water to superheated steam. With more than $160 million in financing, investors and clients include Google, PG&E, Chevron, Morgan Stanley and Vantage Point Venture Partners and over $1 billion in US government loans, the company is contracted to generate 2.6 gigawatts of power for Southern California Edison. BrightSource's parabolic trough thermosolar receivers are being used in the Ashelim 110 MW solar array in the Negev being built by Shikun & Binui and Spanish company Abengoa.
In an already completed project, the Ketura Sun solar field was recently connected to Israel's electricity grid. Ketura Sun is one of Israel's largest solar fields, with a production capacity of 40 MW , and the largest field currently connected to the electricity grid. The field is owned by Arava Power and EDF Energies Nouvelles Israel, a subsidiary of the French national power company.
SolarEdge Technologies Inc., which recently raised $126 million in its Nasdaq IPO, has invented an intelligent inverter solution that revolutionizes the way power is harvested and managed in a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. The SolarEdge direct current (‘‘DC’’) optimized inverter system maximizes power generation at the individual PV module level while lowering the cost of energy produced by the solar PV system. Since beginning commercial shipments in 2010, SolarEdge has shipped approximately 1.3 GW of DC optimized inverter systems and products have been installed in solar PV systems in more than 70 countries.
Israel a world leader in the development and utilization of solar energy technologies
Zenith Solar develops solar energy power plants based on the technology of Prof. David Faimon of Ben Gurion University in the Negev. The core technology is a large optical dish upon which multiple flat mirrors are mounted. The company says that the system will harvest more than 70 percent of incoming solar energy (compared to industry averages of 10% to 40%). ZenithSolar already has a solar farm on Kibbutz Yavne that is supplying energy and hot water to 250 families.
Aora (formerly EDIG) has developed the world’s first solar thermal gas-turbine power station based on the research of Prof. Jacob Karni of the Weizmann Institute. Tigo Energy is generating squeezing more power from existing power plants. The company has developed a box that renders these plants more efficient. Tigo Energy’s technology includes a real-time, always on monitoring system so that power plant operators can receive constant updates on the performance of individual photovoltaic panels.
Distributed Solar Power (Di.S.P.) has developed a novel technology novel combining a micro-sized solar concentrator and a heat transfer system, meaning that the sunlight can be used to heat water thermally, while also providing electricity to turn on air-conditioning. Enstorage, based on the research of Prof. Emanuel Peled at Tel Aviv University is developing low-cost energy storage systems for solar and wind powered plants. While the way the sun shines throughout the day is variable, Enstorage’s technology helps generate an even flow transmission back to the grid.
Israeli companies are now increasingly exploiting the potential of photovoltaic cells for stand-alone facilities for street lighting and other uses. The Israel Electric Corp., Israel’s government owned utility, recently enetered the solar energy market when it signed a $1.3 billion agreement to build three photovoltaic solar energy arrays in northern China.
Interdan and Millennium Electric T.O.U. Ltd., are two companies that have developed systems for homes and communities, while CPV has developed a system using lenses to make systems less expensive. Photovoltaic system developers include B-Solar, which is developing photovoltaic cells based on silicon, which generate 15%-20% more than regular cells.
Other photovoltaic systems developers include Enlight Renewable Energy Solutions, which belongs to Eurocom Group and Shikun u’Binui Solaria, a unit of Shari Arison-controlled Shikun U’Binui Holdings, which installs small rooftop photovoltaic facilities on properties including public buildings such as schools and hospitals. Shikun U’Binui recently acquired Paz Solar, the solar energy arm of the Paz fuel company. Sunflower is another company that produces small solar installations, while Profal produces solar panel frames.
Israel is also a leader in geothermal generation of power with Ormat Technologies operating seven geothermal and plants in the US and additional plants in New Zealand, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Kenya. Ormat utilizes the geothermal heat energy deep in the earth’s crust by drilling wells into these reservoirs to bring such steam from the high-pressure hot water, and direct the steam and separated hot water to drive turbines in power plants.
Ormat also owns recovered energy plants in the US. The company’s recovered energy options include exhaust gas from compressor stations along interstate pipelines, midstream gas processing facilities and other energy-intensive processing industries such as cement production.
Promising Start Ups
Among promising start ups, Xjet Solar enables customers to manufacture solar cells that meet or exceed target cell efficiency at the lowest possible cost. The company, which has raised $44 million from investors, has partnered with select solar cell manufacturers to bring its advanced metallization technology to market. Heliofocus is developing a thermosolar device in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Pythagoras Solar’s 3-D optically enhanced PV platform combines optics with materials science and advanced simulation techniques. BrightView delivers comprehensive in-line process control and optimization solutions dedicated to thin-film solar panel manufacturing bringing a profound understanding of photovoltaic cell physics, process development and mass production.
In the area of wind energy, TechnoSpin develops and manufactures revolutionary small wind energy systems, offering the cost-efficient and easily customized wind power solutions for grid and off-grid applications worldwide. Cleantech systems developer Leviathan Energy has successfully completed testing its wind energy device that increases the power that can be generated by wind turbines and extends the lifespan of wind turbine blades and gearbox. Enlight Renewable Energy Solutions is to build six wind farms on the Golan and Israel Aerospace Industries have set up a €43 million joint venture with a foreign company to develop, manufacture, set up, and license wind turbines for the production of electricity. Each turbine will have three megawatt capacity, and can be installed on land or at sea. Eco Wave Power has already demonstrated that it can produce electricity on a commercial scale during onshore testing at Jaffa Port, and holds an 111MW projects pipe-line.
Clearly, Israeli innovation can go a long way towards providing cleaner alternatives to the world’s staple fossil fuels.
Israeli companies are pioneers in generating power by converting garbage into biomass
Turning Garbage into Fuel
Israeli companies are pioneers in bioconversion, generating power from biomass, from the two kilograms of garbage that the average person in the western world produces each day. Most conventional methods use incinerators to generate small amounts of energy, while polluting the atmosphere. However, Arrow Ecology has developed an innovative biological treatment, which recycles glass, metals and plastics and produces rich Methane Biogas from the biodegradable waste. The company operates a plant for the Tel Aviv Municipality and facilities in Australia and has contracts for plants in Spain, the U.S. and Mexico.
Israeli startup TGE Tech, has developed and patented a system whereby refuse can be converted into fuel with a special patented device that turns garbage into gas - syngas, a well-known element that has some of the properties of gas, oil and coal. Another startup EST (Environmental Systems and Technology) has developed a device using plasma technology that almost completely destroys the waste, converting it into water and carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere through a vent, or into materials that can be recycled by the industry. These systems can also help dispose of hazardous waste – an otherwise expensive process in itself. Eco-Safe serves as a leading consultant in the handling of hazardous materials and waste management.
Solid Treatment Technologies
Environmental Energy Resources (EER) develops and operates cost-effective plasma-based thermal treatment technology for advanced application purposes, for environmentally friendly solid-waste management solutions. These solutions are ideal for the treatment of municipal solid waste management, medical waste, low and medium level radioactive waste, municipal effluent sludge and industrial waste. The company’s revolutionary utilization of plasma technology is achieved using EER’s proprietary design, which includes three key features: a single reactor; continuous one-step process, and utilization of generated syngas to generate an electricity surplus.
Other companies developing solid treatment technologies include: Pure Fire Technologies, which has developed a new method for rapid incineration of solid waste with minimal contamination. The company has developed a new concept of waste combustion that is more environmentally friendly and less costly than conventional methods.
Applied CleanTech, which has spent six years developing its integrated sewage recycling solution, which produces a material known as Recyllose, recently signed a cooperation agreement with US biofuel firm Qteros.
In the area of agricultural waste, PPSV focuses on the development and commercialization of cellulosic ethanol processing agricultural waste to produce bio-fuel ethanol, as fuel alternative.
With the policies of the US and EU in encouraging farmers to grow bio-fuel crops such as corn backfiring by causing global food prices to rise, Israel’s Vulcani Institute is in the forefront of developing optimal seeds for such plants as Jatropha and Castor, which can be grown on marginal land, which would otherwise not be used for food. Another direction in this area is the use of algae for producing biofuels, exploiting their super-efficient photosynthesis capabilities. SeamBiotic and Algaetech are two Israeli startups investigating the production of biofuels from algae, while Global Biodiesel is developing less expensive ways of growing algae for biodiesel in agricultural infrastructures.
Citrine, founded in 2006, is developing systems to convert biogas generated by landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and other sources into high-value natural gas, which can be used to power natural gas vehicles. The technology slashes emissions of greenhouse gases from landfills and sewage works, and also halves nitrogen oxide emissions by vehicles that use the fuel and cuts particulate matter emissions by more than 70%.
Cleantech start-up EmefCy is in advanced talks to run a pilot of its technology for the production of electricity from biological wastewater treatment, at the plant of a leading Israeli pharmaceutical company
Combating Air Pollution
In the area of air pollution, Vortex, established by immigrants from the former Soviet Union, have developed systems for power stations and oil and gas platforms, which cost effectively reduce pollution in the air particles and acid rain causing SOX given off by the facilities.