Innovation Enhances
Renewable Energy Resources

Israeli Industry Has Designs on the Sun and Other Renewable Sources

Israel has relied since its establishment almost exclusively on imported fossil fuels, especially oil and coal. Even recent major offshore discoveries of natural gas near the Mediterranean coast have not diverted the country’s public decision makers and private investors from 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 this technology. 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 despite the recession are expected to reach well above $100 per barrel very soon. Moreover, there has also been a realization that fossil fuels abuse the environment.

Global Leaders
Recently acquired by Siemens for $418 million, Solel Solar Systems is a global leader in solar thermal central power station generation. The company is building three 50 megawatt plants in Spain, and a massive 553 megawatt project in California’s Mojave Desert.
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 the company is contracted to generate 2.6 gigawatts of power for Southern California Edison.
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. 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 BrightView Systems, which devises optimization technologies for the panels, while B-Solar is developing photovoltaic sells based on silicon, which generate 15%-20% more than regular cells.
Photovoltaic cells will be used for much of the nationwide electric car battery-recharging grid being developed by Project Better Place. Shai Agassi’s company is also developing a similar grid in Denmark based on wind energy. The pioneering electric car battery-recharging grid, which will initially be based upon Renault Nissan electric cars, will also greatly reduce fossil fuel emissions.
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.
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.
Clearly Israeli innovation can go a long way towards providing cleaner alternatives to the world’s staple fossil fuels.