This November, Israel signed an agreement to join a cleantech common market of 41 countries which among other things, stipulates cancelling taxes on environmentally-friendly products. Meanwhile earlier this year, Israel was named as the world’s top innovator in the field of clean technologies by the Global Cleantech 100 Index, topping 40 other countries. All of this makes perfect sense for a country where water is a scarce commodity, but where sunshine and ingenuity are endless.
Many of the Israeli companies with the finest field-proven, next-generation technologies and systems will be featured at the upcoming Israel Energy Week, with a series of conferences from Tel Aviv to Eilat exploring a range of topics from utilities, to smart energy, to alternative fuels, to smart grids to cyber-security for critical infrastructure, and more.
Several large Israeli renewable energy companies helping Israel gain worldwide recognition in the field. These include Ormat, the world’s leading geothermal power producer, with plants in countries across the world including China, Japan and Myanmar. Brightsource, whose Ivanpah plant in California is the largest solar thermal power plant in the world and SolarEdge, a market leader for distributed solar power optimization with $100 million in sales per year, both have their technological roots in Israel.
But much of Israel’s innovative edge is actually coming from up-and-coming startups, whose innovative energy have helped turn Israel into one of the world’s leading hi-tech hubs – hence Israel’s popular nickname, the “Startup Nation.”
One leading Israeli startup making a name for itself in the sustainable energy field is Emefcy. Emefcy has developed a system right out of the sci-fi books that uses sewage-eating bacteria to produce green energy out of wastewater. Whereas most wastewater treatment systems are ironically, energy-intensive, Emefcy’s innovation utilizes solar energy, leaving barely any carbon footprint. This cutting edge-technology is the reason they’ve got the financial backing of Energy Technology Ventures, the joint venture capital arm of GE, ConocoPhilips and NRG Energy.
It’s no coincidence that such cutting-edge technology was developed in a country where every drop of water counts. In fact, Israel reuses more than 95% of its wastewater, the highest percentage in the world by a long shot. Consider that Israel is a country that was forced to become water independent as a matter of national security. Its volatile relationship with other countries in the region might just have something to do with securing that independence. It further makes the notion of importing raw petroleum from some of those countries less and less desirable. In any case, the arid land that covers most of the country has become a playground for scientists, ecologists and clean tech entrepreneurs, leading to endless adventurous enterprises. The Negev’s Arava region for instance, hosts no less than 18 fish farms, which make Israel the world’s 6th exporter of ornamental fish. Israel also famously invented the drip irrigation system which has since become the mainstay of agriculture, in addition to developing the world’s most advanced desalination techniques.
But even if it remains salty, the Mediterranean can still prove useful if you’re able to think outside the box. Israeli startup EcoWave believes that harnessing the power of the ocean will be the next wave in sustainable energy. Towards that end, Ecowave developed technology for extracting energy from sea waves and converting it into electricity.
Meanwhile, solar energy is quickly becoming as cheap to produce as energy from “dirty” fuels, but so far no one has tackled the number one impediment to their efficiency, namely soiling. Soiling is the name given for the accumulation of dust and dirt on solar panels which reduce energy output by as much as 35%. Israeli startup Ecoppia. Ecoppia has developed a panel-cleaning robot which also looks as if it wouldn’t be out of place in a Kubrick movie. The robot not only significantly increases solar panel output, is also saves intensive manual labor and huge amounts of water traditionally used for cleaning them. Ketura Sun solar park in Israel’s Negev desert, jointly owned by Siemens AG and solar energy pioneer Arava Power, is now the world’s first autonomously-cleaned solar energy production facility.
NewCO2Fuels’ ingenious technology tackles two major global concerns head on: By converting CO2 into either gaseous or liquid fuels, they’re able to combat both CO2 emissions and the problem of diminishing fuel reserves.
For some startups, cost efficiency is just as important as energy efficiency. Linum Systems is the creator of a hybrid solar air conditioner that provides cooling, heating and water heating. Since the system works on sunlight and only switches to electricity driven mode at night it can cut your energy bill by 50%. TIGI’s innovation, the Honeycomb Collector, is a new breed of solar-thermal (water heating) collectors that turns sunlight to heat, thereby minimizing energy losses to the environment – even in freezing winter conditions.
These are just a handful of examples of how Israel constantly pushes the envelope. Not satisfied with reality as it is, rather than finding ways to adapt to that reality, Israelis are wont to change it. There are myriad historical, geo-political and circumstantial factors behind this. Yet when it comes to green tech, necessity might be the sole mother of Israel’s invention.