(Example of a pellet stove from Canada, and the chips and pellets they burn).
Pellet stoves take condensed biological matter –– wood or biomass pellets –– to create a source of heat for residential and industrial spaces. They burn slower, for more time and can lower the heating bills. Environmentalists see pellet stoves as a “green” solution.
A group of disadvantaged youths in Israel are taking this concept but are applying it to ordinary wood stoves. They are creating compressed logs of olive tree waste to supply biofuel from olive waste. They are not the first group of Israelis to recycle olive waste (see Genova), but the social aspect of the project makes it much more than the usual environmental solution.
Here’s Olivebar’s story:
A group of youngsters — many of whom were homeless until they were gathered together by a man named Yossi Sadeh, first in Beit Shemesh, then at the Sde Bar farm, a kibbutz-like framework that’s turned their lives around — are changing the face of energy production.
Their work is to help create Olivebar’s rolls to heat homes in wood-burning stoves which general manager Eli Karniel describes as “ecologically perfect.”
The rolls are made from the waste produced after olives are pressed at Israeli olive presses, known in Hebrew as gefet. The material is rich in oil and superb for heating, but if left behind at the presses to seep into the soil, will destroy ground water and render the soil infertile.
The simple act of collecting it is the product’s first ecological benefit.
But the huge piles of gefet trucked to the factory aren’t enough. While two Tel Aviv entrepreneurs patented the idea of using the material for the stoves, it was entrepreneur Avi Lerber who recognized the potential, bought the patent, and after experimenting with more than 100 substances, found the right one to allow the material to solidify.
From there, he developed a method to make the resulting product into convenient rolls, which have many advantages over wood for heating purposes.
2.5 Times the Energy of Wood
Chief among them is the energy component, with a cube of the Olivebar rolls producing almost 2.5 times energy as a cube of wood. No mice or worms come with the rolls, which are aesthetically wrapped in paper that is recyclable and can be used to light the oven. The smoke released has no negative impact on neighbors or the environment, and the ash left in the stove can be used for fertilizing gardens and plants.
Using the rolls will also fit into recent moves both here and abroad to avoid cutting down trees for energy use. “It’s a totally green product, all natural, without any glues or chemicals,” Karniel tells ISRAEL21c.
“Whereas once it was more economical to buy heating oil, today people are looking for all kinds of alternatives,” Karniel explains. “People went over to wood, but now governments don’t want people to cut down forests, so they’re turning to natural alternatives like ours.”
Once the material is mixed, it’s pressed into rolls at the factory, then taken out to the warm climate of the area around Herodion, southeast of Jerusalem, where it’s easily dried before being packed for shipping.
Karniel is particularly proud of the project’s Biblical roots, with the idea of heating with olive waste mentioned in the Talmud. “We’re going forward to our sources, instead of backwards,” he notes. “It’s a great feeling; you can really feel these ancient writings come alive.”
Arabs and Bedouin were also known to make use of the olive waste for heating.
Heat for the whole family
The product is also most effective in one or two-story homes that can best make use of wood-burning stoves
The piles of drying rolls look a bit odd on the semi-desert landscape, but the boys of Sde Bar love working there, aware that the stuff is at the cutting edge of an energy revolution, Karniel explains. “They’re proud to work in the factory because it helps support their activities, and they definitely compete for the chance to work there,” says Karniel
“It’s also important to note that the olive tree, which is one of the seven species of the Land of Israel, is what’s leading this progress, even in the field of ecology,” he says. “It definitely spurs us on, and we see a great deal of importance in the fact that, thanks to us, we are contributing to our environment both here and around the world.”
This story written by Aryeh Dean Cohen, is reprinted courtesy of ISRAEL21c.