They are on investors’ hit lists and the green tech media is keen to monitor their progress. Key policy makers from the United States urge them on. Israeli solar technology innovators are channelling and shaping the sun’s energy and breaking the world’s dependence on oil.
With organizations like the Cleantech Group, an international business development firm that’s listing Israel in a league of its own, world rankings show that Israel is no small player in solar energy innovation – and clean technology.
A recent survey released by the Guardian newspaper in the UK and the Cleantech Group chose five Israeli-based and two Israeli-developed cleantech companies among a global listing of 100. That’s a significant number, considering that Israel is about the size of a small American state.
Here are 7 of my favorites:
1. BrightSource Energy (formerly Luz) is building solar power plants for utility and industrial companies around the globe. Combining decades of experience in designing, building and operating some of the world’s largest solar power plants, BrightSource is contracted to generate 2.6 gigawatts of power using its solar thermal technology. BrightSource and Southern California Edison signed the world’s largest solar energy deal in February this year.
Founded by Arnold J. Goldman, the company’s mission is to minimize its impact on the environment and to help customers reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. With more than $160 million in financing, key investors and clients include Google, PG&E, Chevron, Morgan Stanley and Vantage Point Venture Partners.
2. ZenithSolar 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. Investors include private business people from the US and Israel.
3. AORA (formerly EDIG) has based its technology on the shape of a flower. Alarmingly beautiful, the company focuses heliostats into the “petals” of its massive solar collector, which was revealed recently at the pilot plant in Israel’s Negev Desert. The world’s first solar thermal gas-turbine power station is based on the research of Prof. Jacob Karni, director of the Center for Energy Research at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, and has been funded by EZKlein.
4. Tigo Energy aims to take a stab at 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 that it has devised so that power plant operators can receive constant updates on the performance of individual photovoltaic panels. Investors include Matrix Partners, OVP Venture Partners, and the IDB Group. Sales of the Maximizer technology are expected to begin within the next few months.
5. Solel is one of Israel’s most talked about solar energy companies, up there with BrightSource and ZenithSolar. Building solar thermal power plants in Spain and the US, Solel has invested 14 years’ worth of R&D to improve the annual electrical output of solar fields. German electronics giant Siemens has just purchased Solel for $418 million. It is currently building plants in Spain, and a 553-megawatt project, the Mojave Solar Park 1, in California’s Mojave Desert. Major investors and clients include PG&E, Ecofin and private Belgian investors.
6. Di.S.P. Distributed Solar Power holds promise for industrial rooftops. Although there hasn’t been much about them in the media, based on the technology of Prof. Avi Kribus from Tel Aviv University, the DiSP solar collectors are small, but reportedly pack a lot of punch. According to their estimates, they will be able to collect up to 75% of the sun’s power and convert it to electricity. The technology is novel because it combines both 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 your air con. In 2006, ISRAEL21c featured DiSP as the first in a series of articles about alternative energy solutions from Israel.
7. Enstorage. Based on the research of Prof. Emanuel Peled at Tel Aviv University, Enstorage develops 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. Current investors include Siemens, Wellington Partners, Canaan Partners and Greylock Partners.
(This article was first published on ISRAEL21c – www.israel21c.org. Image by Chen Leopold/Flash90 via ISRAEL21c. Karin Kloosterman is an associate editor of ISRAEL21c, and is the founder and editor of Green Prophet.)