Saturday, March 29, 2008

Environmental technology symposium at Tel Aviv University

On April 8, 2008, The Porter School of Environmental Studies (PSES), together with Ramot, the technology transfer company of Tel Aviv University (TAU), will hold a symposium on environmental technology research being carried out at TAU.

I had an opportunity to speak with the chair of the symposium, Dr. Eli Galanti, who is the Research Coordinator at PSES. According to Dr. Galanti, "The symposium will be aimed at giving a platform to the sizable number of studies in this field that have taken place at the university in recent years, and introducing researchers to interested parties from industry, government and the financial sector."

Dr. Galanti "anticipates that the symposium will enable participants to establish contacts in order to facilitate funding opportunities and commercialization options."

The program will include three different sessions, each featuring multiple researchers from TAU and chaired by a leading Israeli cleantech investor.

The first session, "Finding Alternative Energy: From solar and wind power to biofuels and hydrogen", will be chaired by Chen Altshuler, Director of Research at Altshuler Shaham, one of the leading investment houses in Israel. It was the first investment house in the region to establish a "green mutual fund" and is a major shareholder of "Ecocycle", a holding company which owns a green incubator and invests in private and very early stage green companies.

The second session, "Identifying Environmental Stresses: Water, air and soil", will be chaired by Booky Oren, President and CEO of the Arison Water Initiative, a $100m water-focused holding company. Mr. Oren was formerly CEO of the Mekorot, the Israel National Water Company.

The third session, "Improving the Environment: Remediation, rehabilitation, and smart agriculture", will be led by Jack Levy, General Partner at Israel Cleantech Ventures.

A complete program and list of presenters, and information about how to RSVP, is available online at the PSES web site.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Highlights from first Cleantech Israel meetup event

On March 27, Shai Agassi was in Copenhagen to announce a partnership between Project Better Place and DONG Energy to develop a network of electric-car recharging stations in Denmark.

Meanwhile, back in Israel, more than fifty people, including a mix of entrepreneurs, venture investors, government officials and other key stakeholders in the industry, participated in the launch of the new Cleantech Israel meetup group.

The event, held at Max Brenner on Hamenofim St. in Herzliya Pituach, included presentations by Jack Levy, General Partner at Israel Cleantech Ventures, who provided an overview of recent developments in the sector; and Eran Yarkoni, founder and CEO of EnStorage, who gave a start-up's perspective on licensing "clean-tech" technology. EnStorage recently completed a financing round from Greylock Partners, Canaan Partners of the US, and Siemens Venture Capital, and its technology is licensed from Tel Aviv University.

I would like to thank everyone who participated, including individuals from cleantech companies Aqwise, CheckLight, Edig Solar, Emefcy, En Gibton, Phoebus Energy, and TechnoSpin Wind; and from investors such as Genesis Partners, Lab-One Innovations, Magnolia Capital, Moreno Meister, Naiot, and Terra Venture Partners. Also in attendance were Yael Cohen Paran, the Director of the new Israel Energy Forum, and Tsvi Bisk, the creator of the Jewish Energy Project.

A special thanks to Noam Ilan, the Director of Renewable Energy in Eilat-Eilot, and our guest from the California Public Utilities Commission, both of whom traveled a long way to join us.

I would also like to acknowledge my fellow bloggers -- Tali Aben, Lisa Damast, and Kfir Pravda - it was great to meet you in person!

The event was sponsored by Goodwin Procter LLP, a U.S. law firm with an extensive Cleantech Practice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Developing Story: Shai Agassi to address Copenhagen Climate Council

The Project Better Place press team at Hill & Knowlton just confirmed that Shai Agassi will be speaking at the Copenhagen Climate Council press conference on Thursday, March 27, 2008.

I am told that the conference will be streaming live on for those who would like to hear what he has to say. The webcast will stream live from 7:30-9:00 am ET (1:30-3:00 pm in Israel) and will be available on the site thereafter.

The press conference will, according to its organizers, involve the "presentation of a unique, international climate project created by two members of the Copenhagen Climate Council."

Featured speakers will include:

Project Better Place to launch pilot program in Denmark?

The Danish government will reportedly announce soon that it is bringing Shai Agassi's electric car venture, Project Better Place, to Denmark.

Initially, Denmark will probably launch a pilot program in Copenhagen and other locations to examine the feasibility of the project. It may also be possible to harness the country's wind power infrastructure for Project Better Place's electric car recharge grid.

This according to an article today in "Globes".

Shai Agassi, the Founder and CEO of Project Better Place, is apparently in Denmark on March 26-27 as a member of the Copenhagen Climate Council. This group of world leaders in business, science, and public policy is developing a set of "activities and initiatives that can build support by international business for a new climate treaty, the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which will be negotiated at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009."

Agassi mentioned the possibility of a demonstration project in Denmark in an interesting essay on his vision for the future of transportation, which was published last month.

According to Agassi, although it is unlikely that the necessary conditions for deployment of a massive electric recharge grid in the United States will be created in next 18 months, "in the mid to long term there is a very strong possibility that with an understanding of the potential stakes, and successful demonstration projects in other countries, such as Israel or Denmark, the US government will spring to action."

In January, Better Place announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Renault-Nissan to build the world's first Electric Recharge Grid Operator (ERGO) model for clean transportation in Israel. In March, the company established Israel as its primary research and development center to help develop the technology roadmap for mass deployment of electric vehicles.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

IAI to enter wind and solar power sectors

Sources inform ''Globes'' that the board of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) has approved the company's entry into the wind and solar energy sectors. The company plans to exploit its turbine technology, wind tunnels, and aerodynamics engineering know-how to improve the turbines now on the market.

One of the most important facilities of IAI's engineering division is its wind tunnel, used to test models of planes and the operation of high-powered engines. The results of the aerodynamic tests of the models are then compared with the flight tests. The facility and know-how will now be used for renewable energy projects.

Israeli companies already active in the wind power sector include Elspec, IQWind, and Coriolis Wind.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Germany and Israel reach bilateral agreements on cleantech cooperation

Germany and Israel have agreed to intensify cooperation in the areas of climate change, energy efficiency, renewable energy, water and waste management, and environmental technology.

This is pursuant to a number of bilateral agreements signed by Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and the Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert, following inter-governmental consultations in Israel.

Highlights of these bilateral agreements include:


Israeli-German Investment and Venture Capital Events will take place within the next months and illustrate options for upgrading investment, in areas such as environmental technologies and energy. Both sides agreed to initiate joint projects to promote companies from both countries as leaders in energy efficiency.


Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Sigmar Gabriel and Environment Minister Gideon Ezra agreed to bilateral climate-change cooperation, which will focus on institutional capacity-building, professional training, the establishment of a voluntary greenhouse-gas accounting system and advancing programmatic Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Projects.

The joint consultations included an environment forum with Federal Minister Gabriel, Minister Ezra and Israeli and German businessmen in order to facilitate a prompt start to this important common effort concerning climate change.

Water Management

In the field of water supply and distribution the two delegations discussed options for cooperation. One important reference point is Israel's experience through Mashav, the Center for International Cooperation within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, regarding water and irrigated agriculture in arid and semi-arid regions and Germany's strong commitment, in particular towards water supply.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Computerized Electricity Systems raises $3.75m from AquAgro Fund

"Globes" reports that AquAgro Fund has made its second investment, investing $3.75 million in Computerized Electricity Systems Ltd. (CES). AquAgro declined to disclose the company value for the investment, but market sources believe that it was more than $10 million, before money.

CES's technology aims to replace the household electricity box, enabling electric utilities to reduce the demand on the grid during peak hours in a uniform and equitable way for all customers, thus avoiding the need for initiated blackouts and brownouts of entire neighborhoods.

AquaAgro made its first investment in January, investing $4 million in Advanced Desalination Technologies Ltd. AquaAgro has also set up Aqua Lab, which will invest in early-stage cleantech start-ups.

CTO Lupu Wittner founded CES in 2002. Based in Netanya and managed by CEO Yaron Sheinman, CES has 15 employees in Israel, mostly R&D staff. A representative in the US handles business development.

South Africa-based "Engineering News" reports that CES's technology has been successfully tested in Israel by the Israel Electric Corporation, in South Africa by state power utility Eskom, and in the US by the Energy Power Research Institute.

In a lengthy interview with Engineering News, CTO Lupu Wittner says that the company plans to install its product in South Africa beginning in March, initially importing systems from Israel, with a long-term plan of creating a manufacturing facility in South Africa.

Homes that consume the highest amount of electricity are the targeted clients for the product, says Wittner.

"If two-million electricity customers with high consumption accept a 20% saving structure through this system, Eskom could potentially save to 4,000 MW."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Project Better Place appoints Israel CEO, declares Israel as primary R&D center

Project Better Place, in a new press release, named Major General Moshe Kaplinsky as CEO of Better Place Israel, where he will lead the worlds first build out of an electric recharge grid network infrastructure for electric vehicles. Better Place also established Tel Aviv as its primary research and development center to help develop the technology roadmap for mass deployment of electric vehicles.

I am thrilled that Moshe Kaplinsky has accepted the position as CEO of Better Place Israel, said Shai Agassi, CEO, Better Place. Im equally thrilled that Israel will be our primary base for technology innovation due to its engineering prowess. I see enormous strength in our ability to work across borders and tap into great talent pools in the US, Israel and elsewhere as we expand our global footprint. This group will architect the blueprint for others to follow.

As part of the news, Better Place also named three partners:

  • strategic design firm NewDealDesign of San Francisco will develop the industrial design for the charging stations and other consumer touch points for the grid; and
  • Israel-based Aran Research and Development Ltd. and Nekuda DM Ltd. will develop and install the electric vehicle recharging stations in Israel.

With the partners announced today, we will be sharply focused on executing against the vision set forth in January to move Israel off of oil within ten years, said Kaplinsky. This is the first step toward implementation of our operational plan for Better Place Israel.

In January, Better Place announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Renault-Nissan to build the world's first Electric Recharge Grid Operator (ERGO) model for clean transportation in Israel

Before joining Better Place Israel, Kaplinsky most recently served as deputy chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Kaplinsky is a graduate of the advanced field officers course in the United States, has a Bachelor's degree in Economics and Business from Bar Ilan University and a Master's of Business Administration degree with honors from Tel Aviv University. He will report to Agassi.

Better Place Israel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Project Better Place.

Monday, March 10, 2008

CheckLight raises up to $3.5m from Whitewater

Water technology investment company Whitewater has confirmed a report by "Globes" from October 2007 that it is investing in water security start-up CheckLight Ltd.

Microbiologist Prof. Shimon Ulitzur of the Technion founded CheckLight, together with his daughter, Dr. Nirit Ulitzur, in 2001. The company’s technology uses light-emitting bacteria to identify pollutants in water in real time.

"Globes" reports that Whitewater's investment in CheckLight will be in made in stages. $1.75 million will be invested over the next 18 months, depending on milestones, the most important of which is the commercial launch of the company’s second-generation product. Whitewater has an option to double the investment to $3.5 million over three years, which will give it control of CheckLight.

According to the company, CheckLight's added value is its ability to warn about pollutants in real time, enabling preventative action to avoid unnecessary closing of water sources. Its technology is reportedly one of only eight recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Whitewater is managed by Chairman Ori Yogev and Co-Founder Hannah Gertler.

Project Better Place update

Project Better Place has been quietly making news in recent weeks following the excitement surrounding its January press conference in Israel. Shai Agassi, however, predicts a deal between the company and a national government "within 100 days”. Perhaps we should be bracing for another major announcement from Agassi and Better Place.

Shai Agassi profiled in the Economist. Is Japan next?

Shai Agassi was interviewed by the Economist for an article detailing the trend of executives switching from the computer industry to cleantech companies. He is featured alongside Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures. The article discloses that "having bonded successfully with Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert in Israel, Mr Agassi confidently predicts another deal between Better Place and a national government 'within 100 days'."

Might Japan be the next country to sign an agreement with Project Better Place? Shai Agassi was in Japan at the end of February, alongside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and spoke at a business forum intended to build contacts between Israeli and Japanese executives.

Two Israeli partners selected to implement electric recharge grid

Electric car venture Project Better Place has picked two Israeli companies to develop and install car recharging stations in Israel: Aran Research and Development Ltd. and Nekuda DM Ltd.

Aran R&D and Nekuda DM are industrial engineering design companies with experience in product development and electromechanical design. The car recharging infrastructure will involve 500,000 recharging points to be built across the country in the coming years.

Project Better Place Israel CEO Moshe Kapliski said, "Testing of the charging points will begin this year, and hundreds of stations are planned for installation during 2009.

Chief Scientist ready to pay electric car companies

"Globes" reports that the Office of the Chief Scientist has published a call for proposals to collaborate with Renault SA under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor's cooperation program with multinationals. Companies deemed suitable to collaborate with Renault will receive Chief Scientist grants covering up to half the R&D budget for an approved project. Renault will provide matching aid, as well as technological advice, applications tests, use of the company's laboratories, and other services.

The call for proposals is targeting companies that are developing technologies and applications for improving the performance of electric car engines, energy efficient car air conditioners, rapid battery recharging and replacement systems, longer life batteries, and other fields.

Solar Roundup

What follows is a selection of recent stories and links related to the solar industry in Israel.

Arava planning $2.5 billion solar power station

An international project management firm recently signed a memorandum of understanding for construction of a $2.5 billion solar power station in the Eilot Region in the Arava desert. The project, which is expected to develop over a five-year period, involves installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels that will eventually supply up to 500 megawatts of electricity. The agreement was signed by the Arava Power Company of Kibbutz Ketura located in the southern Arava.

SolarPower raises $1.1m

Photovoltaic energy system integration company SolarPower Israel has raised $1.1 million at a company value of a few million dollars from Precede Technologies and Rosenram Development Ltd. The company plans to use the funding to expand its business in Israel and internationally.

SolarPower co-CEOs Avinoam Levy and Alon Tamari founded the company in 2003. The company anticipates rapid growth in Israel's photovoltaic energy market following an update to the Electricity Regulations to allow the government to buy electricity generated by solar energy systems installed at businesses, commercial enterprises, and private homes at nearly four times the rate of electricity generated by usual means.

IEC wants to bid on Negev solar plant

Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) is seeking to participate in the tender for the construction and operation of the solar power plant to be built at Ashalim in the Negev. IEC wants to be a sub-contractor, providing planning, management, and construction services for one of the consortia that will participate in the tender. IEC has begun negotiations to this end with Solel Solar Systems Ltd..

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Global map of cleantech startups includes five Israel-related companies

Earth2Tech, a web site that provides cleantech news and analysis, has posted a map of 101 cleantech startups around the world, with useful information (investors, technology, etc.) broken out for each company.

No fewer than five Israel-related companies are on the list, including water disinfection company Atlantium Technologies; photovoltaic developer Pythagoras Solar; fuel-cell maker CellEra; electric car infrastructure developer Project Better Place; and biofuel company GreenFuel Technologies.

Project Better Place and GreenFuel Technologies are based in the U.S., but both companies were founded by Israelis and are engaged in R&D in Israel.

Project Better Place was founded by Shai Agassi and the company announced that it will roll out the first nationwide electric vehicle recharge grid in Israel by 2011.

GreenFuel Technologies was founded by Israeli chemical engineer Isaac Berzin during his postdoctoral studies at MIT in Boston. The company is developing an innovative process to recycle carbon dioxide or smokestack emissions to produce biofuels and feed. GreenFuel is collaborating with AlgaTech of Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava to make the process cost effective.

This is an impressive showing by Israel's growing cleantech cluster, especially considering that only two companies in all of Europe were included in the Earth2Tech list.