Thursday, December 27, 2007

Advanced Technology Ventures looks for cleantech opportunities in Israel

"Globes" reports that Andrew Friendly, a Boston-based senior associate at US venture capital fund Advanced Technology Ventures (ATV), and a specialist in cleantech investments, was in Israel earlier this month to look at the sector and the opportunities the local market has to offer. Friendly previously spent five years at the White House in a variety of positions including personal aide to President Clinton. During the last three years he worked as a director at Idealab in Pasadena, CA, where he specialized in evaluating energy and cleantech technologies for possible investment and company creation.

ATV, which was founded in 1979, manages $1.4 billion in assets, and invests in software, telecommunications, medical devices, life sciences, and, in the last five years, also cleantech. The fund has not yet made any investments in Israeli companies.

Andrew Friendly was in Israel as a guest at the second annual Cleantech Investment Forum, conducted by law firm Herzog, Fox & Neeman, with the participation this year of Boston law firm Mintz Levin. The forum focused this year on the potential for overseas investment in Israeli cleantech. In her speech at the conference, Dr. Ruth Dagan, head of the Environmental Law practice at Herzog, Fox & Neeman, reviewed current trends in the sector. "Israel is characterized, at least at this point in time, by a wide range of investment platforms in the field - venture capital funds, private investors, and holding companies. As investors accrue more knowledge in the field and global activity in it expands, interest spreads from investments in mature companies already posting sales of their own to research into companies now in the preliminary stages of technological development," she said.

Friendly was also in Israel for a series of business meetings, as he explains: "The reason for the visit is to get to know the Israeli deal flow, the companies which are active, the R&D centers and the service providers. Israel has a worldwide reputation as a leader in research, and a location with an ability to incubate ideas. I want to see what's going on here in the solar energy and water fields. We did look at a number of Israeli water companies once, but we didn't make any investments."

Click here for the rest of Globes' interview with Andrew Friendly.

Ofer Shipping to invest $30 mln in Agassi's electric car venture

Reuters reports that Israel's Ofer Shipping Holdings will invest $30 million in the Project Better Place electric car venture led by entrepreneur Shai Agassi, holding company Israel Corp. said on Thursday.

Ofer Shipping is owned by the Ofer family, which also controls Israel Corp. Israel Corp. earlier acquired a 33 percent stake in the electric car venture after agreeing to invest $100 million.

The total investment in the initial phase of the car venture will be $200 million, giving the Ofer family a majority stake in the venture.

Agassi in March resigned as head of software products at German software maker SAP to pursue interests in environmental policy and alternative energy resources.

Israel Corp. owns stakes in chemicals, energy, shipping and semiconductor firms.

Australian fund considers Negev solar plant bid

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Babcock & Brown Capital Ltd. of Australia is considering participating in the tender to build a $600-700 million solar power station in the Negev. The tender is due to be published in 2008.

Babcock & Brown wants an Israeli energy company as a partner. The Australian investment company is the second international company expressing an interest in the tender; Spain's Abengoa Bioenergy SA has contacted the Ministry of National Infrastructures about it.

The 250-megawatt solar power station will be built at Ashalim in the central Negev under a BOT (build, operate, transfer) contract.

Babcock & Brown's portfolio already comprises thirteen operating power stations representing over 3,300MW of generation and a further 1,700MW under construction. The firm announced in June 2007 that it was opening an office in Israel to be headed by the former privatization chief Eyal Gabbai.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Israel plans 250-MW solar power plant

Israel recently announced plans for the construction of a 250 megawatt solar power plant in the Negev, which is estimated will cost $600-$700 million. When completed, it will be one of the largest solar power plants in the world.

"Globes" reports that the World Bank is considering financing the project.

According to Ha'aretz, the tender for building the plant will not give preference to local firms, meaning that foreign firms can participate in the tender without a local partner. The decision was made, among other things, to avoid the impression that the tender was written for the benefit of the only two Israeli companies who could compete for the power station: Solel and Luz II, a subsidiary of BrightSource Energy.

The cabinet hopes that this change will make the tender more attractive to international firms with experience in the solar energy industry, and that the new conditions will allow the setting of appropriate minimum requirements for professionalism and financial strength for the bidders on the project.

Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer recently announced that the first stage of the tender will likely be published next month.

The power plant, which will be located near Ashalim in the western Negev and produce 250 megawatts of electricity, will be Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), similar to Route 6, the Trans-Israel Highway. The winning bidder builds the plant, operates it for the license period, and at the end of the franchise transfers full ownership to the state.

A number of foreign companies have already expressed interest in the project, including Spanish energy giant Abengoa. Abengoa created a U.S. subsidiary earlier this year, Solucar Power, Inc., to respond to utility requests for electricity using concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies.

The real remaining question is which technology will be required for the power station: solar thermal or photovoltaic. The solar thermal method harnesses the sun's energy to heat a material, such as oil or water, from which it is possible to generate electricity, while the photovoltaic system transforms solar energy directly into electricity.

However, it also appears that even if one of the possible two tenders requires a photovoltaic system, the total amount of electricity from such a plant will not be over 50 megawatts, out of the total of 250 megawatts.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

3GSolar and nanotechnology-based solar power

Israel21c reports on the latest news from 3GSolar, a Jerusalem-based developer of low-cost photovoltaic solar energy modules. Orionsolar is a portfolio company of 21 Ventures.

According to the company's CEO, Barry Breen, 3GSolar's use of nanotechnology could make solar power cost-competitive with power produced by traditional oil and coal sources. The company's technology uses nano-sized cells, coated with an organic dye engineered to react when hit by sunlight to produce energy more efficiently, effectively, and cheaply, than current solar systems. The system includes cells consisting of titanium oxide layers coated with the organic dye and connected to a battery.

The key is in the nano-sized chunks of titanium oxide. "At sizes as small as 10 nanometers, the laws of physics take some interesting turns," says Breen. "We have discovered that when light hits titanium oxide particles of this size coated with our dye, a great deal of energy is produced. It's like photosynthesis. Just as a plant produces nourishment for itself when exposed to sunlight, our cells produce energy, converted to electricity."

The energy produced by the reaction is shunted into a charge controller, and then transferred to a battery, where it is stored. 3GSolar's system, he says, is more efficient, since the dye technology can be used even under low lighting situations, guaranteeing a greater power yield as it continues to gather energy even during the early morning or late afternoon hours. And 3GSolar's dye cell system produces power much more cheaply; module production costs are about half that of silicon photovoltaics, while the cost to put up a manufacturing line is a small fraction of those of silicon based photovoltaic systems, he adds.

Breen, who has a degree in nuclear engineering from MIT, began managing 3GSolar half a year ago, guiding the company's dozen employees into perfecting the innovative technology, which was developed in coordination with Bar Ilan University. It's been patented, and according to Breen, it's almost ready for prime time.

3GSolar's systems, which should be commercially available within a year, will be manufactured in Israel. The company plans to initially take on electrification projects in the Third World, providing power to homes and businesses in Africa, Asia and South America.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Evogene and Orfuel receive biodiesel grant

Evogene Ltd. and Orfuel Inc., a US subsidiary of Ormat Industries Ltd., have signed an agreement with the BIRD Foundation (Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation) to obtain a $1 million grant for support of a joint biofuel project.

The Evogene and Orfuel joint project is aimed at providing substantially improved feedstock sources for biodiesel production. The companies will collaborate to develop non-edible plants that display improved oil yields and are capable of being grown in non-arable lands, thus addressing key problems facing the industry.

(Sourced here)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Israel Cleantech Ventures invests in Citrine Renewable Energy

There are no details on co-investors or the size of the investment, and Citrine Renewable Energy does not have a web site. The Israel Cleantech Ventures web site, however, contains the following company description:

"Citrine Renewable Energy (CRE) develops systems that cost effectively convert the biogas generated by landfills, waste water treatment plants, and other sources of biological waste into high value natural gas, which can be used to power natural gas vehicles. In addition to dramatically reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from landfills and sewage works, CRE's systems enable vehicles that use the fuel it produces to reduce harmful NOx emissions by 50% and particulate matter emissions by more than 70%. Truck and bus fleets powered by fuel produced by CRE can also benefit from significant fuel cost savings as compared to the cost of operating diesel engines."

New Israeli cleantech fund aims to raise $100m

Sources inform ''Globes'' that former Formula Ventures partner Shai Beilis and former Star Ventures partner Yaffa Krindel are setting up a new $100 million cleantech fund called Tamarix Ventures LP. If successful in raising funds, Tamarix Ventures will become Israel's largest cleantech venture capital fund, joining the recently established Israel Cleantech Ventures and Terra Venture Partners.

In an interview with "Globes", Beilis voiced optimism about the fund, and said the challenges in cleantech were many. "There's now more air pollution, natural resources are dwindling, and technological products can provide solutions that will reduce the risks, while generating profits. Cleantech is enjoying broad support, regulation is conducive to its growth, public opinion is favorable, and large corporations are willing to invest in it."

Globes: How big is this field?

Beilis: "It's big, and it's also seeing tremendous growth. For example, it is estimated that the water market will reach $500 billion in 2010, and $1 trillion by 2020. The energy market is expected to reach $430 billion in 2010, and $1.9 trillion in 2020.

Who invests in this field?

"Venture capital and private equity investment grew from $1.1 billion in 2002 to $18 billion in 2006. In 2006, venture capital investment in cleantech totaled $1.6 billion, 43% of total venture capital investment. Research companies predict that cleantech will need $3.4 billion in investment in 2009."

Renault mulls Israel R&D center

Sources inform ''Globes'' that French carmaker Renault SA (Euronext:RNO) may establish an R&D center in Israel shortly. Company representatives recently met officials from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to discuss the matter, but both parties declined to comment about it.

It is not known if these talks are related to the establishment of an R&D center affiliated with the electric car venture, Project Better Place, launched by CEO Shai Agassi. "Globes" reported that the cars will be based on the Renault Megane chassis.

Ormat signs 20-year agreement with S. California Edison

Ormat Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: ORA) has announced that its subsidiary has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Southern California Edison (SCE). The agreement is for the sale of geothermal energy to be produced by a new plant that will be built in Imperial Valley, California. The plant is expected to come on line by mid 2012 and is expected to have a total output of 30 megawatts. The agreement includes an option to increase capacity to 100 megawatts.

"The agreement for the new Imperial Valley Power Plant is the eighth such agreement between Ormat and SCE, and the second executed since the enactment of California's aggressive renewable portfolio standard legislation," said Ormat Technologies CEO Dita Bronicki. "We are very happy to bring more baseload through clean geothermal energy to California. We are already supplying approximately 160 megawatts of geothermal energy to SCE from the existing power plants that we operate and we have an additional 50 megawatts under construction. This new contract will further increase our share in SCE's impressive portfolio of clean energy generation."

In May, Ormat signed a 20-year agreement with Nevada Power Company, for the sale of energy produced from the Grass Valley Geothermal Power Plant. That contract has recently received the approval the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

(Sourced here)

US near approval for clean energy cooperation with Israel

The US Senate has approved cooperation with Israel in clean energy - the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act - as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The House of Representatives is due to approve the bill later this week, and President George W. Bush is expected to then sign it into law.

The bill will establish a third binational science cooperation body, in addition to the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and Israel-United States Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRDF). The Energy Independence Act stipulates that the Secretary of Energy will establish a program for grants to support research, development, and commercialization of technologies for renewable energy and the efficient production and use of energy.

Israeli sources in Washington predict $20 million in allocations a year over the next five years for joint US-Israeli energy projects. The US Department of Energy and Israel's Ministry of National Infrastructures will formulate an agreement and settle related issues.

The Energy Independence Act includes financing grants for the production of energy from biofuel, biomass, wind, ocean waves, and geothermal sources. Projects will include joint basic research between US and Israeli academic institutions and applied research projects between companies from both countries.

(Sourced here)

Related Posts:

DOE awards grants to HelioFocus, Tigo Energy, TransBiodiesel and Motorola Israel for U.S.-Israel energy projects

U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act launches at Eilat Energy Conference

Friday, December 14, 2007

Oasis Investment Fund -- new VC investing in the Negev

Gideon Soesman, Ronen Gadot and Lior Berger are the co-founders of the Oasis Investment Fund, a new venture capital firm with a social mission to develop the Negev and increase prosperity in the southern region of Israel.

Oasis intends to invest in 10-15 early-stage companies in the areas of solar energy, water technologies, smart desert agriculture, tourism, small real estate projects, and traditional industries. The firm is currently soliciting investors for a $30 million fund. The Canadian Jewish News recently detailed Oasis' successful fund-raising efforts in Toronto.

Gideon Soesman, the firm's managing director, previously served as a senior director for global M&A activities at Philips Electronics. Lior Berger, a director, was formerly a general partner at Gemini Israel Funds. Ronen Gadot, Oasis' other director -- a native of Arad and former F-16 fighter pilot -- was a director of business development at Philips Electronics and was recently executive vice president of SHL Telemedicine.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hebrew University to invest in cleantech projects

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will allocate all proceeds from the exit of any portfolio company to cleantech ventures. Yissum is responsible for marketing the inventions and know-how generated by the University's renowned researchers and students.

Yissum does not disclose its budget, but reportedly had $40 million revenue in 2006, including $30 million in royalties and $10 million from research agreements, which accrues to Hebrew University. The university then allocated 10-15% of this revenue back to Yissum. Allocations to cleantech projects will amount to several million shekels, constituting a hefty proportion of the company's total budget.

The sources added that a number of entities, including investment institutions and an agency of a foreign government, are interested in investing in Yissum cleantech projects. However, it is still unclear how the parties will share the investment.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

SolarEdge raises $11.8 million

VentureWire and Greentech Media report that SolarEdge Technologies raised $11.8 million in its first round of venture-capital funding. Still in stealth mode, SolarEdge is developing power-conversion technologies that combine hardware and software to improve solar-system efficiencies.

Based in Herzliya, SolarEdge was founded in 2006 by Lior Handelsman and Amir Fishelov. Handelsman and Fishelov apparently founded SolarEdge after leaving the IDF, where both served in management positions. The company's CEO is Guy Sella, who was most recently a partner at Star Ventures and commanded the Technology Unit of the IDF's Department of Military Intelligence in 2001-2002.

SolarEdge is backed by Genesis Partners, which classifies it as a "semiconductors" company that provides "energy harvesting solutions for solar photovoltaic systems." Other investors in this round were Walden International and Opus Capital, a new venture capital fund based in Silicon Valley with a focus on Israel-related companies.

GE invests in SolarEdge, joining $23m Series B funding round

Solaredge partners with BP Solar to test solar efficiency products

SolarEdge raises $23m in venture capital

SolarEdge exits stealth mode and plans Series B financing

Interview with Meir Ukeles of Israel Cleantech Ventures

Meir Ukeles, a general partner at Israel Cleantech Ventures (ICV), is interviewed in the latest edition of the Israel Opportunity Investor newsletter. (Transcript)

Ukeles discusses ICV's formation and investor team, its limited partners, the growth model for its investments, exit options, Israel's cleantech cluster and regulatory environment, and Project Better Place, an electric car start-up and ICV portfolio company.

Established in 2006, Israel Cleantech Ventures invests in companies in Israel's energy, water and environmental sectors. It recently announced the creation of 'CleanStart', a joint venture with Greylock Partners' Israel Fund to provide seed stage capital and support to cleantech ideas/projects.

Israel21c coverage of cleantech

Israel21c has recently published a number of articles related to the cleantech sector in Israel:

  • 'Energy Towers' offer major source of alternative energy. Professor Dan Zaslavsky of the Department of Agricultural Engineering at the Technion - Israel Institute of Science, explains his project to build "energy towers" to produce cheap electricity. The massive towers, 1000 meters tall and 400 meters in diameter, would use convection to power turbines at the base of each tower.
  • Israeli collaboration with Exxon fuels hopes for a greener future. A team of scientists from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, international petrochemical giant ExxonMobile, Canadian gas purification company QuestAir Technologies, and US energy products company Plug Power have developed a new hydrogen fuel cell technology.
  • Intel develops the eco-chip, with Israeli help. Intel recently unveiled the latest addition to its processor family: a new chipset provisionally named 'Penryn.' The innovative hafnium-based "Hi-k" processor, which reduces electricity loss, or "capacitance," through the use of third-generation silicon materials, also does away with the need to incorporate eco-unfriendly lead and halogen materials in the production process. Intel's R&D center in Haifa played a crucial role in working out how the new chip micro-architecture could be manufactured on a commercial scale.
  • Sharon's legacy turns wasteland to parkland. Israel's largest landfill, the Hiriya garbage dump, is being transformed into 2000 acre recreational area. Nearby, a waste transit station is a becoming a model of environmental innovation. The project may take up to 20 years and cost $250 million.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Canadian cleantech foundation considers investing in Israel

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) president and CEO Vicky J. Sharpe will visit Israel next week to meet with cleantech venture capital funds and their portfolio companies, according to Globes. The Canadian government cleantech foundation is considering investments in Israeli companies.

SDTC is a non-profit organization founded in 2001. It supports companies and funds that develop technologies for solving problems related to climate change and air, ground and water quality. It also supports companies whose products provide Canadians with economic, environmental, and health benefits. SDTC has two funds: the $550 million SD Tech Fund and the $500 million NextGen Biofuels Fund.