Wednesday, January 30, 2008

EnStorage raises $2m from Greylock, Canaan and Siemens Venture Capital

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Israeli cleantech start-up EnStorage Ltd. has completed a $2 million financing round from Greylock Partners, Canaan Partners of the US, and Siemens TTB This is Greylock and Canaan Partners' first investment in an Israeli cleantech company.

EnStorage CEO Eran Yarkoni, CTO Prof. Emanuel Peled, and VP R&D Dr. Arnon Blum founded the company a year ago. The company is based on Peled's research and is operating in stealth mode.

According to IVC Online, EnStorage is developing a low-cost regenerative fuel cell energy-storage-system (ESS) for power grid load leveling and for capacity firming of solar and wind power generation plants. The company claims that its ESS is smaller, more efficient and lower-cost than other energy storage systems.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, regenerative fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen and oxygen and generate heat and water as byproducts, just like other fuel cells. However, regenerative fuel cell systems can also use electricity from solar power or some other source to divide the excess water into oxygen and hydrogen fuel—this process is called "electrolysis." This is a comparatively young fuel cell technology being developed by NASA and others.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Advanced Desalination Technologies raises $4 million from AquAgro Fund

AquAgro Fund, a cleantech venture capital fund affiliated with Gaon Agro Industries Ltd., has made its first investment. Sources inform ''Globes'' that it is investing $4 million in Advanced Desalination Technologies Ltd.

Advanced Desalination Technologies -- now renamed Desalitech --has reportedly completed a pilot at a municipal facility. Desalination and improving wells are two fields where every saving is essential, and the company's reverse osmosis technology is designed to greatly improve the efficiency of desalination.

AquAgro managing partner Nir Belzer declined to comment on financial matters, but confirmed that an investment had been made. He added that a major international fund was considering investing in Advanced Desalination Technologies. He said that the investment in the company was in line with the fund's policy of investing in companies with proven technologies undergoing pilot programs prior to commercialization.

Advanced Desalination Technologies is a family firm founded by Prof. Avi Efrati, and his son, Nadav Efrati, who will shortly take over as CEO. The company employs subcontractors, and raised $2 million prior to AquAgro's investment. The company has no website.

AquAgro invests in late-stage cleantech ventures. Its founder and chairman, Benjamin Gaon, is the chairman of Gaon Agro and its parent company, B. Gaon Holdings Ltd.. The fund has raised $40 million, and plans to close on $100 million by the end of 2008.

Ben-Eliezer calls for increased desalination

"Globes" reports that at its weekly meeting, the cabinet reviewed the option of increasing water production at desalination plants at Ashkelon, Hadera, and Palmachim. Last year, the government increased the planned quantity of desalinated water to 500 million cubic meters a year, and ordered the building of two plants, one to be operated by the Shafdan: Dan Region Sewage Reclamation Project in Rishon LeZion, and another plant to be operated by Mekorot National Water Company in Ashdod.

Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer presented an action plan to address the water crisis in Israel, in the light of the lack of rainfall so far this winter. His plan calls for, among other things, the imposing of restrictions on the watering of public and private parks; a further cut in fresh water quotas for agriculture, and an intensive PR campaign to encourage people to save water.

According to Ben-Eliezer, these moves will not suffice on their own. "The action needed now is to step up the planned building and expansion of desalination facilities," he said. "We're in a difficult situation."

Thailand seeks Israeli water technologies

"Globes" reports that a delegation of senior Bangkok municipal officials will visit Israel this week as guests of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. The delegation is seeking ways to cooperate with Israeli water technology and sewage treatment solutions companies.

The current trip follows the visit by a Thai delegation to the International Water Technologies and Environmental Control Exhibition and Conference - Watec 2007 in Tel Aviv last November. The present delegation will visit companies with technologies and systems that can be utilized by the Bangkok municipal water system.

Israel's commercial attache to Thailand Etty Levy said, "Thailand in general, and Bangkok in particular, suffers from severe water problems because of a lack of water management tools. The Thais admire Israel's achievements in water technology and talk about the country as a 'green desert' thanks to its drip irrigation and other technologies."

Levy added that the Bangkok municipality had recently published tenders for the construction of water treatment facilities worth an aggregate $600 million.

The Bangkok delegation will visit Amiad Filtration Systems Ltd., Tahal Group, Global Environmental Solutions Ltd. (GES) and other companies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Israel Cleantech buys 11% of AqWise

"Globes" reports that Israel Cleantech Ventures has acquired an 11% stake in sewage treatment solutions developer AqWise - Wise Water Technologies Ltd. from its founders, Ronen Shechter and Eytan Levy, in a secondary transaction in a deal that valued the company at $10 million.

AqWise CEO Elad Frenkel said, "This investment means that three institutional investors now stand behind the company: AHMSA, Elron, and Israel Cleantech." Mexican mining conglomerate Altos Hornos de Mexico SA de CV, owns 55% of AqWise, Elron Electronic Industries Ltd. owns 34%, and Israel Cleantech now owns 11%.

Globes says that this will not be Israel Cleantech's final investment in AqWise, which is in the late stages of an internal financial financing round amounting to a few million dollars from its current investors. The company is also close to signing contracts worth several million dollars with customers in Israel, Europe, the US, and Latin America.

"Globes": Do you plan to raise capital from external sources?

Frenkel: "Elron is a strategic investor, not merely a financial one. Israel Cleantech and AHMSA are also both strategic investors. That's why we don’t need outside money right now. They want to stand behind the company and make it succeed."

AqWise was founded in 2000. It specializes in the upgrading of wastewater treatment plants through the Attached Growth Airlift Reactor (AGAR) process, a method for biologically increasing water treatment capacity using biofilm carriers. The company posted a fourth quarter loss after posting profits in the preceding quarters, but the company has installed dozens of commercial units around the world, and its global target market is estimated at more than a $1 billion a year, and it is growing.

In 2007, AqWise was named in "The Cleantech Revolution" as one of the top 10 companies to watch in the field of water filtration

Ronen Shechter and Eytan Levy recently founded a new microbial fuel cell company, EMEFCY Bioenergy Systems, which will focus on the production of electricity and fuel from heavy duty industrial waste. Levy is also a venture partner at Israel Cleantech Ventures.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ben Gurion University partners with Israel Cleantech Ventures

Ben Gurion University of the Negev will invest in Israel Cleantech Ventures and will collaborate with it in locating and developing ventures in the field. The university did not disclose the amount of the investment, but sources inform ''Globes'' that it amounts to an initial few million dollars.

Israel Cleantech Ventures is the country's first specialized venture capital fund investing in energy, water, and environmental companies. Its general partners are Jack Levy, Glen Schwaber, and Meir Unkeles.

Ben Gurion University is an R&D leader in water, renewable energy, and environmental technologies. The university's research institutes include water purification, waste treatment, and solar and other renewable energies. Israel Cleantech will collaborate with these institutes and the university's technology transfer arm, BG Negev Technologies and Applications Ltd. Israel Cleantech hopes that the investment and collaboration will make it a leader in the field in Israel.

Ben Gurion University president Prof. Rivka Carmi said, "Promoting environmental research, such as water and renewable energy technologies is one of the primary goals of the university's research program. We hope to position the university as a leading institution in these fields at both the national and international levels. We hope to collaborate with more companies in the sector."

Levy added, "For us, this is a strategic investment with an institution that aims to be Israel's cleantech leader. We believe the collaboration will benefit both parties."

Ben Gurion University has invested in other venture capital funds. A university spokesman said that the investment in Israel Cleantech is the first investment in a cleantech fund, and that the university expected to make more investments in the sector.

Israel Cleantech Ventures invests in CellEra, fuel cell start-up

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Israel Cleantech Ventures has invested in fuel cell start-up CellEra.

CellEra CEO Ziv Gottesfeld and VP R&D Dario Dekel founded the company in 2007. It is developing a disruptive technology promising to turn fuel-cell power sources into a mass-market commercial reality. According to IVC Online, CellEra has five employees and hopes to increase the financing round.

Israel Cleantech Ventures is the country's first specialized venture capital fund investing in energy, water, and environmental companies. Its general partners are Jack Levy, Glen Schwaber, and Meir Unkeles.

Related Posts:

CellEra raises $2 million from Israel Cleantech Ventures and BrainsToVentures

Roger Saillant, fuel cell industry veteran, joins CellEra board of directors

Global map of cleantech startups includes five Israel-related companies

Israel set to adopt electric cars produced by Renault-Nissan and Project Better Place

For the first time in history, all the conditions necessary for electric vehicles to be successfully mass-marketed will be brought together in a partnership between the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Project Better Place in Israel.

In an agreement signed today in Jerusalem, the Israeli government will provide tax incentives to customers, Renault will supply the electric vehicles, and Project Better Place will construct and operate an Electric Recharge Grid across the entire country. Electric vehicles will be available to customers in 2011.

100% electric vehicles: According to a press release, the Renault-manufactured vehicles will run on pure electricity for all functions, produce zero emissions, and offer driving performances similar to a standard 1.6 liter gasoline engine. The vehicles will be equipped with lithium-ion batteries supplied by Nissan.

Innovative business model: For the first time in the electric vehicle business, ownership of the car is separated from the requirement to own a battery. Consumers will buy and own the car and subscribe to energy, including use of the battery, on the basis of kilometers driven. This model is similar to the way mobile phones are sold, with an initial purchase and a monthly subscription for the mobility service.

Competitive cost of ownership: The Israeli government recently extended a tax incentive on the purchase of any zero-emission vehicle until 2019, making them more affordable. Combined with the lower cost of electricity as opposed to fuel-based energy, and the vehicle's lifetime guarantee, the total cost of ownership for the customer will be significantly lower than that of a fuel-based car of the life cycle of the vehicle.

Electric Recharge Grid infrastructure: California-based Project Better Place plans to deploy a massive network of battery charging spots. Driving range will no longer be an obstacle, because customers will be able to plug their cars into charging units in any of the 500,000 charging spots in Israel. An on-board computer systems will indicate to the driver the remaining power supply and the nearest charging spot. Project Better Place, founded by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi, has already raised $200 million from investors.

Perfect first mass market: In Israel, where 90% of car owners drive less than 70 kilometers per day, and all major urban centers are less than 150 kilometers apart, electric vehicles would be the ideal means of transportation and could therefore cover most of the population's transportation needs.

The story is already being covered by the New York Times and the Financial Times. More information is also available on the new web site for Project Better Place.

Related Posts:

Better Place secures $350 million series B round led by HSBC

Better Place raises €103 million, names new Danish CEO

Deustche Bank: Project Better Place has "the potential to eliminate the gasoline engine"

Shai Agassi unveils Project Better Place electric car

Friday, January 18, 2008

WSJ: "Renault, Nissan Go Electric"; to partner with Shai Agassi and test battery-powered cars in Israel

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Renault SA and partner Nissan Motor Co. are expected to make a major commitment to develop battery-powered cars, with an eye toward producing significant volumes within three to five years.

On Monday, the two auto makers plan to announce a venture to test electric cars first in Israel and later in other cities around the world, people familiar with the matter said.

Renault and Nissan are teaming up with former SAP AG executive Shai Agassi to offer electric cars that are powered by lithium-ion batteries and would go about 100 miles on a single charge, these people said. Mr. Agassi's company would set up a network for charging and battery-replacement stations in Israel with subsidies from the Israeli government, they said.

"With rising fuel prices and with battery cost going down, in some parts of the market, we believe electric vehicles have a vibrant future," said a person familiar with Renault's plans.

In an interview yesterday, Carlos Ghosn, who serves as chief executive of both Renault and Nissan, declined to comment on the expected Monday announcement. But he confirmed the two companies are working on batteries and electric cars and have explored the idea of testing electric cars in highly congested cities.

"We have cities that are asking for this," he said, noting that London now imposes tolls on vehicles entering the city's crowded center.

The auto makers are developing a lithium-ion battery to power electric cars that are nearing the testing stage, he said. "We think we are near a mass-market solution."

Renault and Nissan, in which the French auto maker has a 44.3% equity stake, want to mass-market electric cars in congested cities like London, Yokohama, Japan, and Paris by as early as 2010, working with governments if necessary.

The venture with Mr. Agassi is one of the few electric-car projects that addresses a key issue blocking the road: What do drivers do if their battery is running down while they are on the road?

Under the plan, Renault and Nissan would offer a small number of electric-car versions of existing vehicles -- at least one of them is based on the mid-size Renault Megane -- with price tags comparable to those for gasoline-powered models.

That is possible because those cars would be sold to consumers and fleet operators like rental-car companies without battery packs. Mr. Agassi's company, Project Better Place of Palo Alto, Calif., would provide batteries for customers for an undisclosed monthly fee that Mr. Agassi said would be cheaper than the monthly cost of gasoline. Mr. Agassi's company, which has raised $200 million from investors such as the venture-capital firm VantagePoint Venture Partners, is responsible for procuring batteries and operating battery-charging and exchange stations.

The companies hope to gain feedback from electric-vehicle users through Mr. Agassi's green-car project in Israel and then in three to four equally small markets, with Denmark as perhaps the next target, people familiar with matter said.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tel Aviv commits to electric car infrastructure

"Globes" reports that the Tel Aviv Municipality is joining Shai Agassi's electric car venture, Project Better Place. Deputy Mayor Pe'er Wisner said today that the municipality had undertaken to launch a pilot scheme with charging points for electric cars, whose production has not yet begun, to be set up across the city. Five charging points will be built initially, and once the project is completed there will be 150 points in city car parks, outside public buildings, and on city streets. Under the plan, battery replacement points will be located at the city's entrances.

Wisner said the municipality had begun collaborating with Agassi several months ago, with the aim of ensuring that the city can accommodate the electric cars once production begins in 2009. Wisner called city residents to close their eyes and imagine how quiet the bustling Ibn Gvirol Street would become once electric cars were on the city's streets.

Next week will see a visit by a joint delegation of managers from the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which will announce their companies' contribution to the $200 million project. The delegation is also expected to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The electric car project, which Agassi is promoting together with Israel Corp., calls for the setting up of a nationwide network of charging and battery replacement points for the electric car, which is designed to offer a clean alternative to fossil fuel vehicles. According to Agassi, Israel is a suitable location for the pilot since it is a small country with limited transport links to neighboring countries. Tel Aviv is the first city to commit itself to the project and Agassi is holding talks with municipal leaders in other cities about setting up charging points in them as well.

Tower Semiconductor to participate in Project Better Place electric car venture

"Globes" reports that independent foundry Tower Semiconductor Ltd. is expected take part in the development of Shai Agassi's Project Better Place electric car venture. Tower is a subsidiary of Israel Corp., which is also a major investor in Agassi's venture.

Tower will apparently develop the controlling processor, which is considered a key component in the electric car. The component will be a highly complex development involving non-volatile memory, and is considered to have high sales potential in the automotive field in the coming years. This, in light of the extensive investment by large automakers in the hybrid and electric vehicles.

The function of the component will be to regulate the transfer of power from the batteries to the wheels, and to coordinate between the various motors and sensors in the vehicle, to enhance the efficiency of the batteries, and more.

Tower had hinted that it intends to invest in this field in a presentation by CEO Russell Ellwanger at a New York investment conference. Tower currently has a division engaged in the development of automotive products, which produces processors for safety and comfort related electronic systems such as ABS and electric windows.

Another potential client for Tower's product could be the joint electric car project by Israel Corp. and Chinese automaker Chery.

Finance and Infrastructures Ministries in dispute over technology for Israel's first solar power station

"If the Ministry of National Infrastructures insists on building a photovoltaic power station at Ashelim in the Negev, it will have to pay producers four times more per kilowatt/hour than for a thermal power station," Solel Solar Systems Ltd. EVP and CTO Eli Mandelberg told "Globes". He made the comment in response to the dispute between the Ministries of Finance and National Infrastructures over the technology to be used in Israel's first solar powered station.

Solel Solar is building solar power stations using its proprietary thermal technology developed several years ago. The company is expected to participate in the tender for the 250 megawatt solar power plant at Ashalim in the Negev. Mandelberg said that all tenders for solar power stations currently being published around the world are based on thermal solar energy, rather than photovoltaic energy, because it is too expensive. For this reason, photovoltaic technology is mainly used for small household or communications facilities, which cannot be linked up to electricity grids.

Mandelberg added that countries interested in photovoltaic technology are those willing to pay household electricity producers a premium to sell the electricity to the grid. Even then, only small electricity producers are involved. He said that if the Ministry of National Infrastructures insists, Israel would become the first country in the world to build a large photovoltaic power station. "It's easy to understand the Ministry of Finance's objections to the idea, since we're talking about a large expenditure on an immature technology. The Ministry of National Infrastructures isn't looking at the economic side of the picture, but wants to participate in technological development," he said.

Photovoltaic technology in based on the using silicon crystals to convert light rays into electricity. Thermal solar energy uses parabolic mirrors to collect sunlight and convert into heat to generate steam, which in turn operates turbines to produce electricity.

Pacific Islands delegation visits Israel to learn about renewable energy, water technologies

Pacific Magazine reports that American Samoa Congressman Faleomavaega has just returned from Israel where he and other Pacific Island representatives discussed ways to advance their relationship.

“Given that Israel is known for its technological advancements in wind, water, and solar energy, and that Israel has also made important advancements in the desalinization process which is critical to Pacific Island nations that may face serious water shortages, we felt that an educational program and exchange would be a first step in developing a partnership for the future,” Faleomavaega says.

Participants included Ambassador Masao Nakayama, Federated States of Micronesia; Ambassador Fekitamoeloa Utoikamanu of Tonga; Ambassador Mason Smith, Fiji; Ambassador Rina Tareo, Republic of the Marshall Islands; Ambassador Marlene Moses, Republic of Nauru; Ambassador Stuart Beck of Palau; and Ms. Evelyn Beck, Counselor, UN Mission, Republic of Vanuatu, and Ambassador AliĆ­ioaiga Feturi Elisaia of Sam

“In addition to renewable energy advancements, Israel has also made considerable advancements in aquaculture and our delegation was able to visit a 1200 acre aquaculture fish farm the Israeli government has developed to grow ornamental fish, and also fish for consumption. As I have said before, the ornamental marine aquaculture industry is estimated to be at $6 billion. On the consumption side, the U.S. imports more than $10 billion in seafood making fish farming a viable means for economic development in American Samoa and among our Pacific Island nations.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shai Agassi unveils Project Better Place electric car

Shai Agassi, the founder of Project Better Place, on Friday chose Israel as the venue to unveil an electric car he believes will take the world by storm. Channel 2 television reported on the vehicle's first public test-drive, driven by Agassi himself, who dared to race against a regular car powered by traditional fuel. The Channel 2 cars correspondent, Shai Gal, said the electric car, based on the Renault Megane model, is quiet and unexceptional in feel.

Agassi says he does not plan to create a manufacturing plant for the cars, as some reports have suggested. In fact, it's the French automaker Renault that will apparently be making the car in Israel. But Agassi confided that he expects mass manufacturing of the car to start in 2010.

It has also been reported that
Renault president and CEO Carlos Ghosn will come to Israel on January 21 to attend the dedication ceremony for Project Better Place, which will be hosted at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.

Project Better Place is building the infrastructure and networked grid to allow us to switch to electric cars. The company was founded by Shai Agassi, formerly #2 at SAP, and it has raised over $200 million from investors including Israel Cleantech Ventures, Maniv Energy Capital, and VantagePoint Venture Partners.

AutoblogGreen has published a gallery of photos taken from the Channel 2 report. The video below demonstrates how Project Better Place's infrastructure of electric car charging stations will work.

Related Posts:

Better Place secures $350 million series B round led by HSBC

Monday, January 14, 2008

Siemens VC to invest in Israeli energy and water start ups

Reuters reports that Siemens Venture Capital, a subsidiary of Siemens, said this week it plans to expand its investments in Israeli companies.

The venture capital firm, which until now invested only in communications companies in Israel, said it will also invest in the medical equipment, energy, water and industrial sectors.

To date, Siemens has invested $150 million in Israeli start-ups and venture capital funds. It has an active "Energy and Environmental Care" worldwide, and it will be interesting to see what cleantech-related investments it makes in Israel.

EDIG Solar provides hybrid solution for cloudy days

Israel21c reports that Israeli company EDIG, through its subsidiary EDIG Solar, plans to make solar energy a viable power alternative through the use of low-cost hybrid generators. By using a hybrid power plant, on rainy days the company's solar turbines can switch over and run on traditional or alternative fuel.

"It's modular, meaning it can easily be increased in size, and it is flexible in terms of fuel use. It can be powered by bio-diesel, bio-gas or fossil fuels," explains the company's CTO Pinhas Doron, an engineer.

Based on the research of Prof. Jacob Karni, director of the Center for Energy Research at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, EDIG's technology attracts the sun and concentrates it by way of tiny mirrors on the ground.

The thermal energy generated by the sun drives turbines in a tower, the same turbines that can be powered by traditional fuel, the moment a cloud passes overhead, or at night when the sun sets. And in doing this, "our hybrid solution addresses the issue of intermittency of solar radiation," says Doron.

EDIG recently built a 100 kW pilot plant demonstration unit in Nanjing, China. It included a power conversion unit (a solarized gas turbine and a solar receiver), which was installed on a tower, and a field of heliostats (sun-tracking mirrors). The unit was fully operational and supplied power to the local electric grid, says Doron. "We proved our concept - we connected to the grid and operated seamlessly," he reports. The next step is building a plant in Israel's Arava Desert, which should be ready by next year.
While the company is not reinventing the "solar" wheel, its IP rests in at least two areas, says Doron. It's solar "receiver" is based on patented Weizmann technology, and the modifications on the turbine, which allows it to switch energy sources and at high temperatures, without the user noticing it, was difficult to overcome.

For more information on EDIG Solar, see the rest of this article from Israel21c.

UK's Ecofin buys 40% of Solel Solar Systems

It is being reported that UK infrastructure investment company Ecofin is buying 40% of Israeli solar energy technology company Solel Solar Systems Ltd. at a value of $150 million.

The world's largest solar thermal company, Solel designs, manufactures and installs solar fields for utility scale power, on-site power plants and industrial solar heating & air-conditioning systems. Solel's patented technology uses reflectors to concentrate the sun's energy and produce heat, which is then transformed into electricity through the use of steam-powered turbines.

In 2007, Beit Shemesh-based Solel entered into an agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company to build the world's largest solar plant - to be established in California's Mojave Desert. The project will deliver 553 megawatts of solar power, enough to power 400,000 homes, to PG&E's customers in northern and central California. When fully operational in 2011, the Mojave Solar Park plant will cover up to 6,000 acres in the Mojave Desert.

Solel's technology has already been in use for almost 20 years at a group of solar power plants in California's Mojave Desert, providing 350 megawatts of clean, renewable energy and eliminating the need for 2 million barrels of oil a year.

Solel also has an agreement to build three 50 megawatt solar thermal power plants in Spain, and last week Solel signed a landmark contract to supply 46,000 solar thermal receivers to
to Aries Termoelectrica, which is building a solar power plant in Castile-La Mancha, Spain.

Next up for Solel: bidding for a contract to build and operate Israel's planned 250 megawatt solar power plant at Ashalim in the Negev Desert.

As described on its web site, Solels technology converts sunshine into useful thermal energy, and subsequently into electricity, by way of parabolic mirrors that concentrate the solar energy onto solar thermal receivers containing a heat transfer fluid. The heat transfer fluid is circulated and heated through the receivers, and the heat is released to a series of heat exchangers to generate super-heated steam. The steam powers a turbine/generator to produce electricity delivered to a utilitys electric grid.

A central computerized tracking facility enables optimal absorption of the suns energy by automatically adjusting the alignment of the parabolic mirrors. From the moment the sun rises until it dips over the horizon, all of its rays are captured and converted into usable energy.

Related Posts:

Solel awarded $2.6m grant from Spanish government

Siemens, Areva, Alstom bidding for Israeli solar firm Solel

Solel to supply Ibereolica with solar receivers

Solel lands record deal for solar receivers

Sunday, January 13, 2008

IC Green Energy to enter Negev solar power plant tender

Sources inform "Globes" that Israel Corp. subsidiary IC Green Energy will participate in the BOT (build, operate, transfer) tender for the Negev solar power plant at Ashalim.

IC Green Energy (ICG), headed by CEO Yom Tov Samia, was founded in 2006 by Israel Corp. to serve as its renewable energy arm. So far, ICG has examined a number of overseas projects in the field of alternative fuel and electricity generation. According to its web site, the company is focused on biofuel (biodiesel & ethanol), solar energy and the production of biofuel and energy from biomass.

Israel's first tender for a solar power plant will be for the construction of two power stations that will generate 250 megawatts altogether, amounting to 2.5% of Israel's power production. The project is valued at $600-700 million.

Other potential builders of the plant include Israeli solar power companies Solel and Luz II, a subsidiary of BrightSource Energy. Spanish energy giant Abengoa and Babcock & Brown Capital Ltd. of Australia have also expressed interest in participating in the tender.

For additional background information on this project, see:

"Israel Plans 250-MW solar power plant"

"Australian fund considers Negev solar plant bid"

Gemini co-founder Tali Aben to leave fund; will remain on board of Xjet Solar

Sources inform "Globes" that Tali Aben has recently announced her decision to leave Gemini Israel Funds, the venture capital firm in which she is a partner. Gemini manages $686 million, is in the process of raising a $200 million fifth fund, and has an active "Greentech" portfolio.

Aben will not be a partner in the fifth fund, but she will continue to sit on the board of Xjet Ltd., a Gemini portfolio company developing an innovative deposition technology for solar cell manufacture. Xjet raised $9 million in a first found of financing in November 2007 from Gemini, Swiss investment fund Good Energies, Taiwanese semiconductor equipment manufacturer Spirox and private investors.

Xjet is based in Rehovot. According to Good Energies, Xjet's "vision is to redefine solar cells cost efficiency through the introduction of innovative, next generation deposition technologies. Xjet is among the first companies in the world to focus on the solar fab and provide the solar cell manufacturers with dedicated highly efficient tools."

Tali Aben was one of Gemini's founders and blogs at "Israeli VC on Sand Hill Road". According to Aben, "I wanted to get out and look for something I could believe in and work with, or in the framework of which I could do something big. That search takes time. You can't do it while you're working. After thirteen years, which is a very long time, the decision was hard, but the best time is between two funds."

For additional background information on Xjet, see:

"Solar energy start-up Xjet raises $9m"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New video from Project Better Place

Project Better Place
is building the infrastructure and networked grid to allow us to switch to electric cars. The company was founded by Shai Agassi, and it has raised over $200 million from investors including Israel Cleantech Ventures, Maniv Energy Capital, and VantagePoint Venture Partners.

The video was submitted by Project Better Place in response to a YouTube contest that asks, "What one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008." Winners of the contest will have their video played at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 23-27, 2008.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Renault CEO to arrive for Israeli electric car project dedication

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Renault president and CEO Carlos Ghosn is expected to come to Israel to attend the dedication ceremony for the Project Better Place electric car venture initiated by Shai Agassi and Israel Corp. The ceremony is scheduled for January 21 at the President's Residence in Jerusalem. Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On and business leaders are expected to attend, and possibly Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as well.

The Renault Nissan Alliance of Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. is expected to participate in the technical development of the electric car, at an estimated investment of $150-300 million. The electric car will not be manufactured in Israel, however.

Meanwhile, Project Better Place posted a video on YouTube to promote awareness of their plan to build an electric car infrastructure.

The Green Tax Committee yesterday recommended that the purchase tax on zero-emission cars - mainly electric cars - should be only 10%, compared with the 78% tax on regular cars. Zero-emission cars will be eligible for a NIS 400 tax break on the value use of company cars. The government also promised not to cut the purchase tax on gasoline and diesel cars below 60%, which will preserve a minimal margin on tax brackets.

The benefit, if the government approves it, will be valid through the end of 2014, on the assumption that this is enough protection for an emerging industry. The Green Tax Committee nevertheless recommended that if the market share for electric cars exceeds 20%, a revised benefits package should be submitted to the government to reflect the changed circumstances.

The Green Tax Committee also recommends taxing the electricity used to recharge the batteries of electric cars so that the tax rate per kilometer of travel will equal the excise on gasoline and diesel. The cabinet is expected to approve the recommendations at next Sunday's meeting.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Solel signs landmark contract for solar receivers

Globes reports that Solel Solar Systems Ltd. will supply 46,000 thermosolar receptors to Aries Termoelectrica for two 50-megawatt power stations that the company is building in Castile-La Mancha, Spain. The thermosolar receivers will be delivered in August. Solel Solar did not disclose the size of the deal.

Solel Solar will supply its newly launched UVAC 2008 thermosolar receivers, which will be the main component of Aries Termoelectrica's power stations. The receptors will enable Aries to increase clean power production at lower cost than other solar power stations. According to Solel Solar, the advanced technology in the UVAC 2008 will result in increased annual output of 6480 MWh and additional annual revenues of € 2.0 million at each 50 MW plant.

Beit Shemesh-based Solel Solar has 300 employees and operates in both the US and Spain through local subsidiaries. The company's proprietary technology is currently utilized in nine commercial power stations in California with an aggregate 354 MW capacity, saving two million barrels of oil a year.

Solel Solar and Grupo Sacyr Vallehermoso SA are building an $800 million 150 MW project in Spain. The company is also upgrading a 100 MW project in California for FPL Energy, and will sell 553 MW to California’s PG & E Corp. from the $2 billion Mojave Solar Park, which is under construction and due to begin operating in 2011.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Ormat backs off biodiesel facility, to continue collaboration with Evogene

Ormat Industries Ltd. today announced that it is postponing plans to develop and build a commercial biodiesel facility. Ormat announced 18 months ago that it would invest $35-50 million in a biodiesel production facility within two years. Ormat is foregoing construction of the biodiesel plant because prices for commodities, including commodities for biofuel production, have soared rendering biodiesel much more expensive to the point of not being economically viable.

Ormat, however, will continue to focus on its collaboration with an academic institution, whose identity it declines to disclose, and with Evogene Ltd. on the development of plants for biodiesel production.

In December 2007, Orfuel, an Ormat subsidiary, and Rehovot-based Evogene, a leading Ag-Biotech company, 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.

According to a press release issued by the companies, Evogene and Orfuel are collaborating to develop non edible plants displaying improved oil yield and capable of being grown in non arable lands, thus address key problems facing the biofuel industry. These plants are expected to significantly decrease feedstock costs for biodiesel production. Under terms of the collaboration, Evogene will utilize its advanced biotechnological capabilities (such as gene and molecular marker discovery), in the development of the enhanced crops which will then be evaluated in field trials conducted by Orfuel. In addition, Orfuel will evaluate suitability and methodologies for using such crops for biodiesel production. Upon project completion, Evogene and Orfuel intend to establish a joint venture aimed at commercialization of the developed plants

Sunday, January 6, 2008

EER to build waste treatment plants around the world

According to Reuters and Globes, Environmental Energy Resources Ltd. (EER), an environmentally-friendly waste management company based in Ramat Gan, will set up Romania's first plasma waste treatment facility under a 25-year BOT (build, operate, transfer) project. The facility will cost $30 million.

"The company expects to treat some 30,000 tonnes of waste, and no less than 80 tonnes a day for about 150 euros per tonne," Moshe Stern, president at EER said. EER also said it had recently received multi-million dollar orders to build plants in China.

The company has a working protocol with Samstar, a state-owned company in China, according to which it will order the planning and construction of medical waste and radioactive waste plants from EER.

EER uses molten gas at temperatures between 1,400 and 7,000 degrees Celsius in a process called plasma gasification melting (PGM) to melt down municipal, household, medical and low-level radioactive waste.

The system was developed by Israeli and Russian scientists at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. Unsorted municipal and solid waste is placed in a reactor. Metal particles are separated by magnets and the remaining waste is sent to containers where it is broken down by high heat.

The organic material is converted into gases, and the remaining waste turns into black gravel that can be used in infrastructure projects. The system can also handle medical and radioactive waste, thereby providing a waste treatment solution for nuclear power stations.

In May 2007, Reuters reported that EER planned to invest up to $60 million in four waste treatment facilities to dispose of low-level radioactive waste at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, to treat some 500,000 tonnes of waste.

"We expect to make about $145 million a year from the four waste treatment plants," Stern said, noting that each plant had about a 25-year life cycle.

"Our project in China is much greater ... We intend to build around 800 small (medical waste treatment) plants at about $6 million a plant," Stern said, noting that the local development of plant parts and units cut down on costs.

EER has also created subsidiaries in two target markets, Japan and Korea, through which it is marketing its waste treatment technology.

In October 2007, EER raised $3.5 million in a private placement that valued the company at $130 million. It has already constructed a demonstration facility near Haifa.

EER's shareholders include Urdan Industries Ltd.; Shrem Fudim Technologies Ltd.; Makoto Takahashi's Tokyo Financial Group; the Canada-Israel Opportunity Fund; Leon Recanati, chairman of GlenRock Israel; and Shlomo Nehama, former chairman of Bank Hapoalim.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Israeli agritech fund established

"Globes" reports that a new agritech fund, the Central Arava Fund, established with the support of Australian Jewish investors, will begin operating in April 2008. The new fund aims to establish agrotech and agrobiotech companies in the Arava region of the Negev. A second goal is to create high-tech job opportunities for residents of the Arava after their studies.

The Central Arava Fund expects to raise an initial $5-8 million, and raise an additional $40 million in the second stage. The bulk of the financing will come from Australian Jews. Arava residents and companies will be able to invest in the fund with minimum investments of $25,000.

Central Arava Fund's managers will be Eliezer Manor and Gil Lissai. Manor, a physicist, is a veteran venture capitalist, and founder of the Israel Venture Association. Lissai has experience in agriculture. He has worked with farms in both the Arava and in other countries and advised high-tech ventures and exporters.

The fund's mangers and investors discuss their plans in more detail in this YouTube video. The fund is apparently considering investing in biofuels and other alternative energy technologies related to agriculture.

Israeli nanotechnology aids large-area solar cell

The "EE Times" reports that a scientist at Israel's Bar-Ilan University claims that he has managed to create a solar cell 100 times bigger than a typical solar cell, using nanotechnology methods. Professor Arie Zaban, head of Bar-Ilan University's Nanotechnology Institute, is an expert in photovoltaics. In a recently patented technique, Professor Zaban demonstrated how metallic wires mounted on conductive glass can form the basis of solar cells with efficiency similar to that of conventional, silicon-based cells, but that are much cheaper to produce.

"Cost is an important factor in the success of any solar technology," Professor Zaban said. "To become widely adopted, solar cells must generate electricity at lower cost than what we now spend on fossil fuels. At the same time, we have to make the basic infrastructure extremely affordable because the third-world countries that stand to reap the most benefit from solar power usually lack the money to invest in it. By making cells more efficient and keeping material costs down, nano-based techniques are moving us closer to that goal." Professor Zaban serves as an advisor to Orionsolar, a Jerusalem-based company that has entered into partnership with Bar-Ilan University and is developing commercial applications for inexpensive, dye-based photovoltaics based on his work. "Given the state of the technology, I believe that the new solar cells will be available commercially within the next five years," he said.

Click here for the rest of the article and more details on Professor Zaban's technology.

IDE to build desalination plant in Australia

According to an article in Reuters, Israel Desalination Enterprises Technologies (IDE) won a tender to build a desalination plant worth more than $100 million in western Australia, Israeli financial daily TheMarker reported on Sunday.

IDE, jointly owned by Israel Chemicals and the Delek Group, will build a plant capable of producing 50 million cubic metres of water annually as part of an iron-mining project in Pilbarra, the paper said.

IDE officials declined to comment.

The company in November postponed a planned initial public offering in London as a result of prevailing global market conditions. It had aimed to raise up to $200 million in global depositary shares.