Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Visit to TechnoSpin Wind R&D facility

Earlier today I had an opportunity to visit the TechnoSpin R&D facility in Netanya. Natalie Barlev, VP of Business Development, and Daniel Men, CTO, were nice enough to speak with me about the company's wind turbine technology and plans for commercialization.

They also took me up on the roof for a first-hand look at one of TechnoSpin's wind turbines, the PowerSpin TSB3, which has a rotor diameter of 3 meters.

TechnoSpin develops and manufactures small wind turbines for use in residential, small business, and maritime settings. The turbines also have applications for agriculture and irrigation. Natalie tells me that the company hopes to begin selling its wind turbines in the next couple months and is now in talks with potential distributors and customers around the world.

In April, TechnoSpin announced that it had raised $8 million in funding from the U.S. venture capital firm 21 Ventures.

A public demonstration of the company's technology might take place in the near future, and I encourage you to contact the company if you want to learn more.

Natalie Barlev and Maxim Rakov, TechnoSpin's CEO, are also regular participants in the Cleantech Israel meetup group.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Arnold Goldman, Chairman of BrightSource Energy

BrightSource Energy is one of the hottest companies in cleantech. Earlier this month BrightSource raised $115 million in a Series C round of financing from investors including and VantagePoint Venture Partners. In April, the company entered into a series of contracts with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to build up to 900 MW of solar power in California, at a cost of $2-3 billion.

Arnold Goldman is the Chairman and Founder of both BrightSource Energy, based in Oakland, CA, and Luz II, the company's R&D, production and product engineering subsidiary based in Jerusalem.

In a recent interview with the web site Beyond Zero Emissions, Goldman discusses the origins of the company and its solar thermal technology. He explains why BrightSource has moved away from the parabolic troughs used by companies like Solel, and is instead building power plants based on its "Distributed Power Tower" technology consisting of thousands of relatively small mirrors (called heliostats). If you are interested in learning more about the company and solar thermal power, take a look at the online transcript of the interview.

Luz II is currently building a pilot plant in Israel's Negev Desert to test the company's technologies.

Related posts:

BrightSource Energy raises $115 million in latest round of funding

BrightSource Energy signs large solar deal with PG&E

Friday, May 23, 2008

IC Green Energy and Yom-Tov Samia

Yom-Tov Samia, former head of the IDF's Southern Command and now the Director of IC Green Energy, a subsidiary of Israel Corp., gave an interesting, no-nonsense presentation on his company's areas of activity and strategies for cleantech investment at the Renewable Energy and Beyond conference at Tel Aviv University (see this post for more observations from the conference).

According to Samia, the transition to renewable energy is no longer a question of choice, but rather a necessity in order to effectively address: (1) national security through energy independence; and (2) environmental concerns and greenhouse gas emissions.

Samia outlined IC Green Energy's "12-12 Vision" to be one of the 12 leading companies worldwide in the field of renewable energy by 2012. In order to achieve this goal, the company aims to process 4-5% of the global biofuel market (~4 million tons) and construct 2-3 significant renewable energy (biomass or solar) power plants in the next few years.

IC Green Energy's areas of activity are:

      • biofuels – biodiesel and ethanol – based on existing, 1st generation technologies (just for market entry)
      • energy from biomass – based on developing, 2nd generation technologies
      • solar energy (photovoltaics and concentrating solar power)
      • advanced technologies for clean energy
      • carbon trading
The company's key strategies are to:

        1. be big or go home – size does count; strive for measurable presence
        2. act with strong, strategic local partners
        3. vertical integrate, when practical, its supply chain
        4. plan, organize and produce globally while acting regionally/locally
        5. gain advantages in:
          • cutting edge technologies
          • risk management though purchase of raw materials and product sales
          • local logistics and cost-effective production
Samia says that approximately 60% of IC Green Energy's renewable energy investment will be in solar technologies, and the remaining investment will be in biofuels. While the company is clearly focused on making a profit, its business strategy is apparently also taking social concerns into account . Accordingly, its biofuel production will be based solely on non-edible feedstock such as Jatropha, Castor, cellulosic biomass and algae. As Samia explained, "We will not take bread from the poor to produce gasoline for the rich!"

IC Green Energy had made 3 undisclosed investments so far, and Samia hinted that a major investment related to cellulosic ethanol is in the works and might be announced soon.

Related posts:

IC Green Energy to enter Negev solar power plant tender

Observations from the Tel Aviv U. renewable energy conference

Earlier this week I attended the Renewable Energy and Beyond conference at Tel Aviv University (TAU). The conference, which organizers say was attended by over 700 people, featured presentations by influential business leaders, academics, and government officials from Israel, the United States, and around the world. I was pleased to see many participants from the Cleantech Israel meetup group in the crowd.

What follows are some observations from the conference. Ha'aretz published an article today that includes interviews with several of the speakers, and a video of the conference is also available online.

Tel Aviv University to establish "super center" for renewable energy

Robert Goldberg, Chairman of the Board of Governors of TAU, announced that the university will establish Israel's first "super center" for renewable energy. The goals of the center will be to:

  1. advance multidisciplinary research on viable renewable energy solutions
  2. promote implementation of these solutions in Israel and around the world
  3. nurture new generations of environmentalists, scientists, and businesspeople
Let's hope that this initiative is a success. MIT's Energy Initiative demonstrates what is possible when a leading university takes on the challenge of "linking science, innovation, and policy to transform the world's energy systems."

U.S. and Israel sign M.O.U. on Renewable Energy Research Collaboration

Steven Chalk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy, announced that his office signed an agreement Wednesday with the Infrastructure Ministry outlining areas of possible research collaboration, including biofuels and solar power storage, which enables solar providers to supply energy for a limited time even when the sun is not out. The deal provides for joint funding by U.S., Israel and private-sector partners and could be finalized by Friday, Chalk told Ha'aretz.

This follows the passage of the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act in December 2007.

The Future of Transportation

Prof. Michael B. McElroy of Harvard gave a sobering presentation on climate change and the need to act now to cut down on the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation and to demonstrate to China and India that development and prosperity can be achieved in environmentally sustainable ways.

McElroy also emphasized the need to move away from using (imported) oil for transportation. According to McElroy, the solution is to do away with the internal combustion engine, develop battery technologies, and replace oil with electricity generated by renewable sources. While he did not mention Project Better Place, his lecture seemed like a good pitch for the company.

IDE to build 3 desalination plants in Asia

Israel Desalination Enterprises (IDE) Technologies won a tender to build three desalination plants in Asia worth of a total of about $80 million, IDE said on Tuesday.

IDE, jointly owned by Israel Chemicals and the Delek Group, did not say where in Asia the plants will be built, but the statement said the projects should be completed by the end of 2009.

Each plant will be able to desalinise up to 24,000 cubic metres of water a day, IDE said.

Avshalom Felber, president and chief executive of IDE, said the project was meant to "widen the company internationally and strengthen IDE's status as a world leader in desalination."

In the past year, IDE has won tenders to build desalination plants in China and Australia.

In related news, the H2ID group, of which IDE is a member, said this week it has completed an agreement to receive 1.5 billion shekels ($450 million) in financing for a desalination plant in Israel from a consortium of foreign banks.

The desalination plant, to be built in the coastal town of Hadera, will provide 100 million cubic metres of drinking water a year at a cost of 2.56 shekels per cubic metre.

Israel already has another two desalination plants which produce a combined 130 million cubic metres.

National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said he will submit a plan to the government on Sunday to increase the annual amount of water desalinated to 750 million cubic metres.

Source: Reuters; Reuters

Related posts:

IDE to build desalination plant in Australia

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Al Gore addresses Tel Aviv U. renewable energy conference

During his keynote address at Tel Aviv University's Renewable Energy Conference, former U.S. vice president Al Gore called on Israel to take the lead in the development of renewable energy.

"The people of Israel stand in my moral imagination as guardians of the proposition that we as human beings are answerable to moral duties, that there are ethical laws that should guide our decisions and choices. At this moment in history, when, for the first time, all the people of this earth have to make a clear, seemingly difficult but simple moral judgment about our future, the people of Israel can lead the way to renewable energy."

A video of the event, including speeches by Al Gore and Israeli President Shimon Peres -- who called oil the "biggest problem of our time" -- is available on Tel Aviv U.'s web site.

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's Minister of National Infrastructures, announced his intention to commit Israel to construct an additional solar power station in the Negev every year for the next 20 years, and to construct a 300MW wind power station by 2011. Ben-Eliezer also revealed that in the coming weeks he will introduce a government resolution designating all of the Negev Desert and southern Israel as a national preference zone for renewable energy.

I will be attending the conference on Wednesday. The program focuses on (1)
Renewable Energy: R&D Challenges; (2) Sustainable Energy: Opportunities in the Business Sector; (3) Global Warming and Geopolitics: Instability or Peace?; and (4) Israel's Road to Energy Independence.

Michael Granoff speaks at Cleantech Israel event

The third Cleantech Israel "meetup" event took place on May 19 in Ramat HaSharon. Over 80 cleantech industry professionals, and a number of participants from North America and Europe, came to network and hear a presentation by Michael Granoff.

Granoff is President of Maniv Energy Capital and an investor in Project Better Place, and he shared with the group his thoughts on cleantech, Israel, and the future of transportation. If you were not able to attend the event, you can get a sense of his ideas on the subject by reading this blog post.

For "ex-VC" Tali Aben's reaction to the event, check out her blog.

Related posts:

Michael Granoff, leading cleantech investor, interviewed by Ynet

Cleantech Israel group meets in Herzliya

Highlights from the first Cleantech Israel meetup event

Solel to supply Ibereolica with solar receivers

Solel Solar Systems Ltd. has made its largest single sale of solar receiver technology -- a contract to supply more than 190,000 UVAC 2008 receiver systems to Ibereolica Solar SL, a Spanish parabolic trough solar thermal plant developer.

The receivers will power eight 50-megawatt solar power plants that Ibereolica is developing in southern Spain. Beit Shemesh-based Solel will begin deliveries of the solar receivers in 2009.

This is Solel's second large contract for solar receivers this month, with a combined value of over $250 million. Two weeks ago, the company signed a contract with a Spanish consortium, whose name was not released, for 70,000 receivers. Solel also recently announced plans to build in Andalusia a manufacturing facility for solar field components.

The UVAC 2008 provides solar power plant developers with the most advanced commercially tested technology for capturing sunlight and converting it to heat for clean power generation. Ibereolica's plants will include thermal heat storage so the heat from the solar receivers can be converted to electricity during evening hours.

Solel Solar president and CEO Avi Brenmiller said, "We are extremely proud of this very significant deal with Ibereolica, one of Spain's elite developers of clean energy. A growing number of renewable energy providers, in Spain and around the world, are choosing Solel's solar thermal technology because it is the best way to create maximum power from available sunshine."

Related posts:

Solel lands record deal for solar receivers

U.K.'s Ecofin buys 40% of Solel Solar Systems

Monday, May 19, 2008

CheckLight receives urgent Chinese order following earthquake

"Globes" reports that the Chinese State Environmental Protection Agency has placed an urgent order for drinking water pollution testing kits with CheckLight Ltd., a subsidiary of Whitewater Technology Group. The Chinese will use the kits to detect the presence of possible toxins in drinking water sources in earthquake-ravaged Szechuan Province. The quake also damaged chemicals factories. The kits will be flown by special delivery this week.

Several weeks ago, CheckLight announced that it had received an order for 36 kits from the Chinese government. The Chinese placed an additional urgent order for immediate delivery following the earthquake. The kits will help in the rehabilitation of the quake-hit areas and prevent a worse humanitarian catastrophe by identifying contaminated water sources and directing people to safe sources. CheckLight is reportedly reorganizing for the delivery and postponing other orders.

Related content:

CheckLight raises up to $3.5 million from WhiteWater

China's Director of Water Resources Management: "We should learn from Israel"

Israeli water tech co. Blue I bound for Olympics

Google and Ormat discussing cooperation

Google is in talks with Ormat about cooperation in the field of renewable energy, Google co-founder Sergey Brin told The Marker in an interview over the weekend.

Brin was in Israel for President Shimon Peres' "Facing Tomorrow" conference. He called Ormat an incredible company and said there are a lot of interesting Israeli companies that work in renewable and alternative energy, as well as electric cars.

According to Ha'aretz,
senior Google executives have met with their counterparts from Ormat at two alternative energy conferences, and Larry Page, the other co-founder of Google, visited an Ormat geothermal plant in Desert Peak, Nevada.

Google operates in the alternative energy field through its philanthropic arm,, and the company hopes to "create utility-scale electricity from clean renewable energy sources that is cheaper than electricity produced from coal."

Just last week, also participated in the $115 million Series C round of financing for BrightSource Energy, the US parent company of Israeli solar energy technology company Luz II.

Ormat chairman Lucien Bronicki said in response that the meetings with Google are being held on a professional basis in order to advance geothermal technology. The firms are working to advance legislation for geothermal technology development budgets from the U.S. government.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Isaac Berzin, Israel's "Green Giant"

Dr. Isaac Berzin, founder of Greenfuel Technologies, was recently profiled in Ha'aretz.

Berzin and Greenfuel have developed a revolutionary technology to produce biofuels from algae that are bred on gases emitted by power plants.

Time Magazine included Berzin in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008, and Fortune Magazine also published a flattering article about the company, which has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital. Just last week the company raised another $13.9 million from Access Private Equity, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Polaris Venture Partners.

Berzin, a senior faculty member at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, is now busy establishing an Israel-based international institute to formulate an alternative energy policy. With the thriving market for growing algae as a source of energy - more than 250 companies and universities are engaged in this sphere - Berzin has decided to focus on setting policy. "I want Israel to become an international center of knowledge in the realm of alternative energy. The world is looking for solutions in this sphere, and in my view Israel is in a very special position. The toolbox that is needed to create solutions of this kind is here."

Related content:

Global map of cleantech startups includes five Israel-related companies

Jennifer Fonstad -- DFJ Tamir Fishman Ventures

Saturday, May 17, 2008

ALT E to develop urban wind farms in Israel

ALT E, a startup developing and installing "urban wind farms", was recently featured in Ha'aretz.

According to the company's founders, architect Erez Ella and economist Guy Shahar, ALT E will soon install an experimental rooftop wind turbine project in an undisclosed Tel Aviv high rise building. The company is reportedly in contact with several Israeli real estate developers and also hopes to export the idea to other countries.

"We take something that in any case the developer has to build, which is the roof floor, where there is a fence or wall that is used among other things to conceal machinery and also as a safety measure," explains Shahar. "Instead of building a regular wall, he can created a kind of wall of turbines, and also save money by reducing spending on electricity in the building."

"This is primarily for buildings that are 20 stories or higher and have good wind conditions," says Ella. "The use of wind will be only one component of a variety of alternative solutions that will also include the use of solar energy."

Other Israeli companies in the rooftop wind market include Coriolis Wind, a portfolio company of Precede Technologies, and TechnoSpin Wind, which recently raised $8 million in a Series A financing round led by NY-based 21 Ventures.

For more information on the global "small wind" power market, check out this series of articles from Greentech Media.

Related content:
TechnoSpin Wind raises $8m from 21 Ventures

Thursday, May 15, 2008

BrightSource Energy raises $115 million in latest round of funding

BrightSource Energy, Inc., the US parent company of Israeli solar energy technology company Luz II, has secured $115 million in additional corporate funding from its Series C round of financing. This brings the total the company has raised to date to over $160 million.

BrightSource said these additional funds will enable it to accelerate its plans to deliver utility-grade solar power at a time when many utilities are searching for reliable sources of renewable energy.

VantagePoint Venture Partners, the company’s initial investor, led the syndicate, which includes, BP Alternative Energy, StatoilHydro Venture and Black River. All of the company’s existing investors, including Morgan Stanley, DBL Investors (formerly a subsidiary of JP Morgan), Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Chevron Technology Ventures participated in the round.

“The quality of the investors in this round of financing, coupled with increased support from our earlier investors, underscores the confidence that major strategic players have in our ability to reliably generate clean, cost-effective, utility-scale solar power,” said John Woolard, Chief Executive Officer of BrightSource. “We believe in the transformational role of solar energy, and that the broad reach of our new investors will enable us to accelerate the growth of solar thermal into a mainstream energy source.”

“With its unique ability to reliably produce superheated steam at efficient high temperatures, our power tower technology is the strongest commercially viable approach to solar energy,” said Arnold Goldman, chairman and founder, BrightSource Energy, Inc. and Luz II Ltd. “Operating more efficiently than older solar thermal methods, and costing much less to build, our technology will change the way utilities generate electricity.”

In March 2008, BrightSource entered into a series of power purchase agreements with PG&E for up to 900MW of electricity. BrightSource is currently developing a number of solar power plants in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, with construction of the first plant planned to start in 2009.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Project Better Place presents prototype; Renault seen investing up to $1 billion in R&D

Shai Agassi, the CEO of Project Better Place, estimated on Sunday that the company's partner, the Renault-Nissan alliance, would likely invest $500 million to $1 billion in developing the swappable-battery electric cars.

"This is the cost for a three-year car program," Agassi said at a Tel Aviv news conference to introduce the electric car prototype.

Separately, Israel Corp. chairman Idan Ofer said, "I consider this to be a revolutionary project and I believe that most of the [Israeli] public will drive an electric car within a decade." Ofer has invested $130 million in the venture personally and through Israel Corp.

Sources: Reuters, Globes

Related Posts:

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

Saturday, May 10, 2008

CNBC features Project Better Place

CNBC interviewed Idan Ofer this week and discussed Project Better Place -- part of the station's coverage of Israel's 60th anniversary.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Solel lands record deal for solar receivers

Solar energy technology company Solel Solar Systems Ltd. has won a contract to supply 70,000 thermo solar receivers for three new solar power plants in Spain. The company will supply its UVAC 2008 receivers to two unnamed Spanish infrastructure companies, which are jointly building the power plants. The plants will have a production capacity of 50 megawatts each. The current order will be filled over the course of 2009. This is the largest order for the company's systems to date, and follows an earlier order for 46,000 units, which Solel announced in January.

(I actually had an opportunity to witness a presentation earlier today by Ilan Sharon, business development manager at Solel, and I was impressed to learn that Solel currently has a $400 million backlog of orders, equivalent to 700 MW of solar energy.)

Beit Shemesh-based Solel says its system captures sunlight and converts it to heat for clean power generation, with 20% less heat loss than other receivers in the market, according to testing by the National Renewal Energy Laboratory of the US Department of Energy in January 2008. Heat loss measurement is a critical indicator of receiver efficiency.

Solel CEO Avi Brenmiller said, "This large and unprecedented order is a testament to Solel's ability to offer a compelling and economical solution for the production of clean and renewable energy. The solar power market is growing rapidly, and we intend to continue to lead the way with unrivaled products and increased production.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Israel Cleantech Ventures closes on $75m fund

I am pleased to share the news that Israel Cleantech Ventures (ICV) has reached a close of $75 million for its debut fund, exceeding its original target of $60 million. What follows is information selected from the fund's official announcement.

ICV was established to provide growth capital to entrepreneurs in Israel's energy, water and environmental sectors. The fund is managed by partners Jack Levy, Glen Schwaber, and Meir Ukeles working together with four venture partners, who are industry veterans with decades of experience in Israeli energy, water and materials technology companies: Arnon Goldfarb, the CEO of TMB Water, and a former VP at Israel Chemicals and director of IDE Technologies; Israel Kroizer, the president of Luz II Ltd.; Eytan Levy, the co-founder of microbial fuel cell developer Emefcy and AqWise - Wise Water Technologies; and Yigal Stav, formerly CEO of Netafim.

The fund is backed by institutional investors and family funds in Europe, the United States and Israel, including Netherlands-based asset manager Robeco Private Equity and U.S.-based financial institution Piper Jaffray.

ICV will invest in Israeli based or Israel related high growth clean technology companies, including alternative energy, water conservation and purification, emissions reduction, and in technologies that enable industries to work in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner.

The fund has made seven investments to date: Aqwise (waste water treatment), CellEra (fuel cells), Citrine Renewable Energy (landfill biogas treatment), Emefcy (energy production from wastewater), Metrolight (energy efficient lighting), Project Better Place (electric vehicle infrastructure), and Pythagoras Solar (solar energy).

"Israel is an attractive market for water, technology and renewable energy and we think that Israel Cleantech Ventures has a strong team and network that is well positioned to take advantage of this emerging cleantech market," said Andrew Musters, partner at Robeco Private Equity.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cleantech Israel group meets in Herzliya

Cleantech Israel, a new group that enables entrepreneurs, investors, academics, government officials and others to meet and exchange ideas about Israel’s renewable energy, water, and environmental technology sectors, held its second event this week in Herzliya Pituach.

The event featured a presentation by Alon Tamari, Co-CEO of SolarPower Israel — the largest solar integration company in Israel — followed by time for networking by the ~70 people in attendance.

The group’s first event in March included presentations by Jack Levy, General Partner at Israel Cleantech Ventures, and Eran Yarkoni, Founder and CEO of EnStorage, a company developing an innovative fuel cell technology.

Similar networking groups exist in other emerging clean technology clusters, like Boston and Silicon Valley, and I am excited about the prospects for a group in Israel.

With almost 500 cleantech-related companies, and venture capital firms with hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in the industry, there is certainly a lot to discuss.

For more information about Cleantech Israel, please visit the group’s web page or feel free to contact me directly.