Monday, June 30, 2008

Portugal in talks with Project Better Place

Prime Minister Jose Socrates will soon sign an agreement for Portugal to join the Better Place electric car project backed by Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co, Diario Economico reported without naming its sources.

Project Better Place has already signed agreements to build electric vehicle recharge grids in Denmark and Israel, and the company has raised $200 million from investors including VantagePoint Venture Partners, Israel Corp., and Maniv Energy Capital.

Last week, Better Place CEO Shai Agassi testified before the U.S. Congress' Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The topic of the hearing was “$4 Gasoline and Fuel Economy: Auto Industry at a Crossroads”.

In his testimony, Agassi revealed that Better Place is "in active discussions with more than 30 other countries, and with dozens of regions, provinces, states and large cities." He added that he expects four to six other countries or regions to sign agreements with Better Place in the coming months, just as Israel and Denmark have already done.

Better Place has not yet responded to today's news report, but it sounds like Portugal may be next.

Related posts:

Project Better Place in talks with Mercedes, Hawaii, and San Francisco

Project Better Place presents prototype

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

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ormat secures $16m geothermal contract in Turkey

Ormat Technologies has announced that one of its subsidiaries entered into a $16 million supply contract for a new geothermal power plant to be constructed in Turkey.

Ormat said the customer, Menderes Geothermal Elektrik Uretim, a private developer and owner of the resource in Turkey, already has one operating geothermal power plant that was supplied by Ormat in 2004.

"This marks our fourth order to supply equipment for geothermal power in Turkey and continues our leadership position in creating clean energy both in megawatts and the number of power plants in the country. With the addition of this plant, Ormat will have increased the amount of megawatts it supplies to 20 countries to over 950 MW," said Dita Bronicki, CEO of Ormat.

Ormat did not disclose how much power the new plant would produce, but said it would convert both steam and brine from geothermal wells into electric power.

The company said the plant would also use air-cooled condensers and allow 100 percent geothermal fluid reinjection, which Ormat said serves both to sustain the reservoir and to produce electrical power with virtually no environmental impact.

Related Posts:

Google and Ormat discussing cooperation

Ormat signs deal with Great River Energy

Ormat announces new geothermal contract in Turkey

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dassault interested in Project Better Place

Dassault Group, the French aerospace and software giant, is seeking co-investment opportunities in Israel, while also examining possibilities in the Project Better Place electric car venture.

"The electric car market is the future. We are studying the possibility of joint projects regarding development," Laurent Dassault, the company's vice chairman, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview at the France-Israel business forum in Jerusalem on Tuesday. "During the visit in Israel I met up with Idan Ofer [Chairman of Project Better Place] to discuss possibilities."

Dassault came to Israel this week as part of the business delegation accompanying French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Green Way raises $15-20m from Shaked Global Group

The Green Way, an Israel-based environmental management company, has secured between $15 and $20 million in funding from Shaked Global Group.

Shaked Global previously invested $1 million in Green Way. Its stake values TGW at several tens of millions of dollars, according to Globes.

Founded in 1997, TGW provides a range of consulting and implementation services for landscaping, irrigation, erosion prevention and waste and wastewater treatment. It also collaborates with tech companies that specialize in the field of environmental preservation to design cost-effective solutions for a range of small- to medium-scale commercial, industrial and public infrastructure projects, such as parks, hotels and utilities.

Based in Israel, TGW also operates in Cyprus, Turkey and in the United States. The company employees over100 people and has completed projects for Israel Electric Corp., Highway 6 (Trans-Israel Highway), and Tel Aviv University.

Shaked Global invests in "environment-oriented technology and services companies". In addition to TGW, Shaked Global has invested in Blue I Water Technologies.

Related Posts:

Blue I raising funds; company is leading developer of water quality control systems

Israeli water tech company Blue I bound for Olympics

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Project Better Place in talks with Mercedes, Hawaii, and San Francisco

Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz, is in talks with Shai Agassi and Project Better Place regarding the company's plan to create a mass-market infrastructure for electric cars. Mercedes' CEO Dieter Zetsche revealed the talks in a newspaper interview published in Germany earlier today. Zetsche also said that Mercedes-Benz plans to manufacture a model that runs on electricity in 2010.

In January 2008, Better Place announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Renault-Nissan to build an electric recharge grid in Israel. Under the agreement, Better Place will build the electric recharge grid, and Renault-Nissan will provide the electric vehicles. Renault-Nissan apparently does not have an exclusive right to produce electric vehicles for Better Place, and it will be interesting to see what develops with Mercedes.

Hawaii and San Francisco up next?

I recently had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Ziva Patir, head of Better Place's international standardization efforts since her appointment was announced in April. Patir revealed that Better Place is near an agreement with the State of Hawaii. If the talks are successful, this would be another impressive accomplishment for Better Place, giving it a foothold the world's largest car market.

In an April appearance on a local radio show, Hawaii's Governor Linda Lingle said that the state was indeed in discussions with Project Better Place.

Furthermore, Earth2Tech reported in May that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom met with Better Place Israel CEO Moshe Kaplinsky and Chairman Idan Ofer while in Israel. Newsom reportedly offered to work with the company to build an electric recharge grid in San Francisco.

In Better Place's October 2007 white paper, "The Future of Transportation", Shai Agassi stated that to set the right conditions for the creation of a massive electric recharge grid in the United States, the federal government will need to increase taxes on cars, based on carbon emissions, and tax fuel to bring the price up to roughly $4.50 a gallon.

Even without federal intervention, however, gas prices have now reached a statewide average of $4.31 in Hawaii and $4.60 in California. We may have already reached the point where the company's business model will work in certain niche markets -- transportation islands like Hawaii, and densely populated, highly-trafficed urban areas such as San Francisco.

Related Posts:

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

Project Better Place presents prototype

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

Friday, June 20, 2008

Seambiotic to build algae-based biofuel plant in Israel

Tel Aviv-based Seambiotic and Seattle-based Inventure Chemical are teaming up to build an algae-based biofuel plant in Israel. The companies announced on Wednesday a joint venture to use CO2 emissions-fed algae to make ethanol and biodiesel.

The plant will use algae strains developed by Seambiotic. Founded in 2003, the company has been carrying out research and development at the Israel Electric Corporation's Ashkelon power station. The station pipes carbon dioxide from smokestacks to Seambiotic's algae ponds.

Check out this video for an explanation of Seambiotic's algae production technology.

Seambiotic's technology for producing algae will now be coupled with with Inventure’s algae to biofuel conversion processes to produce ethanol, biodiesel and other value-added chemicals. Inventure already makes biodiesel and ethanol from algae at an R&D site in Seattle.

“This is a milestone for Inventure, and for the next generation of biofuels,” said Mark Tegen, Inventure’s chief executive officer and co-founder. “Seambiotic has been extremely successful in its algae-based CO2 sequestering project with Israeli Electric Corporation, which proves the viability of their model. Combining their algae production technology with our algae to biofuel conversion process will close the loop.”

Seambiotic is led by CEO Amnon Bechar and Chief Scientific Adviser Prof. Ami Ben-Amotz.

Related Posts:

Evogene and Orfuel receive biodiesel grant

Technion forum: Israel can be a global biodiesel leader

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Los Angeles and Israel to cooperate on water research

"Globes" reports that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has signed a cooperation agreement with the Kinrot Incubator, which invests in water technologies. Villaraigosa is currently in Israel with a delegation of top municipal officials, including Los Angeles Department of Water & Power General Manager H. David Nahai.

This seems like an excellent example of how cleantech -- in this case, water technology -- is creating a new paradigm for U.S.-Israel relations. Rather than merely planting a symbolic tree or making charitable donations in Israel, Villaraigosa's delegation will return home with newfound access to Israeli technologies that can directly benefit L.A. residents. This is a positive development both for Israeli water startups and the people of L.A., and it will help strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship.

(UPDATE: Check out Villaraigosa's op-ed about how L.A. will benefit from its partnership with Israel.)

Villaraigosa told "Globes", "Israel is a global leader in high-tech and environmental solutions. As such, we intend to utilize the know-how of our Israeli friends to deal with the challenges we face from drought and global warming."

The cooperation agreement with Kinrot will reportedly enable Israeli startups to use Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) facilities for pilot projects. DWP will then install suitable Israeli technologies in its facilities. The agreement will lead to cooperation in water R&D ventures and academic studies, which will encompass the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The Los Angeles municipality also intends to learn from Kinrot how to set up a water technology incubator, which it plans to establish on a 28-acre site in the city.

Congratulations to the Kinrot Incubator and its CEO Assaf Barnea.

Related Posts:

Kinrot incubator names Assaf Barnea as CEO

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Isaac Berzin addresses 130 people at Cleantech Israel meetup

Israel's cleantech community was out in force this morning in Ramat HaSharon. Approximately 130 investors, entrepreneurs, service providers, and "high-tech refugees" attended the latest Cleantech Israel meetup, where they had an opportunity to network and hear a presentation by Dr. Isaac Berzin.

To get a participant's perspective on the event, check out Karin Kloosterman at TreeHugger and Tali Aben's blog post.

What started three months ago in a coffee shop in Herzliya seems to have grown into something much larger. It has been an honor and a pleasure to be involved in the group's founding and development, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

As I announced at this morning's meeting, the group is now going "global" with the establishment of the Boston Israel Cleantech Alliance. Please check out the web site and contact me if you want to get involved.

Related Posts:

Michael Granoff speaks at Cleantech Israel event

Cleantech Israel group meets in Herzliya

Highlights from first Cleantech Israel meetup event

Thursday, June 12, 2008

BrightSource / Luz II Dedicate Negev Solar Energy Development Center

BrightSource Energy, and its Israeli subsidiary Luz II, developers of large scale solar thermal power plants, dedicated their Solar Energy Development Center (SEDC) in the Negev's Rotem Industrial Park earlier today, June 12.

I had an opportunity to attend the ceremony, which included tours of the facility and presentations by BrightSource Chairman Arnold Goldman, BrightSource CEO John Woolard, and Luz II President Israel Kroizer.

The site features more than 1,600 glass mirrors, known as heliostats, which track the sun and reflect light onto a 60 meter-high tower. The concentrated energy is then used to heat a boiler atop the tower to 550 degrees Celsius, generating steam that is piped into a turbine, where electricity can be produced. To learn more about the company's "Distributed Power Tower" technology, check out the video on their web site. Click here for an Israeli news report on the SEDC.

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. Then, in May, BrightSource raised $115 million in a Series C round of financing from investors including and VantagePoint Venture Partners.

According to BrightSource, the solar power plants that the company is actively developing will provide enough electricity to power more than 3.2 million homes and remove emissions equivalent to what is produced by approximately one million cars.

Ironically, the bus to the event left from the Reading Power Station in Tel Aviv, which served as a reminder of how far Israel has come. Reading, built during the British Mandate in 1938, is powered by imported fossil fuels. Now, 70 years later, deep in the Negev Desert, an independent Israel is developing technology that will be exported to the United States and used to build the world's largest solar power plant.

Congratulations to BrightSource Energy and Luz II!

Related posts:

Arnold Goldman, Chairman of BrightSource Energy

BrightSource Energy raises $115 million in latest round of funding

BrightSource Energy signs large solar deal with PG&E

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Isaac Berzin to address Cleantech Israel group

Dr. Isaac Berzin, the founder of Boston-based GreenFuel Technologies, will be the featured speaker at the next Cleantech Israel event on June 17.

Dr. Berzin, now a Senior Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, was recently named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in politics, business, and science. He will discuss his experience at GreenFuel Technologies, which produces algae-based biofuels, and his plans to establish an Institute for Alternative Energy Policy in Israel.

For more information about GreenFuel Technologies, check out this video:

The event is sponsored by Terra Venture Partners. Please RSVP online.

Related posts:

Isaac Berzin to establish Institute for Alternative Energy Policy

Isaac Berzin, Israel's Green Giant

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"A Renewable Light Unto the Nations"

Yossi Abramowitz, President of the Arava Power Company, just published a new essay entitled "A Renewable Light Unto the Nations". I highly recommend reading it.

Abramowitz calls for Israel to set a goal of generating 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and thus "capture the imagination of youth, entrepreneurs, scientists, philanthropists, and financiers." He also suggests the creation of a "World Jewish Action Plan" to offer "Jews and Jewish institutions worldwide carbon offset opportunities" in Israel.

In practice, this would involve "every synagogue, JCC, school, and institution" calculating its carbon footprint, and then putting solar panels on its own roof and investing in Israeli renewable science centers or companies.

I hope that groups like the newly established "Boston Israel Cleantech Alliance" and the California Israel Chamber of Commerce's "Cleantech Initiative" can play a leading role in putting renewable energy on the Jewish community's agenda and promoting connections between cleantech investors and entrepreneurs in the United States and Israel.

In related news, Israel's Public Utilities Authority approved a plan Monday to buy electricity, at NIS 2.01 per kilowatt, from individuals and companies who install a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel system on their roofs. Israel thus joins a growing list of countries, including Germany, the US, Japan and Spain, that have approved such solar "feed-in tariffs".

"Ex-VC" Tali Aben explains the economics of the feed-in tariff, observing that those who install solar PV systems are now set to reap a 14% internal rate of return on their investment over a 20 year period.

According to the Jerusalem Post,
National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer called on the Authority to draft similar tariffs for household wind energy, which would be good news for Israeli companies like TechnoSpin, Coriolis Wind, and ALT-E.

Related Posts:

Renewable energy park to be built in Arava Valley

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Isaac Berzin to establish Institute for Alternative Energy Policy

Dr. Isaac Berzin, founder of Greenfuel Technologies and a member of 2008 Time 100, is profiled by Karin Kloosterman in the latest edition of Israel21c.

In the interview, Dr. Berzin discusses his plans to establish an Institute for Alternative Energy Policy in Israel. The institute will be located at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, where Berzin is now a senior fellow, and will collaborate with the U.S.-based Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) and National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Dr. Berzin will be the featured speaker at the next Cleantech Israel event on June 17. If you are interested in meeting Dr. Berzin and learning more about his vision for Israel's cleantech future, I encourage you to join the group and RSVP.

See also: "Looking for a few green men" (Jerusalem Post)

Related posts:

Isaac Berzin, Israel's Green Giant

Global map of cleantech startups includes five Israel-related companies

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Israel and the African Green Revolution

"Israel must make the transition from a state that receives aid to a state that gives aid," said Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General on Millennium Development Goals, at the opening of the International Conference on Israel and the African Green Revolution.

Sachs, a world renowned economist
and head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, added that Africa would like to have Israel as a partner in the continent's green revolution, and that Israel has the technological know-how that Africa needs in three main fields: solar energy, public health and medicine, and agriculture.

At the conference, which opened on Sunday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, representatives from Israel and from the international community presented various approaches to agricultural development on the African continent and discussed how to effectively implement them in order to alleviate the present food and water crisis. Israel and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also signed, for the first time, a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the field of agriculture.

The conference, which was organized by MASHAV, (the Center for International Cooperation, the Israeli body responsible for extending aid to developing countries), was attended by hundreds of delegates representing African states and international aid organizations, as well as MASHAV trainees in Israel and academics.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Monday, June 2, 2008

JTA: "Israeli firms invest in clean tech"

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) just published a lengthy article on the cleantech scene in Israel. JTA articles are often republished in local Jewish newspapers around the world, and it is nice to see Israel’s cleantech sector getting publicity in the Diaspora.

I am quoted in the article -- as the author of this blog and an organizer of the Cleantech Israel meetup group -- alongside industry players including Dov Raviv (CEO of MST), Yael Cohen-Paran (Director of the Israel Energy Forum), Yossi Abramowitz (Chairman of the Arava Power Company), Prof. David Faiman of Ben-Gurion University, and Dr. Isaac Berzin (Founder of GreenFuel Technologies).

The entire article is available online. Here is the section that includes my quote:

"Turning Israel into a center for clean technology could build new bridges between Israel and Diaspora Jews, says Jonathan Shapira, a recent American law school graduate living in Tel Aviv who organizes monthly meetings for entrepreneurs interested in clean tech and writes a blog on the subject.

As an example, Shapira cited the business park for renewable energy firms being built in the Arava with funding from Toronto's Jewish community.

"Rather than just making a charitable donation, people are helping create the infrastructure for economic growth and a cleaner environment in Israel," Shapira said."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

America-Israel Green Buildings Conference

The America-Israel Chamber of Commerce & Industry is sponsoring a two-day conference, the America-Israel Green Buildings Conference, on June 3 & 4 in New York and New Jersey, respectively.

The conference will provide an opportunity for U.S. business leaders to meet Israeli entrepreneurs and discover the products and technologies they are developing for the green building industry.

As the conference organizers note, Israel is a recognized leader in the development of clean technologies, and Israel is now "poised to become the center for green building innovations," providing technologies that will "address the needs of all those involved in the design, construction and maintenance of green buildings."

Attendees will explore private and public sector initiatives, learn about new ways of financing green real estate and technologies and discover opportunities for global joint ventures.

Speakers include Congressman Steve Israel, leading real estate developers, New York and New Jersey government officials, and academic researchers. Presentations will be made by Israeli companies that are developing technologies for use in green buildings.