Wednesday, August 27, 2008

IC Green Energy invests in HelioFocus

Published reports confirm that IC Green Energy, the cleantech investment subsidiary of Israel Corp., has invested in solar thermal startup HelioFocus Ltd. I first reported on the possibility that HelioFocus was an IC Green Energy portfolio company in a post several weeks ago.

According to Globes, IC Green Energy contributed $10 million out of the $20 million that HelioFocus raised in its latest financing round. Ha'aretz, however, reports that IC Green Energy purchased control of HelioFocus for $5 to $6 million.

Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Ness Ziona, Israel, HelioFocus is engaged in the development of modular, high efficiency Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) systems. These systems will convert sunlight to grid electricity using parabolic solar concentrators.

Prof. Sass Somekh, a veteran of Applied Materials and a founder of Musea Ventures, is the Executive Chairman of HelioFocus. The company's technology is reportedly based on the research of Prof. Jacob Karni of the Weizmann Institute. Dr. Ory Zik is the CEO of HelioFocus.

Related posts:

HelioFocus orders microturbines for concentrated solar power systems

IC Green Energy and Yom Tov Samia

Monday, August 25, 2008

AqWise to supply technology to wastewater treatment facility in Israel

Israeli wastewater treatment company AqWise - Wise Water Technologies Ltd. will integrate its AGAR® technology into a major wastewater treatment facility to be built in the Golan Heights.

Situated near Kibbutz Meitzar, the new wastewater treatment plant is designed to serve 13 rural communities, many of them with special farming and live-stock enterprises, requiring treatment capacity for highly polluted wastewater.

According to a company press release, the AqWise solution will enable the new plant to effectively address the challenge of inflow peaks, associated with regional conditions, and allow gradual project scalability so as to adapt wastewater treatment capacities to the anticipated regional growth.

AqWise reportedly beat out other companies from Scandinavia and the United States that are developing similar biofilm process technologies to treat wastewater.

AqWise CEO Elad Frenkel said, "What is singularly important here is the fact that AqWise's technology enables the facility to be built with a certain capacity now, in response to existing needs, and then upgraded at a later stage without having to carry out further engineering work. The facility will have an initial capacity of 2,500 cubic meters of treated water a day, and this will be increased to 5,000 cubic meters of treated water a day, as required."

AqWise marketing manager Ud Shani added, "This project is important, not just technologically and environmentally, but also politically. Until now, the Jordan River was exposed to contamination through sewage, and this brought us and the Jordanians to the brink of a crisis. The new facility will solve this problem."

Following a secondary transaction in January that valued the AqWise at $10 million, Mexican mining conglomerate Altos Hornos de Mexico SA de CV, owns 55% of the company, Elron Electronic Industries Ltd. owns 34%, and Israel Cleantech Ventures owns 11%.

Last year, "The Cleantech Revolution" named AqWise as one of the top 10 companies to watch in the field of water filtration.

Related posts:

Israel Cleantech buys 11% of AqWise

AqWise founders start new cleantech venture

Sunday, August 24, 2008

BrightSource Energy planning 1200 MW solar power facility in Nevada

BrightSource Energy is planning to build three solar thermal power plants, which will produce 1,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power 900,000 homes, at a desert site northeast of Las Vegas.

According to a local news report in Nevada, BrightSource has been in talks with Overton Power District, a public utility, for several months about the possibility of upgrading existing transmission lines that would deliver to the grid increased power generated by the solar facilities

Last week, BrighSource executives brought local officials out to the site and then delivered a presentation on the proposed facilities.

John Woolard, CEO of Bright Source, and Tom Doyle, the company’s Senior VP of Project Development, said they plan to build three 400-megawatt plants on Mormom Mesa, federal lands 65 miles from Las Vegas (see map).

“We have a plan of development we’ll submit to BLM [the Bureau of Land Management, which must approve the plants], Doyle says. "We’re hoping to be operational as early as 2012, pending an outtake agreement (with the local utility).”

Woolard says the plants’ environmental footprint “would be as benign as possible. It will be carbon free with low water usage and will use one-third to one-quarter the land use a wind facility would use. It’s something we’re very focused on.”

Doyle said southern Nevada’s unique situation as a hub of electrical power would enable Bright Source to send solar-generated electricity to other states.

“The first phase is a 400-megawatt project,” Doyle said. “We can sell the power in Nevada. We’ll expand up to 1,200 megawatts and sell to other states. We’re using one state’s indigenous resource – clean power – to bring to other states.”

One hundred megawatts of power is enough to take care of the power needs of 75,000 homes, Woolard said.

Headquartered in Oakland, CA, BrightSource has raised over $160 million from investors such as VantagePoint Venture Partners, JP Morgan, and Last spring, 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.

Luz II, based in Israel, is a wholly owned subsidiary of BrightSource Energy, Inc. responsible for the company's solar technology development, plant design and engineering. In June, 2008, BrightSource and Luz II dedicated their Solar Energy Development Center in the Negev's Rotem Industrial Park.

It was reported last month that BrightSource is opening an office and looking for partners in Arizona and that the company plans to build solar thermal power plants near Phoenix.

Related posts:

BrightSource Energy expanding to Arizona

BrightSource / Luz II dedicate Negev Solar Energy Development Center

BrightSource Energy raises $115 million in latest round of funding

US energy co AES negotiating with Israeli biofuel and wind companies

AES Corporation, a $10 billion global power company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, reportedly is pursuing contacts for expanding its activity in Israel. Sources inform ''Globes'' that the company is in negotiations to invest NIS 25-27 million ($8 million) in Israeli alternative energy company GNRY Ltd..

GNRY produces electricity from steam generated by burners, which use wood chips as fuel. The company set up its first facility in Israel at the Galam factory at Kibbutz Maanit at an estimated investment of $7 million.

For more about GNRY, check out these articles on Green Prophet and Ynet News.

Earlier this month, "Globes" reported that the company may also become a partner in a 400-megawatt wind energy project to be built by Mei Golan Wind Energy Development Ltd. on the Golan Heights.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Shai Agassi, Better Place, featured in Wired Magazine

Shai Agassi, the founder and CEO of Better Place, is on the cover of the most recent issue of Wired Magazine. The article, “Shai Agassi's Audacious Plan to Put Electric Cars on the Road,” is a must read for anyone interested in Shai Agassi, the origins of Better Place, and the politics and economics of electric vehicles.

Highlights include:

A Q&A with Israeli President Shimon Peres, who contends that Israel can be a global cleantech R&D center

A description of AutoOS, the Better Place operating system, and how it will transform the transportation grid. AuotOS will serve as an energy monitor, GPS unit, help center, and personal assistant, packed into an onboard PC that will also hold cellular and Wi-Fi chips.

Details of Agassi’s efforts, along with venture capitalist Michael Granoff, Better Place’s earliest investor and its head of oil independence policies, to lobby the U.S. government to create incentives for electric cars

An inside look at a Better Place meeting in Tel Aviv to determine the design of the company’s charge spots

A test drive of a Better Place prototype with the company’s chief engineers

News that Better Place is in discussions with Chery Automobile, the massive Chinese auto company, and is eyeing the Chinese market. (Israel Corp., which has invested $130 million in Better Place, has a joint venture with Chery Automobile, and Idan Ofer is Chairman of both Israel Corp. and Better Place.)

News that Better Place is raising $160 million to roll out the Electric Vehicle Recharge Operator in Denmark. (The company has already raised $200 million.)

Confirmation that Agassi has flown to Honolulu to meet with the Governor of Hawaii, which might become the first place in the U.S. to sign an agreement with Better Place.

Better Place names Israeli firm to oversee recharing infrastructure

In other news, Globes reports that Better Place has selected Massad Oz Management & Supervision Ltd. to manage the pilot recharging infrastructure deployment for the company's electric car venture. Massad Oz will set up the recharging infrastructure in Tel Aviv parking lots in the coming months.

Related Posts:

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

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, August 17, 2008

IDE to build $150m desalination plant in Australia

Israel-based IDE Technologies announced last week that it signed a deal to build a desalination plant worth over €100 million in Australia. IDE is a joint venture of Israel Corp.'s Israel Chemicals unit and the Delek Group.

IDE did not identify the company that it is building the desalination plant for, stating only that it is a "major industrial client." In January, Reuters reported that IDE won a tender to build a desalination plant worth more than $100 million as part of an iron-mining project in western Australia.

The 140,000 cubic meter per day facility, which will be based on reverse osmosis technology, is slated for completion in 2010.

"It establishes IDE's presence on the Australian continent, strengthens its worldwide deployment in line with the company's business strategy of global expansion and strengthens IDE's position as a world leader in the seawater desalination market," said Avshalom Felber, CEO of IDE.

The company said the project is one of the most complex in the world and one of the largest of its kind supplied by IDE to a foreign client. According to IDE, the quality of the feed water necessitates more precise and complex treatment than in similar installations elsewhere.

IDE said the Australian client will use the desalinated water for production processes and drinking water.

Established in 1965, IDE specializes in commercial applications of thermal and membrane technologies for desalinating and converting sea and brackish water for drinking and process water. The company has supplied more than 385 plants of different types and capacities in 40 countries, and said the plants produce more than 1.6 million cubic meters per day.

Related posts:

IDE to build 3 desalination plants in Asia

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The growing importance of water

The most recent Sunday New York Times included two articles of interest to readers of this blog.

The first article, which does not seem to be available online, discusses Israel's water shortage and the threat that it poses to the agricultural sector. You can check out an associated NY Times video on YouTube.

The second article, "A Tall, Cool Drink of... Sewage?", analyzes the growing importance of wastewater treatment and water recycling in the United States. This trend should present economic opportunities for Israel, which is a world leader in the development of water technologies.

The new Orange County, California, Groundwater Replenishment System, illustrates how valuable the market for water technologies could be: the system cost $480 million to build and will cost $29 million a year to operate.

The linkage between water and energy is also interesting. California, as the NY Times points out, uses a staggering 20% of its energy just to move water from the rainy north to the dry southern portion of the state.

For more on the connection between energy and water innovation, take a look at this article by Bill Aulet of MIT. The Israeli government is also taking note of the connection and will devote an entire day of the upcoming Prime Minister's Conference to exploring the "Water-Energy Nexus."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Negev renewable energy R&D center approved by Israeli cabinet

The socioeconomic cabinet on Monday approved a plan by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry to establish a center in the Negev for the research and development of renewable energy technologies, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

"The program will enable Israel to become a major player in the global renewable energy industry," Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai said.

The R&D center will be established in the Negev under the auspices of the Chief Scientist's Office, and it will invest NIS 70 million ($20m) over a period of five years. The center will focus on the development of renewable and alternative energy sources for the production of electricity, such as solar and wind energy.

The Negev desert region is already a hub of cleantech and renewable energy activities. This winter, Israel Cleantech Ventures announced a partnership with Ben Gurion University (BGU), located in Beersheva. The Central Arava Fund and Oasis Investment Fund are also raising money to invest in agritech, biofuel, and solar energy companies in the region. In Dimona, Rotem Industries manages a Renewable Energy Innovation Center that hosts the BrightSource Energy / Luz II solar thermal pilot plant and a testing ground for Leviathan Energy's wind turbines. Sde Boqer is home to BGU's National Solar Energy Center, whose director, Prof. David Faiman, is a pioneer in the field and the Chief Scientist of ZenithSolar.

It will be interesting to see where in the Negev this new government-backed R&D center is located and which entities are responsible for managing it.

Boaz Hirsch, Deputy Director General for Foreign Trade at the Trade Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, said Israeli renewable energy technology exports generated $110 million in 2007. Under the framework a new government plan, it is predicted that renewable energy exports will grow to $1 billion a year within 10 years. In addition, R&D investment is expected to increase to $350m annually during the 2008-2012 period of the program.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

HelioFocus orders microturbines for concentrated solar power systems

Capstone Turbine Corporation, a Nasdaq-listed manufacturer of microturbine energy systems, announced last week that it had received an order from Israeli startup HelioFocus for the development and modification of Capstone Turbine's C65 MicroTurbine to operate on solar energy.

Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Ness Ziona, Israel, HelioFocus Ltd. is engaged in the development of modular, high efficiency Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) systems. These systems will convert sunlight to grid electricity using a parabolic solar concentrator to focus the sun's energy into a solar receiver that provides enough heat energy to drive Capstone's modified turbine and power electronics.

HelioFocus does not have a web site, and little information about the company is publicly available. According to one web post, HelioFocus is a portfolio company of IC Green Energy, the cleantech investment subsidiary of Israel Corp.

The company's technology is apparently based on the research of Prof. Jacob Karni of the Weizmann Institute, located in nearby Rehovot. Indeed, Yeda, the Weizmann Institute's technology transfer office, reveals that Prof. Karni has developed a high efficiency concentrated solar receiver available for licensing.

I wrote about IC Green Energy, and the investment strategy of Yom Tov Samia, its Director, back in May.

Under the initial phase of development, Capstone will make modifications to the existing microturbine to operate on superheated air and integrate the microturbine with the HelioFocus solar concentrator system.

Capstone Turbine has been evaluating product development opportunities to combine the benefit of the microturbine and solar concentrator technologies. The traditional Capstone microturbine engine uses gaseous or liquid fuels to heat combustion air. The HelioFocus Solar Concentrator focuses enough sunlight energy to provide an equivalent amount of combustion heat to drive the microturbine. This fuel free renewable solution offers higher solar conversion efficiencies over traditional solar photovoltaic systems, the company said. In addition the increased power density of this system should reduce the amount of required real estate for siting these systems.

"Our company's current focus is continued product development through strategic partnerships with forward looking companies," said Dr. Ory Zik, one of the Founders and CEO of HelioFocus. "Utilizing Capstone's microturbine, our mutual goal is to develop a system that can operate entirely on sunlight."

Related Posts:

IC Green Energy and Yom Tov Samia

Monday, August 4, 2008

UK bus company to deploy GreenRoad Safety Center

GreenRoad Technologies, a world leader in driver safety technologies, and whose R&D center is located in Or Yehuda, Israel, recently announced that Metroline is the first UK bus company to deploy GreenRoad Safety Center in its fleet. The technology is installed in more than 100 buses based at its Perivale garage in West London.

GreenRoad Safety Center rates driving skills without invading the driver’s privacy. An in-vehicle sensor collects information on up to 120 different driving maneuvers. These are constantly analyzed to give the driver feedback about their driving and the areas that need improvement. Individual drivers receive instant feedback from a small display on the dashboard. The driver and the fleet manager have access to more detailed analysis of driving skills and recommendations for improvement through a password-protected web site.

The technology should help ensure a safer, smoother and more comfortable ride for Metroline's passengers, as well as lowering fuel consumption and carbon emissions. According to GreenRoad, its clients have reduced accidents by an average of 54%, lowered accident repair costs by an average of 49% and decreased fuel costs by an average of 7%.

GreenRoad is backed by Benchmark Capital, Virgin Green Fund, Amadeus Capital Partners and Balderton Capital.

Related Posts:

GreenRoad raises $17.5 million in Series C funding

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bloomberg: "Blooming Deserts Turn Israeli Water Industry Into Money Magnet" recently published a positive article about the prospects for Israel's water industry.

According to Bloomberg, "Some 300 Israeli companies make equipment to deliver water or purify it with lasers or diffusion, putting them in a position to profit as climate change, population growth and food shortages strain supplies. With agriculture accounting for about two-thirds of global water use, the Israeli government predicts overseas sales of the technology will top $10 billion by 2017."

The article mentions Netafim, a world leader in irrigation solutions; Amiad Filtration Systems, which will help manage sewage treatment at the Beijing Olympics; and Desalitech, a Tel Aviv-based startup that has apparently invented a way to take salt out of water using 20 percent less energy than standard reverse osmosis.

The article also includes interviews with Nir Belzer, managing partner at the AquAgro Fund, and Oded Distel, director of NewTech, Israel's national program to promote water technologies.

NY Times and Ha'aretz on Israeli cleantech

In case you missed it, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote an excellent column last week entitled "From Texas to Tel Aviv." Friedman discusses Better Place and its founder, Shai Agassi, who he describes as a cross between Henry Ford and Yitzhak Rabin.

My favorite line: "Agassi is a passionate salesman for his vision. He could sell camels to Saudi Arabia."

For Shai's reaction to the column, and the back story on his relationship with Tom Friedman, check out his blog, "The Long Tailpipe."

A good friend of mine, Ben Grossman, has more to say about the column at his Sustainable Ink blog. Ben is the Director of the Green Marketing and Sustainability Practice at Grossman Marketing Group, based in Boston. If you are interested in green marketing strategies, Ben is a great resource.

It is also worth taking a look at a recent article in Ha'aretz, entitled "Beyond the Age of Oil", by Sarah Kass of the Avi Chai Foundation. Kass writes about what the transition away from oil will mean for Israel, the Middle East, and the rest of the world.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

BrightSource Energy expanding to Arizona

BrightSource Energy is opening an office and looking for partners in Arizona, according to a recent report in the Phoenix Business Journal.

BrightSource officials have been in discussions with the city of Phoenix about a potential site that could house up to a 400 megawatt solar generating station or more on city land.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said solar power appeals to the city as a method to reduce its energy costs. Partnering with a solar provider also would have the benefit of bringing additional jobs and a more diversified economy to the region.

"We've got to use our resources as a city to get off fossil fuel," he said.

Gordon saw BrightSource's research and development facility, run by subsidiary Luz II, during a trip to Israel earlier this year. That started conversations about how to bring the company's technology to Arizona.

BrightSource has already entered into a series of power purchase agreements with Pacific Gas and Electric Company for up to 900MW of electricity, the largest solar power commitment ever made by a utility. The company is now building plants in Southern California and it's hoping to bring that technology to Arizona, said Tom Doyle, the company's senior vide president for project development.

"When we look at the renewable market, California is a huge market because of its renewable energy portfolio, but so is Arizona," Doyle said.

A 100-megawatt generating station would bring up to 500 construction jobs during the 18 to 24 months it would take to build, and then the facility would run on a staff of about 20 to 24 people, said Joshua Bar-Lev, vice president of regulatory affairs for BrightSource.

That same plant would produce about $240 million in economic benefits over a 30-year period, assuming that it received tax credits for its construction and paid no property tax, Bar-Lev said.

BrightSource has been looking at Phoenix-owned land and has found several parcels that it could use within proximity to transmission lines.

BrightSource is also in discussions with Arizona State University about partnerships they can have, particularly in their construction management program.

Related posts:

BrightSource / Luz II dedicate Negev Solar Energy Development Center

Arnold Goldman, Chairman of BrightSource Energy

BrightSource Energy raises $115 million in latest round of funding

Ormat projects approved in Nevada

Two renewable energy projects representing a $100 million-plus investment by Las Vegas-based Nevada Power Co. were approved last week by state regulators.

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada approved a 30-megawatt (MW) co-development geothermal project with Ormat Technologies, a world-leading geothermal company, at Carson Lake, Nev. The project will sit on federal lands, a portion of which includes the Naval Air Station at Fallon, Nev.

Also approved was Nevada Power's proposal to invest in a six-MW heat recovery energy generating facility at Goodsprings, approximately 30 miles south of Las Vegas. The project will be located at the Kern River Gas compressor station, and Ormat is supplying the heat-recovery generating equipment and will build the project for Nevada Power.

Nevada Power is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sierra Pacific Resources, a utility listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

"The Commission's action marks a significant milestone, demonstrating our company's commitment to invest in renewables projects," said Michael Yackira, president and CEO of Sierra Pacific Resources. "These facilities will make an essential contribution to help assure clean, affordable and reliable energy, somewhat buffering our customers from future fossil fuel market uncertainties, most notably natural gas price increases."

Yackira added, "Nevada is already number one in solar and geothermal power per capita and we are continuing to push forward aggressively. We currently have 23 other geothermal plants under contract, and are actively pursuing further investments in geothermal, solar and wind energy."

Nevada Power provides electricity to about 826,000 residential and business customers in a 4,500-square-mile southern Nevada service area.

Source: Nevada Power press release