Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

TRACY SEIPEL, MercuryNews.com, May 15, 2009

brightsourceDeclaring it a record total, PG&E on Wednesday announced an expansion of solar-power contracts with Oakland’s BrightSource Energy for a total of 1,310 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 530,000 California homes.

The power purchase agreements, which will now include seven power plants, add to a previous contract the two companies struck in April 2008 for up to 900 megawatts of solar thermal power.

BrightSource called it the largest solar deal ever. The company now has 2,610 megawatts under contract, which it said is more than any other solar thermal company and represents more than 40 percent of all large-scale solar thermal contracts in the United States.

“The solar thermal projects announced today exemplify PG&E’s commitment to increasing the amount of renewable energy we provide to our customers throughout Northern and central California,” John Conway, senior vice president of energy supply for PG&E, said in a statement. “Through these agreements with BrightSource, we can harness the sun’s energy to meet our customers’ power requirements when they need it most — during hot summer days.”

John Woolard, chief executive of BrightSource Energy, said the additional contracts came about after BrightSource demonstrated its technology in Israel with results that were “at or above all the specifications. It proved to them that our technology works,” Woolard said. “They saw us executing and delivering” efficient production of solar energy.

BrightSource, which designs, builds and operates solar thermal plants, will construct the plants at a cost of at least $3 billion in the southwestern deserts of California, Nevada and Arizona. The company anticipates the first plant, a 110-megawatt facility at Ivanpah in eastern San Bernardino County, to begin operation by 2012.

Its technology uses sunlight reflected from thousands of movable mirrors to boil water to make steam. The steam then drives a turbine to generate electricity. BrightSource founder and Chairman Arnold Goldman’s previous company, Luz International, built nine solar plants in the Mojave Desert between 1984 and 1990, all of which are still operating.

In March, BrightSource reached an agreement with Southern California Edison to purchase 1,300 megawatts, then the largest solar contract ever, BrightSource said.

Investor-owned California utilities such as PG&E are required to get 20% of their power from renewable sources by 2010, or to by then have contracts for power from projects that go online by 2013. PG&E already has contracts in hand that exceed that 20% goal.  PG&E generates 12% of its energy from renewable sources now, and expects that to increase to 14% by the end of the year.

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THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, The New York Times, December 10, 2008

As I think about our bailing out Detroit, I can’t help but reflect on what, in my view, is the most important rule of business in today’s integrated and digitized global market, where knowledge and innovation tools are so widely distributed. It’s this: Whatever can be done, will be done. The only question is will it be done by you or to you. Just don’t think it won’t be done. If you have an idea in Detroit or Tennessee, promise me that you’ll pursue it, because someone in Denmark or Tel Aviv will do so a second later.

Why do I bring this up? Because someone in the mobility business in Denmark and Tel Aviv is already developing a real-world alternative to Detroit’s business model. I don’t know if this alternative to gasoline-powered cars will work, but I do know that it can be done — and Detroit isn’t doing it. And therefore it will be done, and eventually, I bet, it will be done profitably.

And when it is, our bailout of Detroit will be remembered as the equivalent of pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the mail-order-catalogue business on the eve of the birth of eBay. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into the CD music business on the eve of the birth of the iPod and iTunes. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into a book-store chain on the eve of the birth of Amazon.com and the Kindle. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into improving typewriters on the eve of the birth of the PC and the Internet.

What business model am I talking about? It is Shai Agassi’s electric car network company, called Better Place. Just last week, the company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., announced a partnership with the state of Hawaii to road test its business plan there after already inking similar deals with Israel, Australia, the San Francisco Bay area and, yes, Denmark.

The Better Place electric car charging system involves generating electrons from as much renewable energy — such as wind and solar — as possible and then feeding those clean electrons into a national electric car charging infrastructure. This consists of electricity charging spots with plug-in outlets — the first pilots were opened in Israel this week — plus battery-exchange stations all over the respective country. The whole system is then coordinated by a service control center that integrates and does the billing.

Under the Better Place model, consumers can either buy or lease an electric car from the French automaker Renault or Japanese companies like Nissan (General Motors snubbed Agassi) and then buy miles on their electric car batteries from Better Place the way you now buy an Apple cellphone and the minutes from AT&T. That way Better Place, or any car company that partners with it, benefits from each mile you drive. G.M. sells cars. Better Place is selling mobility miles.

The first Renault and Nissan electric cars are scheduled to hit Denmark and Israel in 2011, when the whole system should be up and running. On Tuesday, Japan’s Ministry of Environment invited Better Place to join the first government-led electric car project along with Honda, Mitsubishi and Subaru. Better Place was the only foreign company invited to participate, working with Japan’s leading auto companies, to build a battery swap station for electric cars in Yokohama, the Detroit of Japan.

What I find exciting about Better Place is that it is building a car company off the new industrial platform of the 21st century, not the one from the 20th — the exact same way that Steve Jobs did to overturn the music business. What did Apple understand first? One, that today’s technology platform would allow anyone with a computer to record music. Two, that the Internet and MP3 players would allow anyone to transfer music in digital form to anyone else. You wouldn’t need CDs or record companies anymore. Apple simply took all those innovations and integrated them into a single music-generating, purchasing and listening system that completely disrupted the music business.

What Agassi, the founder of Better Place, is saying is that there is a new way to generate mobility, not just music, using the same platform. It just takes the right kind of auto battery — the iPod in this story — and the right kind of national plug-in network — the iTunes store — to make the business model work for electric cars at six cents a mile. The average American is paying today around 12 cents a mile for gasoline transportation, which also adds to global warming and strengthens petro-dictators.

Do not expect this innovation to come out of Detroit. Remember, in 1908, the Ford Model-T got better mileage — 25 miles per gallon — than many Ford, G.M. and Chrysler models made in 2008. But don’t be surprised when it comes out of somewhere else. It can be done. It will be done. If we miss the chance to win the race for Car 2.0 because we keep mindlessly bailing out Car 1.0, there will be no one to blame more than Detroit’s new shareholders: we the taxpayers.

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Platt/McGraw-Hill, August 2008

As well as the US, many other nations are also looking to crack the wave energy market.

In Sweden, for instance, the first wave-powered plant is set to begin delivering electricity to twenty homes on the country’s west coast within a few weeks. Seabased, a marine-energy technology headquartered in Uppsala, Sweden, is using its patented turbine system in the pilot project, which it is financing through a combination of investment capital and grant money. Investors include Finnish power company Fortum, which has invested SEK 6 million ($989,000) as well as Swedish utility Vattenfall and a Swedish state pension fund. In addition, the Swedish Energy Agency gave the company a SEK 13.6 million ($2.2 million) grant earlier in 2008. In the first phase, 10 generators with capacity of about 100 kW will be installed. Seabased is looking to expand the project to 12 MW of installed capacity. That plan, however, could be stopped by the Swedish military. In a letter to Minister for Enterprise and Energy Maud Olofsson, military officers expressed concern that wave power generators could interfere with defense operations on Sweden’s west coast.

In addition, China, with ample potential wave power along its 18,000-kilometer (11,160-mile) coastline, is taking steps to develop marine energy. Israeli company S.D.E. Energy recently signed an agreement to sell wave-power plants in China. The company said that the power plants will be financed by investors in Hong Kong and other parts of China. Two joint venture companies, formed in Hong Kong, will build an initial model in Guangzhou province in southern China. SDE said that if the model proves successful, the joint ventures will establish sea wave power plants across the country. The process is subject to the approval of the Chinese government. SDE executives said the cost of erecting a 1-MW wave power station starts at $650,000. This compares to $900,000 for a similar sized natural gas station, $1.5 million for a coal-fired or wind powered station and $3 million for a solar station, the company said.

All told, wave energy has recently made major strides toward commercial development – progress that could accelerate in countries like Portugal and the UK in the coming months. Winners and losers still must be sorted: Energy analyst Douglas Westwood estimates that more than 80 wave and tidal systems are currently competing for market share. The next challenges will surface as initiatives like the Portuguese Aguçadoura project near the brink of commercial-scale power generation.

Wave energy’s “adoption as a credible renewable energy source is vital,” an industry observer said in an interview. “The technology is still expensive. But it’s a question of how quickly rather than whether it develops.”

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Israel21c.org via Ocean Energy News, July 23 2008

Israeli company S.D.E. Energy, developer of an innovative technology for generating electricity from sea waves, has signed an agreement for selling wave energy plants in China for an undisclosed sum.

Construction of the power plants will be financed by investors from Hong Kong and China. Two joint venture companies, formed in Hong Kong for the purpose of the agreement by S.D.E. and its investors, will build an initial model in Guangzhou province in southern China. Should the model prove to be successful, it will launch the establishment of sea wave power plants throughout China.

The S.D.E. process is subject to the approval of the government of China, which it intends to target as the sole customer for the electricity generated.

Electricity shortages in China are worsening every day and current energy sources are problematic: fossil fuels increase the country’s already intolerable levels of air and environmental pollution; nuclear power plants and hydroelectric stations are highly susceptible to earthquake damage; typhoons make building wind farms extremely difficult and solar systems are costly.

With prices of crude oil rising fast, there is new interest in alternative sources of energy, and the idea of generating power from ocean waves is becoming increasingly attractive, according to S.D.E.

The Tel Aviv company’s system produces renewable and clean energy from ocean waves, which it claims have the potential to supply four times more energy per square meter than wind power. The system’s advantages are high efficiency, ability to modulate energy storage capabilities and relatively low cost for construction and generation of electricity.

According to S.D.E., the cost of erecting a one megawatt wave energy station starts at $650,000, compared with $900,000 for a similarly-sized natural gas station; $1.5 million for a coal-fired or wind-powered station; and $3 million for a solar power station.

US investors have taken note of S.D.E.’s advances, managing director Shmuel Ovadia told ISRAEL21c. “We’re currently in talks to raise $100 million from US investors and we’re negotiating building a 30 MW wave energy plant in San Francisco at a cost of $20 million.”

The first commercial, full-scale model of the system, capable of generating 40 electrical kilowatts (eKW) has been working successfully for a year and is located at the Jaffa Port in Tel Aviv-Yafo.

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EHUD ZION WALDOKS, The Jerusalem Post, June 24, 2008

A search through the Israel Patent Office library computer revealed recently that wind and wave energy patent requests are on the rise.

While it’s not a big market, requests have jumped in the last few years. There have been 38 patent requests relating to wind turbines in the last decade, half since 2005. Regarding wave energy, there have been 34 requests since 1998, and 17 since 2005. The earliest patent requests in those fields, according to computer records, were from 1969 and 1970.

Additionally pumps and turbines and environment technologies worldwide experienced an approximately 13% growth in applications from 2006 to 2007, according to statistics provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a division of the UN working to create a balanced international intellectual property system.

Patent requests are confidential, so little can be gleaned until a patent has been granted. The numbers could also be somewhat misleading as to the actual impact on the Israeli market, because overseas inventors sometimes file patent requests in Israel to protect their ideas here.

One such overseas businessman, Aloys Wobben, CEO of wind turbine company Enercon, has received patent protection in Israel for an unusual application for his product. In 2002, he filed a request to patent an idea that emerged out of the tragedy of September 11, 2001: to protect nuclear power plants from suicide airliners by erecting wind turbines all around the plant. According to Wobben, any plane targeting a nuclear power plant would either blow itself up when a wind turbine sheared into it, or the plane would be unable to change course fast enough to hit the nuclear power plant after lifting up over the wind turbines.

According to WIPO, Israel is among the top 15 countries in patent requests. Requests from Israel have also been on the rise since 2000, according to a statistical analysis of the first quarter of 2008.

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