Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Green Country - With All Its Flaws, Absolutely Remarkable Israel

October 19, 2010
By Nurit Greenger

Sixty-three year after the reestablishment of their homeland, Israelis have learned, and are perfecting, living in desert conditions. Though the country has been at a constant war to defend itself from its Arabs foes, this has not stopped the Israelis to make their country a success story. Israelis are delivering God's "premonition": A Land of Milk and Honey-ארץ זבת חלב ודבש.
The war-torn Israel has become and is a symbol of pioneering of all sorts.
The country grows the most tasty food crop in mostly sand, it powers homes from the sun and it invents non-stops, whether it is technologies, medical cure or whatever comes to mind, always looking to enhance life in all aspects.
BY YEAR 2011, the world’s first finest city-wide electric car system, invented and launched by Shai Agassi, a 39-year-old Israeli-American entrepreneur of Better Place Israel - the global provider of electric vehicle networks and services - will be up and running. (http://www.betterplace.com/). Israel electric car project aims to wipe out large percentage of oil usage. The electric car, built by Renault-Nissan, will be up and running in one of the most unlikely settings. The car requires a network of re-charging points and battery changing stations now being set up in Denmark, Hawaii, California, Canada and Australia.
The first place to host a national electric car network will be Israel. Within Israel, Jerusalem will be the first city. The car that looks like a regular Renault Megane (http://www.google.com/images?q=Renault+Megane&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&oe=&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=0re8TJmJJIq6sAOh7MHsDQ&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CCUQsAQwAA) has no exhaust pipe or a socket for petrol cap. It drives noticeably quieter than a regular car and is powered by a 450 lb lithium-ion battery that can power the car for about 140 miles run without re-charging, compared with 300 miles for the average family car on a full tank of petrol (gasoline).
Recharging the car battery will take several hours. Drivers will be able to plug in their cars to recharge at home, work or at designated free car parks throughout the country. Or, they will be able to swap an empty battery for fully-charged ones at a network of up to 200 “swap stations” throughout Israel. The electricity for the cars will come from solar technology being developed in the desert in southern Israel.
Regardless of its security predicament, the tiny state of Israel, the size of New Jersey or Wales, with a population of just under 7.5 million, also leads the world in developing and exporting other green technologies that could save the planet.
Ironically, it is precisely because of its precarious position that Eco-inventions have flourished in Israel. Surrounded by hostile neighbors, with near to none natural resources of its own and two-thirds of its area inhospitable desert, Israelis has had to use their wits to survive. And so they did and are doing.
When Warren Buffett, among the world’s wealthiest people, decided to make his first investment outside the United States, he chose ... Israel. When he invested $4 billion in Iscar, the Israeli precision tool maker Buffett explained: “Some Americans have come to the Middle East looking for oil so they didn’t stop in Israel. We came to the Middle East looking for brains and we stopped in Israel ... we found that the real trick in business is not to be a genius yourself but to go around associating with geniuses who are already doing a good job and stay out of their way."
The Israeli ingenuity in technology is mindboggling. Israel is a fountain of knowledge,” says Avishay Braverman, an Israeli economist and politician, a former president of the Ben Gurion University in the Negev and currently a member of the Knesset for the labor Party and the country's Minister of Minorities.
Israeli innovations range from Intel microprocessors to messaging systems that ensure the safety of nearly all the world’s financial transactions. Microsoft Intel, IBM and NDS, a firm that designs TV set-top boxes to unscramble cable and satellite signals, all have research and development centers in Israel drawing on the Israeli "genius" brainpower.
Israel attracts more foreign investment in high-tech businesses than all of Europe and it has more companies listed on NASDAQ stock exchange in New York than any other country outside the United States. In innovation it outshines many countries in the world, not to mention its neighbors. Between 1980 and 2000, Egypt registered 77 patents in the US, Saudi Arabia registered 171 and Israelis registered 7,652 patents.
There are numerous clean-technology start-up companies in Israel. “We are flexible and we are smart because we know that we have to be to survive,” says Shraga Brosh, chairman of the Israeli Manufacturers’ Association.
The primary motor of technical innovations is the Israeli military. It creams off whiz-kid teenagers, rams them through accelerated university training and gives them sophisticated military assignments that end up in outstanding discoveries. Shai Agassi of the electric car Better Place and the founders of computer security pioneers Check-Point, served in Unit 8200, a top-secret division of Israel's military intelligence, in which most of its soldiers are computer whiz-kid.
TALPIOT, is another Israeli military program veiled in secrecy. It whips its high-achieving teenagers through electronics, engineering or physics degrees before setting them up in state-of-the-art laboratories to build the next-generation defense solutions.
Among Israel’s many challenges are its geographic and political isolation. To add to this is its water supply whereby its water sources are partially controlled by its enemies, Syria and Lebanon. With sandy and infertile land, “Israel has become a world power in terms of green technology because of our long experience in dealing with scarcity,” says Jon Medved, head of the pioneering video ringtone company Vringo and an investor in Israeli clean technology companies. “We have created these technologies to solve problems that are acute here.” (http://www.vringo.com/corporate/company.html)
While Israeli innovations aim at alleviating Israel's problems, these innovations do not remain for Israel's use only. Example, Israel and experts, such as Dov Pasternak, lead the world in countering the creeping desertification that has made large swathes of Africa and Asia uninhabitable. Satellite photographs show that only two countries have increased the area of land covered by forest and agriculture – the United States and Israel. More than 40 years ago, with drip-irrigation system, Israeli farmers revolutionized the watering of agricultural crops, which has since been widely adopted worldwide. The water is carried directly to the roots of the plant through tiny holes in small gauge plastic pipes that can be easily redeployed according to need. Because the water is delivered direct to the roots of the crop there is less moisture on the leaves and the surrounding soil, thus suppressing mould and weeds and reducing the need for chemicals and pesticides. The system is set on a timer, reducing evaporation and eliminating water run-off, all ends up in a tremendous water savings.
Netafim, the company that markets the drip-irrigation technology, claims it is now used in more than 110 countries and has helped creating self-sustaining agricultural communities in drought-stricken areas, particularly in Africa.
Israel recycles 70 percent of its waste water which puts the country way ahead of any other country in the world in water recycling and its usage. The recycled water is used for agriculture, waste management and for fish farming in the desert.
Israel is a leader in water desalination as well. The Ashkelon seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant – the largest in the world – achieved two notable successes in 2006. By 2005 it produced 400 million m³ of desalinated water and according to the plan, production is intended to rise to 750 million m³ by 2020.
Israel is also a pioneer in geothermal and solar energy. Visitors arriving to Israel immediately notice the solar heating panels and water tanks on almost every building rooftop. Just about every home and business in Israel has solar-heated water.
The Israeli company Ormat is the world’s leading company in geothermal power – meaning harnessing Earth’s heat to generate electricity.
Now Israel is leading the way in a new technology that harnesses solar power to produce clean electricity. Last year, Solel, which produces such technology, was bought by the German industrial giant Siemens, for more than $400 million. (http://www.greenprophet.com/2009/10/siemens-solel-purchase/). Solel will also build the largest solar park in the world in California that will supply more than two million homes in California with electricity produced from the sun, not fossil fuels.
Solar technologies create a cleaner environment and break our dependence on oil. Solar technologies from Israel could indeed change our planet. (http://www.israel21c.org/environment/seven-solar-technologies-from-israel-that-could-change-our-planet)
Israeli ingenuity in electricity is not limited to the sun. Innowattech-Energy Harvesting System (http://www.innowattech.co.il/about.aspx) is developing a system to generate electricity from the pressure of traffic driving on the roads. Piezoelectric generators are installed inches beneath the upper layer of the highway asphalt and, through sensors, convert the mechanical energy of traffic passing over them into electrical energy.
INNOWATTECH estimates that its generators placed along a half a mile of four-lane motorway stretch will produce about 1MWh of electricity – enough to power 2,500 households. It is also testing prototypes for railways, pedestrian walkways and airport runways – all of which could generate completely clean electricity.
Before too long it will be possible to drive an electric car, powered by a battery that generates its electricity from the sun, or from generators producing energy from cars driving over sub-surface, and its engine is cooled by recycled water.
Israeli technologies are constantly changing the world while the Jewish Nation is being the light unto the nations.

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