Given its sunny climate (yearly average of about 5.5 KwH/m2/day insolation), lack of local oil and scarce water, political factors (unwillingness and/or inability to procure Arab oil as an energy source, unwillingness to use nuclear energy), and educated population (1.35% PhD/scientists), Israel seems to be fertile ground for cleantech developments.

Some early success was recorded by Luz, who developed a solar thermal system in the Negev that led to six 30 MW power plants, installed in California.

Unfortunately Luz went bankrupt after the relaxation of the OPEC embargo of the 70’s, but now have resurfaced as ‘Luz II’, a subsidiary of BrightSource energy. They dedicated their Solar Energy Development Center (SEDC) in the Negev’s Rotem Industrial Park in 2008, a 5MW facility dedicated to R&D for a ‘power tower’.

Another early success is the ubiquitous use of solar water heating units. Typical domestic units consist of a 150 liter insulated storage tank and a 2 sq.m. flat panel collector, which heats the water and passes it to the tank in a pumpless, gravity-driven loop to reach about 30°C above ambient.

For domestic use in Israel, every home-owner has to install a double-flush toilet (with a reduced-water option).

In Israel we re-use 75% of our wastewater, the largest percentage in the world, for irrigation – and this reuse meets about 50% of the irrigation needs. Drip irrigation such as that pioneered by Netafim has been adopted worldwide, with large projects in arid areas such as Africa.

After the aforementioned relaxation of the 70’s OPEC stranglehold, Israel didn’t capitalize on the long-term opportunity in energy, and has thus ‘woken up’ at about the same time as the rest of the world with respect to finding alternative sources.

This ‘wakeup’ includes a recent subsidy for producers of wind and photovoltaic power, at a rate of 2NIS/KWh. (~0.4Euro/KWh) for photovoltaic and 1.6NIS/KWh (0.34 Euro/KWh) for wind. The 30MW subsidy for solar was soon filled, and wind will probably not be far behind.

Photovoltaic research has some government support; high-efficiency, single crystal cells at the Jerusalem College of Technology, amorphous silicon thin layers at Tel Aviv University, new materials at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (C60), at the Technion (CdTe) and at the Weizmann Institute (WSe2).

‘Project Better Place’ has gotten the endorsement of the Israeli government, to develop an infrastructure in Israel for the electric car. They intend to lease the lithium-ion batteries, which will be able to go 124 miles per charge and will provide the infrastructure necessary to keep the cars going, including parking meter-like plugs on city streets that will recharge the batteries and battery swap stations. Renault and Nissan will provide the electric cars.

Necessity being the mother of invention, ROWS (reverse osmosis of seawater) is under active research (government sponsored Israel NewTech; Kinrot, WhiteWater). Other areas with active Israeli startups are wastewater treatment (BioPetroClean, Aqwise, Atlantium), water efficiency (Miya), wind power, (Variable Wind Solutions, Coriolis, IQ Wind, TechnoSpin), fuel cells (CellEra, Emefcy, Enstorage), intelligent load control (Greenlet Technologies), photovoltaics (GreenSun Energy, SolarEdge), solar cooling (Linum), energy usage analysis (Panoramic Power), hybrid water heating (Phoebus Energy), water monitoring (Takadu), biofuel (Transalgae), solar thermal (Luz II, Rotem, Zenith Solar, AORA, Solel), geothermal (Ormat), efficiency (Metrolight), medical apps (Bio Pure Technology), and fleet management (GreenRoad). VCs include Israel Cleantech Ventures.