Israel becoming a leader in solar energy use and technologies
Energy based off of non-renewable resources is a huge problem. Not only does it pollute the air with carbon dioxide and other emissions, it is also not a renewable resource. Luckily we can use energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy. Not so luckily it's fairly expensive to do so...or at least it was until Utilight, a six-year old Israel start-up, came around.
Utilight has tackled the problem of the cost of making solar cells by creating a new way to make photovoltaic solar cells that are made from expensive silicon wafers and solar paste. Utilight claims they can save companies up to 70% in solar paste (about $0.5 million in silver paste). Their method only requires the addition of one module in the production line at minimal cost. This is done with their PTP (Pattern Transfer Printer). The printer increases the amount of silver lines on a silicon wafer, but reduces their size, thereby using less silver paste. The printer can print 160 finger lines on a 6X6 wafer in 0.8 seconds. A full return on investment can be achieved within 6 months. This means that Utilight solar cells are not only cheaper, they're also more efficient.
Utilight is now testing their product with leading solar cell manufacturers in China and Taiwan. There are other companies out there that are working on the cost and efficiency of solar cells, but Utilight is unique in that it can be used in existing production lines. After the testing in China and Taiwan is completed, the product will be ready to market worldwide.
Ecoppia is another Israeli start-up aiming to improve the solar energy field is. Ecoppia uses waterless, autonomous robots to clean solar panels, thereby allowing them to function at peak production. The robots are managed through the cloud and clean the panels every night after production stops.
Even with the advances in sustainable energy that Israel has achieved, including working on international solar energy projects, the nation is surprisingly behind when it comes to sustainable energy production. Israel only produces 2% of its energy from renewable sources and has only committed to producing 17% of their energy from renewable resources by 2030. In comparison the United States is aiming for a goal of 28% of their energy coming from renewable resources by 2030. One region of Israel though, the Arava region, is making leaps and bounds when it comes to renewable energy. A full 60% of the energy for the region from Eilat to the Dead Sea comes from solar energy. By 2020 100% of daytime energy will be produced from solar energy. By 2025, 100% of all energy will come from solar energy.
Earlier this year, Arava Power installed a 40 megawatt solar field at Kibbutz Ketura. This field supplies a third of Eilat's daytime energy. A 60 megawatt field by Timna will provide the region with full energy independence in the next five years. Yosef Abramowitz, the president of solar company Energiya Global and one of three founders of Gigawatt Global, helped build a solar field in Rwanda which produces enough energy to power 15000 homes. Abramowitz believes that this solar field is a prime example of the fact that fossil fuels are not the only paths to prosperity. The field took only a year to build which shows how solar energy is available much quicker than oil or coal.
Abramowitz told the Times of Israel that “There’s been an 80% drop in the price of solar energy in the last five years, It’s a complete miracle. The technological solutions have been there. Once it becomes so economically viable and cheaper, it can be much faster to implement, particularly in the developing world.” Abramowitz also pointed out how switching to renewable energy weakens terrorist groups by taking away their oil revenues.
In a new age, when non-sustainable energy production must stop, solar energy may be one of our best hopes to make the switch to sustainable energy. Israel is certainly a leader in the development of solar energy, albeit not a leader in its use. Start-ups, such as Utilight and Ecoppia, and energy providers, such as Arava Power, are examples of how solar energy is both feasible and enticing. After the Paris conference on climate change, other countries will likely turn to Israel for the technology necessary to reduce emissions and Israel should make it a mission to not only provide solar energy to others, but also use it themselves.
About the author: Tzvi Joffre is a freelance blogger who covers all sorts of technology and current events. To see some of his other work and to contact him, visit tzvijoffre.wordpress.com.