In an effort to transform a garbage dump in the Galapagos Islands into a small
solar oasis, the Jerusalem-based Energiya Global firm is aiming to raise
$250,000 in public grants – and is doing so with the support of none other than
comedienne Sarah Silverman.
The Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World
Heritage Site home to a plethora of unique flora and fauna, still runs almost
entirely on polluting diesel fuel for electricity.
Energiya Global has
therefore decided that a former landfill on San Cristobal Island, located 900
kilometers west of the Ecuadorian mainland, should become home to a modest-sized
300-kilowatt, 1,200-panel solar field.
“I’m used to building large solar
fields with equally large traditional investors, but this field is too small for
them,” said Yosef Abramowitz, president and co-founder of Energiya
As president and co-founder of Arava Power Company, Abramowitz
oversaw the launch of Israel’s first medium- sized solar field at Kibbutz Ketura
in June 2011. This October, he and his partners announced the formation of
international solar development firm Energiya Global, which has some 59
megawatts of solar power project deals underway across the world, as well as
another 250 megawatts under intermediate development, according to Abramowitz.
While Energiya has much larger projects in the pipeline with traditional
investment schemes, including an 8-megawatt field in Rwanda and others in
Romania, the San Cristobal field is just too small for this type of
Because the project is considered so small, banks do not want
to bother with the paperwork and investors would not see a return in about 15
years, Abramowitz told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“So I have to
finance the Galapagos in sort of an untraditional way,” he said.
two-minute YouTube appeal on the Indiegogo financing website for the Galapagos
project begins featuring Abramowitz – aka Captain Sunshine – in a bright orange
shirt, white cape and mask, declaring: “Captain Sunshine here! And I need your
help to build a solar field in the Galapagos Islands.”
Charles Darwin, tortoises and iguanas as icons of the Galapagos, the captain
then warns that the “precious habitats” are in continual danger from the diesel
fuel stations that power the islands. “Imagine what would happen if some of that
oil were to spill in those pristine waters,” Captain Sunshine says, showing
images of this very situation, which occurred in 2001.
The new solar
field, while modest in size, is capable of replacing 147,000 liters of oil each
year, according to the video.
Due to the fact that traditional financing
for such a small field was not an option, Abramowitz and his team decided to
launch a crowd-funding campaign through Indiegogo, integrated as part of the ROI
Community. As of Thursday evening, just a couple of days into the campaign and
with 38 days left, the project had received $3,091.
While prizes for
specific donation amounts range from a “high-five from Captain Sunshine” ($18)
to “naming rights for the field” ($54,000), some gifts also come from San
Cristobal solar field supporter – and sister- in-law of Abramowitz – Silverman.
“Sometimes it’s the [videos with] the crappy sound, desklamp lighting and paper
cape that make the most sense,” Silverman tweeted in support.
previously showed public support for solar ventures, when she proposed solar
energy as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to President Shimon
Peres at the 2011 Presidential Conference.
For this campaign, Silverman
is offering signed photographs to the first 50 people to donate $75, and her
ultimate prize is a Skype meeting with the first $5,000 donor.
addition to the now ongoing Galapagos campaign, Abramowitz said that Energiya is
well on its way into the first stage of its Rwanda project, where the
Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village will eventually see an 8- megawatt solar field. On
February 6, Abramowitz will be traveling there with his daughter to inaugurate a
1- kilowatt test system in the village, which is subject to persistent
As far as the Galapagos project goes, however,
Abramowitz said he is confident he will raise the $250,000 on Indiegogo and the
rest of the $1.2 million total from various investors.
In the event that
this untraditional solar field does make any profits, they will all go to the
Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos, Abramowitz
“We’ll get it, we have to get it,” he said.