Nuclear research center to expand to renewable energy

Head of Rotem Innovation Center: We’re located in the south, we have sun, land, technological infrastructure needed to explore R&D.”

August 23, 2011 03:49
2 minute read.
The Jerusalem Post

Solar Panels 311. (photo credit: bloomberg)


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The state-owned company that has been a hub of nuclear research for two decades is looking to further pioneer its research and development in the green energy sector as well, viewing the government’s recent adaptation of renewable energy amendments as particularly promising for the field.

Rotem Innovation Center for Renewable Energy Technologies of the larger Rotem Industries, a government-owned company associated with the Nuclear Research Center in the south, was established five years ago and has since been involved in 15 research and development projects, one of the three key focuses of the center, representatives told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

The other two main elements of interest are hosting renewable energy testing and demonstration facilities – the site is currently hosting about six of those – and garnering support for the creation of 10,000 dunams worth of solar power plants and farms in the local Dimona Municipality, the company said.

“The main motivation for establishing it was the fact that we’re located in the south, we have sun, land and technological infrastructure needed to explore R&D,” Meni Maor, head of Rotem’s Innovation Center for Renewable Energy, told the Post.

The center is currently involved in projects including the creation of new solar thermal technology at Helioris, multi-company development of an Air Solar Receiver also for solar thermal energy, a demonstration facility for Bright- Source and development of algal biofuels with UniVerve BioFuel.

“We are planning on expanding the testing facility in the coming months or year or two to host a variety of other technologies,” Maor said.

Most recently, Rotem’s renewable energy center partnered six months ago with French energy company Alstom and Israeli Gefen Investments to form an incubator investment company Horizon Ventures, which will act as an incubator in seeing early stage technology, according to Rotem representatives. While no project is yet receiving funds from Horizon, the representatives said that there are four or five “very interesting candidates” currently under consideration.

“We are looking for promising technologies in the field of green energy,” Maor said. “We are looking for technologies that have good potential for commercialization in the global industry. We are looking for experienced and motivated entrepreneurs.

“Our advantage is that we have both Rotem and Alstom with a lot of technological experience, who can evaluate the technologies and can support the technological development process in the first two years” After two years of initial seed funding, Maor explained, Horizon will decide whether to continue investing money in the individual projects.

As part of the mid-July cabinet vote to approve increased quotas on renewable energy available for production in commercial venues, ministers also allocated an additional 50 megawatts and NIS 10 million for green energy research under the auspices of the National Infrastructures Ministry’s chief scientist, portions of which Rotem’s renewable center hopes it will benefit from.

“The recent evolution is very encouraging,” Maor said. “We are looking forward to seeing decisions being implemented.

But the center itself and most activities we do here are not solely dependent on whether this will happen.”

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