Solar start-up seeks to energize Gaza border economy

Utilight is bringing game-changing laser printing technology to Israel’s periphery.

A worker checks solar panels at a solar power field in Kawasaki, near Tokyo July 6, 2011 (photo credit: TORU HANAI / REUTERS)
A worker checks solar panels at a solar power field in Kawasaki, near Tokyo July 6, 2011
(photo credit: TORU HANAI / REUTERS)
While hi-tech firms the world over look toward China as the ideal destination for locating their manufacturing facilities, one Israeli company is bucking the trend in spectacular fashion.
Looking much closer to home, Yavne-based solar-cell printing technology start-up Utilight is planning to construct two manufacturing plants in Gaza border communities, with the intention of boosting the struggling economy of a region hit hard by recent escalations of violence.
Led by CEO and chairman Dr. Giora Dishon since its establishment in 2009, Utilight has developed game-changing laser printing technology to manufacture superior, cheaper and lighter solar cells, which improved energy harvesting.
“We didn’t start a company just to make money on a new invention, but also to grow Israeli industry and GDP,” Dishon told The Jerusalem Post.
After being awarded “approved enterprise status” by the government, enabling the receipt of substantial grants for the development of technology in Israel’s periphery, Utilight will construct plants to manufacture its core U-Tape technology in Kibbutz Magen and Kibbutz Kissufim.
“I lived in the area for 10 years, between 1964 and 1973 – just one week before the Yom Kippur War – and opened a plastic factory there,” said Dishon.
“The stronger the industry in the area, the lower the threat that violence poses to the local economy. The area will be better developed, with more people and better infrastructure,” he said.
To promote their game-changing technology, the company created a new business model by developing its own brand of solar panels, called SilverLight – manufacturing cells with less silver that harvest more light.
Today, their patented SilverLight printing technology – including the U-Tape technology that will soon be manufactured in Magen and Kissufim – has already been installed by three major Chinese solar cell producers, among the world leaders in photovoltaic manufacturing. Utilight then markets its solar panels to the end user, similar to the “Intel Inside” branding campaign.
“For example, we go to a big developer in Israel and tell them to request SilverLight from one of the Chinese producers that has installed our technology,” said Dishon.
Utilight has already sold one megawatt of modules to the Israeli market since adopting the new marketing model, including to the Bedouin population, which is often off the grid.
“Today, we have created a pipeline of probably more than 20 megawatts of requests for SilverLight modules in Israel, and we have identified a discussion of more than 200 megawatts. We are doing the same thing in Australia, where they are much more active in the solar space today.”
The solar energy market is expected to expand rapidly in the coming years from a 100-gigawatts peak (GWp) and approximately 22 billion solar cells produced in 2017, to over 200 GWp and 45 billion cells produced by 2023.
Utilight and its future Gaza border manufacturing plants will be well placed to take advantage of the solar surge.