Energiya Global, with the help of Sarah Silverman, are trying to transform the garbage dump in Galapagos into a small solar oasis.
By SHARON UDASIN
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 Global.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 financing.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.AdvertisementA 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.”Referencing 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.Silverman 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.In 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 electricity blackouts.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 promised.“We’ll get it, we have to get it,” he said.