Israel-US to launch alternative energy projects at Eilat-Eilot conference

Act calls for $20 million annually to finance joint ventures; funding awaits President-elect Barack Obama.

Wind Energy 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Wind Energy 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The governments of Israel and the United States will announce four joint projects in the field of alternative energy at the Eilat-Eilot international renewable energy conference in February. The projects will be financed under the auspices of the US-Israel Energy Cooperation Act. While the act calls for $20 million annually to finance joint ventures, funding is still in the allocation phase and essentially awaits President-elect Barack Obama, who assumes office next month, Shlomo Wald, chief scientist of the National Infrastructures Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post last week. The House of Representatives passed the legislation in July, 2006; the Senate passed it last December. In the meantime, the US Department of Energy has found $1.2m. and the government of Israel NIS 4.5m. to fund the first four projects. Two will consist of academic research, while the others will involve industry, Wald said. Although he expressed hope that these and other ventures would be given the full $20m annual allocation, Wald's expectation was for somewhat less. He said, however, that even several million dollars "would boost us to a different level." "We'd be able to fund many more projects, bigger projects, in different fields," he told the Post. In addition to seeing the launch of the first four joint projects, the conference will feature the initial presentation of plans for a 200 megawatt renewable energy center in nearby Timna. The center would serve as an incubator for alternative energy systems, both domestic and foreign. Right now there are plans for a combined wind/solar farm, a solar thermal power plant, a solarized turbine pilot plant, and the production of bio-gas from municipal waste. Conference organizers expect over 1,000 people, including representatives of renewable energy firms from all over the world, and internationally-renowned speakers. The gathering has received the enthusiastic endorsement of the infrastructures ministry. "The Ministry of National Infrastructures views with high import the development of the Eilat-Eilot Region as a center of renewable energy solutions, and we not only fully support them in this pursuit, but we ourselves are very involved in advancing their initiatives," said Hezi Kugler, the ministry's director general said in a statement. "The conference is an important step towards developing the alternative energy capabilities of this region," the statement continued, "and will certainly push us forward in becoming an alternative energy world leader." Kugler will be leading a delegation of ministry representatives at the conference. Among the international and Israeli solar power companies expected to attend are the Arava Power Company, Sunday Solar Energy, Solar Power Israel, eSolar, Concentrix and SunPower.