BIRD investment boost lends wings to alternative energy programs
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BIRD investment boost lends wings to alternative energy programs

$5 million injection to solidify Israeli-American tech cooperation and help kick the oil habit

The solar field atop the Knesset is part of the Green Knesset Project (photo credit: Courtesy)
The solar field atop the Knesset is part of the Green Knesset Project (photo credit: Courtesy)

Despite rock-bottom oil and gas prices, alternative energy is still on the agenda of governments around the world, including in the US and Israel. On Tuesday, the two countries announced that they were jointly investing over $5 million in six projects with promise for a fossil fuel-free future.

The companies, said US Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, produce technology that “are essential to shaping our clean energy future. This partnership with Israel makes possible collaborative investments that move us closer to rigorous technology breakthroughs.”

The investments were announced as part of the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Energy program. The BIRD program matches Israeli hi-tech companies with US partners, who help produce and market a product or service, using the Israeli companies’ technology.

Once the right partner is found, BIRD will also lend the companies money to fund projects – thereby boosting not only specific projects and technologies, but helping to further cement the relationship between the United States and Israel. It will also make a significant contribution to the lives of people affected by the technology in both countries and beyond, “reflected in myriads of projects in sectors such as improved networking systems, life sciences, food technology and, of course, the relatively new areas of cleantech and renewable energy,” according to BIRD director Eitan Yudelovich.

Established in 1977 with an endowment replenished in 1984, the organization has lent out about $260 million, covering eight projects that have generated between $4 billion and $8 billion in sales, said Yudelovich. Six years ago, BIRD established its energy division, which so far has approved 29 projects with a total investment of about $23 million (including the projects in this cycle), in projects designed to encourage research in alternative energy, in the hope that significant breakthroughs that will allow countries to at least partially “kick” the oil habit.

Six years ago, BIRD established its energy division, which so far has approved 29 projects with a total investment of about $23 million (including the projects in this cycle), in projects designed to encourage research in alternative energy, in the hope that significant breakthroughs that will allow countries to at least partially “kick” the oil habit.

Six programs were approved in this round of funding:

  • 3GSOLAR (Jerusalem) and Arkema (King of Prussia, PA), $900,000, to develop thin and flexible printed solar photovoltaics (PV) for wireless electronics
  • Ayyeka Technologies, Ltd. (Jerusalem) and UIS Holdings, Inc. (Dexter, MI), $1,000,0000, to develop smart grid solutions for industrial and commercial buildings to improve energy performance through remote metering and efficiency analytics
  • Haogenplast Ltd. (Kibbutz Haogen) and Global Solar Energy, Inc. (Tucson, AZ), $900,000, to develop floating PV technology systems to reduce the cost of solar energy production over water reservoirs. Floating PV systems may be attractive options in areas with a shortage of available land for development and can reduce the amount of evaporation from open reservoirs
  • Pentalum Technologies (Rehovot) and Texas Tech University (Lubbock, Texas),$900,000, to collaborate on the development of a light detection and ranging, or LiDAR that would use a system of lasers and software tools and controls to increase power output from wind farms
  • Solaris Synergy (Jerusalem) and Pristine Sun LLC (San Francisco, CA), $900,000, to collaborate on a utility scale, low-cost floating photovoltaic solar energy system for deployment on water
  • Yissum – The Hebrew University’s tech transfer progrm and Applied Biomathematics, Inc. (Setauket, NY), $500,000, to collaborate to develop software to better assess the impact of wind turbines on avian species, which could assist the permitting process to build wind farms and better protect birds and bats near these facilities

The BIRD Foundation supports projects without receiving any equity or IP rights in the participating companies or in the project itself. The funding is repaid as royalties from sales. The Foundation provides support of up to 50% of a project’s budget, beginning with R&D and ending with the initial stages of sales and marketing. The Foundation shares the risk and does not require repayment if the project fails to reach the sales stage.

Commenting on the choice of funding, Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources, said: “The BIRD Energy program is undoubtedly a success story of cooperation based on the strategic vision of the two economies, while also promoting partnerships among the most innovative capabilities, generating significant value and benefit to both countries. This success is a result of a true commitment by both governments which will work to expand the scope of the program to include additional areas of interest, such as natural gas technologies and cyber security of energy infrastructure. We wish the new partnerships and the ongoing projects success in achieving their objectives.”

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