Israel’s booming cleantech industry ‘started with the kibbutz’

By nocamels October 21, 2010 Comments

Israel has had a large impact on clean technology, according to Stephen Marcus of ‘Cleantech’, an international research and events company focused on clean technology.

Marcus wrote:

“The foundation of Israel’s cleantech industry was laid with the beginning of the kibbutz (collective communities) movement at the start of the 20th century, even before the modern state of Israel was founded.

“The foundation of Israel’s cleantech industry was laid with the beginning of the kibbutz (collective communities) movement at the start of the 20th century, even before the modern state of Israel was founded.

At that time, the land was mostly semi-arid, with a scarcity of water and pockmarked by mosquito infested swamps. So principles of sustainability and self-sufficiency were adopted from the outset so as to “make the desert bloom”.

It was a matter of survival, rather than a luxury, for Israel, and was also recognized in 1955 by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion when he said Israel required “the study of desalination, massive utilization of solar energy, preventing waste of useful rainwater and maximization of power from wind turbines.”

Now, 100 years later, the impact of kibbutz cleantech innovations and concepts can still be felt around the globe in a number of cleantech sectors:

Arad was founded in 1941, and has been trading on the Tel Aviv stock exchange since 2004. It specializes in the design, development and manufacture of precision water meters and is controlled by Kibbutz Dalia and Kibbutz Ramot Menashe. On 15th January, it was awarded a major contract to provide 150,000 water meters in Mumbai, India jointly with Luxembourg-based meter maker Actaris. This is to be part of a $128 million project to install 1.2 million water meters in Mumbai and Arad and Actaris are expected to win the remainder of the tender. (See Arad, Actaris win major water metering deal in India).

Netafim, now the world’s largest smart irrigation company, is jointly owned by 3 kibbutzim: Hatzerim, Magal and Yiftah, and the Markston-Tenne Fund. The company was founded in 1965 and introduced a new concept of low-volume irrigation. It’s credited with starting the drip irrigation revolution. It now employs over 2,000 people and had annual sales in 2006 totaled $397 million (see
Netafim signs $22M supply deal for irrigation in Peru).

Amiad Filtration Systems—owned by Kibbutz Amiad—is a producer and global supplier of automated water filters and filtration systems for industrial, municipal and irrigation markets. On 20th January 2010, it entered into a conditional agreement for the acquisition of Arkal Filtration Systems, which is partly owned by Kibbutz Beit Zera, for $10 million cash plus shares.

Sunday Energy, a PV solar integrator from Israel, is about to install a 5 MW PV facility on a water reservoir in Kibbutz Zeelim. Sunday is planning to float the PV array on the water. The water is expected to cool the panels and boost power generation. The array is also expected to reduce evaporation, which causes the loss of one cm of water per day in the scorching hot summer months (see Israel’s Sunday Energy, Ormat team on $195M solar agreement).

Arava Power is a PV systems supplier. Kibbutz Ketura owned 40 percent of the company until August 2009, when Siemens acquired its stake for $15 million. The acquisition valued the company at $37.5 million. Arava Power has reached agreements with a number of kibbutzim in the Negev and Arava to utilize their lands for solar fields (see Siemens backs Arava Power for biggest solar PV project in Israel).

Chromagen was founded in 1962 and supplies a range of solar systems to more than 35 countries worldwide. It has a thermo-tank factory in Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim and employs a staff of 200. In addition, a new facility for solar collector production was recently inaugurated in Northern Israel. In July 2007, the Tene investment fund—which specializes in investing in the Kibbutz sector—purchased 26 percent of Chromagen’s shares for $5 million, representing a $19.2 million company valuation.

Car sharing schemes, such as those now offered by Zipcar, CarShare and others, is a concept that’s been used on Kibbutzim for decades. On kibbutzim, cars aren’t privately owned, but reserved and rented out by members whenever they want.

A new Israeli company called Car2go is now applying this concept to urban areas in Israel. Car2go members can pick up an electronic card, which grants access to the company’s fleet. Before using a car, one reserves it online or over the phone and then picks it up at a designated spot. It’s then returned to another designated spot convenient to the driver.”

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Photo by Abi Skipp

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