By SHARON UDASIN \11/13/2016
In hopes of bolstering the global clean energy sector, the energy arm of the US-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation will grant $4 million to five new American-Israeli partnerships in the field.
BIRD Energy is awarding these latest grants as part of the eighth round of funding provided to American and Israeli research collaborations since the program’s inception in 2009.
This year, the five projects focus on solar energy, biomass, fuel cells and energy efficiency. In addition to receiving $4m. in direct funding, the newly-approved BIRD Energy projects will be able to leverage private sector cost sharing for a total project value of $8.6m., according to the program.
“The climate change and clean energy challenges cross borders, and that’s where collaborative projects emerge and succeed,” said National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Administered by the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry and the US Department of Energy, BIRD Energy was created as a result of the US-Israel Cooperation in Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, followed by the Israeli government approval of the program in 2008.
BIRD Energy has funded 32 projects thus far, investing about $26m. total.
“The collaboration through BIRD Energy leverages the work of top energy scientists in the US and Israel which will help both nations continue to work together to foster research and development efforts, build on the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement and to drive down the costs of clean energy technologies,” said US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
Moniz was referring to a universal climate accord adopted at last December’s UN Conference on Climate Change (COP-21) in Paris, which came into force on November 4. Signatories to the agreement determined that the global temperature rise must be kept “well below 2°C,” by means of varying national targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Avi Hasson, chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, stressed the importance of the BIRD Energy grant program in promoting bilateral cooperation between the US and Israel, as well as furthering the goals of the Paris Agreement.
“The cooperation in clean energy is particularly important, helping to combat global climate change and integrating into the countries’ efforts to implement the Paris Agreements, in addition to its contribution to economic growth in both countries,” Hasson said.
Among the five projects receiving funding is a partnership between Jerusalem-based BrightSource Industries Ltd. and Las Vegas, Nevada-based Dynamis Solutions, LLC. These two companies will be developing an automated heliostat cleaning system for concentrated solar plants, with a goal of increasing electricity production and reducing operational costs, according to the program information.
Another solar venture is between Solview Systems Ltd. of Ramat Gan and Yarotek PR, LLC from Aventura, Florida. These two firms will be working on rooftop solar analytics for both the commercial and industrial markets, to facilitate the adoption of solar energy.
In the energy storage sector, researchers at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Pajarito Powder, LLC will be developing lower-cost catalysts for both energy storage and generation devices, to be used for leveling intermittent renewable sources or for back-up applications, the program said.
With an aim of achieving significant energy savings, Tel Aviv-based Waves Audio Ltd. and researchers at Blacksburg, Virginia-based Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University will be working on an electrostatic speaker using a nanoscale graphene membrane.
Lastly, CellDezyner Ltd. of Rehovot and POET Research, Inc. of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will be creating an innovative process for cheaper ethanol production from second-generation lignocellulosic feedstocks. This project, the program information said, could help furnish more options toward reducing oil dependence.
To qualify for funding, all BIRD Energy ventures must involve one US and one Israeli company, or a company in at least one of the countries and a university or research institute in the other, the program said. The projects must contribute at least 50% to project costs and commit to repaying up to 150% of the grant if the venture achieves commercial success.
“Celebrating its eighth anniversary, BIRD Energy has demonstrated how the US and Israel can effectively cooperate to develop innovative clean energy technologies,” said Eitan Yudilevich, executive director of BIRD Foundation. “We are pleased that both the US and Israel are committed to continuing this program on a long-term basis.”
BIRD Energy is part of the larger BIRD Foundation, established in 1977 by the US and Israeli governments. To date, BIRD has provided grants for about 900 industrial research and development projects, and generates its funding income from repayments by successful projects, as well as interest earned on endowment grants.
BIRD has yielded about $10 billion in direct and indirect revenues by foundation-sponsored activities.