A new technology hub focusing on the development of off-grid technologies will soon be opening its doors under the desert sun of the Eilat-Eilot region. The hub will be launched during the Eilat-Eilot Green Energy Conference in December, which will take place as part of Israel Energy Week. The launch was reported in the Jerusalem Post:
Aiming to develop products that can provide energy and water to populations not connected to their national grids, the Eilat Eilot Off Grid Hub will provide a testbed for both start-ups and established companies in a variety of sectors, according to its leaders. The hub will be administered by the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative, a body responsible for leveraging the southern Arava and Eilat regions by establishing research facilities, producing clean energy and creating jobs in the sector.
Companies operating out of the hub will be able to use field testing facilities and a demonstration ecosystem to install, validate and showcase their off-grid solutions for energy storage, horticulture, biogas generation, water and other needs, the organization. The Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative will be officially launching the hub at the Eilat-Eilot Green Energy Conference in early December.
“The demand for off-grid solutions is growing, especially in developing and emerging countries where electricity grids, water systems, sanitization facilities and other traditional infrastructure do not exist,” said Tomer Weinstein, director of the Eilat Eilot Off Grid Hub.
The hub will be located on Kibbutz Ketura, and will be jointly managed by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies also located on the kibbutz campus.
The technologies which will be developed at the off-grid technology hub also have tremendous potential for providing energy solution for third world nations, as reported in The Times of Israel:
Products to be developed at the newly created Eilat-Eilot (EE) Off Grid Hub will bring electricity, cooking fuel, and other benefits to the bottom fifth of the world’s population, who have for decades been waiting for a better life.
The technologies developed at the Off Grid Hub, said director Tomer Weinstein, will deliver that power in a much more efficiently — and cheaply — than the governments in those countries would be able to, even if they had the resources to do so, “which they largely don’t,” Weinstein told The Times of Israel.
“The people in these rural African villages have no access to the power grid, and it’s unlikely they will get that access anytime soon,” said Weinstein. “Right now, if they want cooking gas, villagers have to get on a bus and travel hours to a big city, where they buy expensive kerosene, and transport it back home, where they can use it in their stove — assuming it hasn’t spilled or been stolen on the way.” With the biogas solution, even old food or agricultural products unfit for human or animal consumption can be converted into much-needed energy that can take care of a villager’s heating and cooking needs, Weinstein said.
Israel has been active in promoting technology use in Africa, sponsoring missions, hackathons, and educational programs in Kenya, Uganda, and other developing countries, aimed at helping improve the day-to-day lives of the many millions bypassed by 20th century technology. Many of the solutions being implemented make use of 21st century technology. Few Africans, for example, are familiar with desktop computers, but more than ever, they’re using smartphones to access the Internet and communicate using voice and video.
Most of the solutions that have been implemented — such as the widespread installation of Israeli-developed drip irrigation in rural Africa — are derivations of technologies that are already on the market, adapted for the developing world. EE Off Grid Hub’s innovation will be to provide a workspace dedicated to creating new products and technologies for developing communities, to solve energy, water and agriculture needs in places that are not connected to national water and energy grids. The Hub will be the first lab in the world dedicated to building those specific solutions in a targeted and organized manner.
Off-grid solutions can also play an important role in areas where there is already a grid — in main cities, specifically in the burgeoning shantytowns that dot the edges of many large urban centers in the developing world. “Millions migrate each year to these cities seeking economic opportunity, but all they find is more misery — with the only place available for them a shack made out of old cardboard or wood,” said Weinstein. Needless to say, there is no electricity, gas, or plumbing in these places. “Solar energy and biogas projects can supply fuel and electricity to people in these areas, providing the power needed to filter water,” he said, noting that when residents in these shantytowns work together, they can defend their installations from thieves and marauders — and new technologies developed at the Hub will make the systems more defendable and more accessible.
“Right now we’re being funded by donations, but we have plans to leverage what we develop here to generate income that will fund new technology” via licensing and lab fees, Weinstein said. “By facilitating the development of off grid technologies, we can improve the daily lives of millions of people living in rural as well as urban and peri-urban areas in developing and emerging countries.