EERC director initiates long-term relationship with Israel

Gerald Groenewold, director of the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), has announced a personal commitment to developing a long-term working partnership between the EERC and the nation of Israel to address critical energy security issues facing both Israel and the United States.

Groenewold was invited to participate in an energy delegation to Israel, which included Carl Bauer, director of the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL); Robert Dixon, senior coordinator for Energy Security and Climate Change, executive office of the president; Raymond Hobbs, manager, Future Fuels Program, Arizona Public Service; Tim McNulty, associate vice president for government affairs, and Andrew Gellman, head of chemical engineering, Carnegie Mellon University; and Scott Smouse, international group leader, NETL. David Haberman, president of IF, LCC, a world-renowned expert in hydrogen and fuel cells, coordinated the visit.

Isaac Berzin, the world authority on algae-based technology production of biofuels and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2007, served as the delegation’s host throughout the weeklong visit. Eitan Yudilevich, executive director of the Israel–U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, co-hosted the visit as well.

“We are the first group to go to Israel to discuss a potential relationship related to the recently passed United States-Israel Energy Cooperation Act and to initiate a partnership that could address opportunities and technologies of mutual interest to both nations,” said Groenewold.

Israel is the most developed country in the eastern Mediterranean region and has a highly technological economy. Despite those positive attributes, Israel has limited commercial energy resources and faces many of the same energy and environmental issues as the United States. The Israel Electricity Corporation (IEC) generates nearly all of the country’s power with about 17 power plants. While the country has small amounts of coal, oil shale, and natural gas, most of its energy resources are imported.

“IEC’s 2000-megawatt Ashkelon Power Plant, which we visited, ships in coal from 20 different locations worldwide to ensure security of its supply and to keep the power on for the population of Israel. This poses significant technological challenges,” Groenewold said. “The Ashkelon Plant is also one of several Israeli facilities that uses waste heat and CO2 from the plant to grow algae. The EERC is particularly interested in algae as a feedstock for production of alternative fuels and anticipates joint projects with the Israelis.”

While in Jerusalem, NETL Director Carl Bauer signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NETL and the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, a leading, private university in Israel, for cooperation on various energy topics. The MOU enables cooperation in carbon management technologies, water resource stewardship in power production, alternative fuels development, development of hydrogen and fuel cells, power grid efficiency and reliability, hybrid energy systems, and advanced materials for energy systems, all of which the EERC has expertise in.

“We are a strategic partner with NETL, which means the EERC is tied into the MOU automatically and will be involved in the development and demonstration of many of the technologies,” said Groenewold.

But for Groenewold, the commitment to a relationship with Israel goes far beyond technology. “For me, this is about the marvelous attitude of the Israeli people—their deep commitment to their country and each other. The Israelis understand the price of freedom. They have a true understanding of the EERC and relate to the EERC’s culture of freedom in a way no one else has.”

While in Israel, the delegation visited several energy-related research establishments, such as the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Ministry of National Infrastructures, the Volcani Agricultural Research Organization, the IDC, and the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.