Sections

About Us

 
Make a Donation
Fully-Local • Non-Partisan • Public-Service Journalism
 

Texans, Israelis celebrate similarities at Cleanovation Conference

Thursday, February 25, 2010 by Jacob Cottingham

A large contingent of Israeli clean technology business representatives  converged on Austin Monday for a chance to pitch local venture capitalists and entrepreneurs on potential investments or partnerships.  The Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Austin Chamber of Commerce and Israel’s Ministry of Industry and Labor hosted Cleanovation 2010, and law firm Greenberg -Traurig, Waste Management, and Israeli water desalination company IDE and were prominent sponsors.

 

The day-long conference featured plenty of PowerPoint, three discussion panels and a few politicians. Council Member Randi Shade delivered the Mayor’s best wishes and a proclamation praising the conference. Texas Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst also spoke. Three panels discussed clean technology investments in Texas and Israel, common water opportunities and smart grids.

 

Israeli businesses are promoting their history of water and energy conservation, which have long been requirements in a country located squarely in the desert. Cracked one presenter, “Moses led us around the desert for 40 years only to arrive at the only place in the Middle East without oil.”

 

Much of the emphasis at the conference was on water-related companies. Israel has some of the world’s most effective water management and desalination technology companies, and there were several relevant presentations. Renewed Water Minerals helps desalination plants comply with World Health Organization guidelines for drinking water by managing post-treatment of water that adds calcium and magnesium. CheckLight uses bioluminescence to develop early detection of water contamination and Miya is developing a sophisticated leak detection system as a component for an eventual smart grid for water.

 

Some interesting energy innovations included Greenlet, which has developed a plug and play energy management system for homes to interface with coming smart grid technology, and Leviathan Energy, which touted its projects in wind efficiency. They have developed an aerodynamic Wind Energizer which steers wind power into turbines, improving their output and lengthening the life of gearboxes.

 

Jack Levy of Israel Cleantech Ventures highlighted his company’s involvement with fuel cells, the innovative electric car company Better Place, and a host of water-related ventures.  Alan Kirchhoff, Director of the Emerging Technology Fund with the state of Texas touted the fund’s ability to leverage many of the state’s assets, including its university system and the state’s longstanding energy and engineering expertise. He said that clustering of clean technology firms would be right at home in Austin, Houston and the Permian Basin area.

 

Panelists also contemplated the state’s compressed natural gas incentives, which are going to be re-examined next legislative session in light of a depressed economy. Finally, the panel stressed business models that will survive the coming drought on stimulus money. Hillel Miloh, of AquaGro Fund said his company “isn’t interested in a subsidy-based business.” For their part, the Israelis said they were looking to invest in companies with capital efficiency and noted opportunities for water treatment related to hydraulic fracturing – a method increasingly used for extracting natural gas from shale deposits. Several panelists predicted a drift of capital away from solar and into efficiency and smart grid ventures.

 

Commissioner Patterson’s talk hailed a near-future where Texas’ sovereign waters – which extend out beyond any other state due to the conditions of its admittance to the Union – could be utilized for offshore wind turbines and underwater transmission lines, which he said wouldn’t come up against the problems current plans for high tension wires are finding in West Texas.

 

The water panel declared Israel the “Silicon Valley of Water” and included Jorge Arroyo of the Texas Water Development Board, Suzanne Zarling of the Lower Colorado River Authority and a number of business representatives. The panel ended up discussing the role energy companies are playing in advancing ocean desalinization in America, as power generation uses up substantial amounts of water. Alan Weiss of Global Water noted that prices for water will continue to rise, despite popular thinking that consumers won’t pay more. He pointed out that a few decades ago, people would have thought it crazy to charge what movie theaters do for soda and popcorn but customers still fork over substantial sums due to the circumstances.

 

Because private investment doesn’t seem to be flocking to water as much as energy, the panel discussed public/private partnering where companies paying up front for new metering would be reimbursed by the government over many years.

 

The last panel of the day was Austin’s time to shine as Pecan Street Project Executive Director Brewster McCracken joined Austin Energy Senior Strategy Engineer Mark Kapner, CPS Energy representative Paul Braham and several others for a talk about smart grids. Discussing the varying visions of a smart grid, the panel drilled down a bit deeper into the PSP’s future. The panel focused on blending a telecom-style business model which would encourage both royalties for energy generation and enable applications to be written for an open source protocol, similar to the iPhone’s app store.

Join Your Friends and Neighbors

We're a nonprofit news organization, and we put our service to you above all else. That will never change. But public-service journalism requires community support from readers like you. Will you join your friends and neighbors to support our work and mission?

Back to Top