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The Israeli Army Gives Birth To Clean Technologies

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The clean technology industry in Israel is being fueled by Israeli military companies and personnel, according to a new JTA article. Agree with the country's politics or not, it is good that something green (besides military uniforms) comes out of the army - from any army. You could say necessity is the mother of invention.

If you're interested in tech transfer, read Maurice Picow's blog on how military tech translates to green business below.

Since its founding in 1917, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, usually known as the JTA, has been a leading international journalistic source for communicating news and projects dealing with the world-wide Jewish community. Many JTA news articles have dealt with various developments in Israel and the Middle East, including those which are beneficial to the cause of peace.

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A recent JTA article on clean technology, published on October 1 by Dina Kraft (also a New York Times reporter), takes a good look at a number of projects by Israeli clean tech industries and Israel's military branches in the realm of renewable and alternative energy.

"Beating swords into green plowshares in Israel," the article talks about solar energy energy companies such as Bright Source Energy Inc, which is involved in building solar energy plants in California's Mojave Desert and other locations; and Rotem, which utilizes technologies developed in Israel's aeronautical defense industry.

Rotem (we covered their work with the solar power company Aora here) is working on a number of commercial renewable energy projects involving solar and wind power, hydrogen fuel power, and biofuels. Some of Rotem's many projects involving the environment and renewable energy are a hydrogen storage research center, a center for geology and hydrology applied research, a center for environmental sciences, and a thermal solar energy applications technology center.

The Bright Source solar energy plants in California, and a wind turbine "farm" located near Kibbutz Ein Zivan on the Golan Heights (pictured above and below), are utilizing technology that formerly was used in developing and manufacturing rotor blades for military helicopters. Israel's Aircraft Industries (IAI) is now involved in developing technology to produce "cleaner and greener" commercial aircraft that will be able taxi on the runways of commercial airports without using their jet engines, according to Kraft's article. We've covered the IAI's green initiatives in several articles in the past as well. This will not only be more environmentally friendly, but will result in a big fuel savings as well.

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In the automotive sector, an Israeli company, Better Place, is working on more efficient batteries for electric cars, and has now entered into joint ventures with automobile companies Renault and Nissan. The technology used in developing these batteries is derived from the aerospace industry.

Mr. Meni Maor, vice president for development at Rotem commented that these kinds of projects have resulted from a need to both preserve the environment as well as due to the increasing cost of oil.

"We definitely leverage a lot of know-how in a variety of disciplines -- including materials, chemistry, thermal dynamics -- accumulated from our experience with military and homeland security technology for developing renewable energy technologies," said Meni Maor to the JTA.

Former IDF military officers, including retired General Yom-Tov Samina, are involved in many of these projects, putting knowledge learned during their military careers into raising funds for these development projects as well as being involved directly in the projects themselves. An example of their direct involvement is former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplansky, who is now holding the position of CEO of Better Place's Israel operations.

The former military generals are very enthusiastic about their new careers and are happy to be making their contribution to preserving the environment. "Our training involving the importance of learning how to follow through on a mission has contributed to being successful in these new projects," a former intelligence unit head was quoted as saying.

::JTA clean technology article

(Photos of Golan Heights candycane wind farm: Karin Kloosterman, for Green Prophet)

Karin Kloosterman is the founder of Green Prophet (www.greenprophet.com), an environment news site covering clean tech news and more from Israel and the Middle East. She also blogs for TreeHugger.com. Maurice Picow is a regular contributor to Green Prophet.