I had been meaning to visit Israel for a while. Our family living there mainly in the northern town of Regba had been to London many times for gatherings, and I was feeling a draw to return their for the first time in 12 years.
Of course in 12 years I had changed alot. My views and perspectives in the world. The things I am drawn to and without a doubt I went with a keen eye for what traces of renewable energy and sustainable practice I could find.
I was aware of the Kibbutz culture which had given rise to the country, albeit in controversial circumstances. I knew how they had used collective community building techniques to turn barren land into thriving agricultural land to sustain the families of newly arriving Jewish refugees and immigrants.
What I was looking for though, were hints of the modernised, innovative Israel that is known worldwide for its technological astuteness that led to companies such as Waze and Wix.
Israel is located at 31 degrees latitude and so receives between 6 and 12 hours of sunlight from winter to summer respectively, of which 75% are sunlit. This means it is a prime spot for solar generated energy, both for electricity and hot water.
Low and behold in Tel Aviv, the beach city on the Mediterranean Sea, I became aware of the solar thermal heating panels or collectors which were on almost every rooftop.
In essence solar thermal collectors operate by using the sun’s light to heat an antifreeze liquid in a evacuated tube. The liquid will rise up the tube as vapour when hot and is then passed through the water tank. The antifreeze liquid doesn’t touch the water as it passes but heats it enough for showers and other everyday uses.
I soon began to see residential solar hot water systems everywhere. I began to understand that this was an established part of the energy culture in the country. I was pleasantly surprised to find that all new residential buildings are required by law to have solar thermal systems installed. Solar thermal accounts for a deceptively significant 4% of the country’s energy needs. This contribution is credited with replacing 2 million barrels of oil annually.
Israel is in many ways pushing the boundaries of solar thermal energy. See below the construction of the world’s tallest solar tower in the Negev Desert which standing at almost 800 feet tall will provide 1% of the country’s renewable energy: hot water for 21,000 households. It is expected that initially energy costs will go up but as more of these planned projects are completed the energy prices will drop below traditional fossil fuel sources.
The tower is surrounded by 55,000 mirrors which focus the sun’s light on the huge water tank in the centre which gives off steam to turn a turbine and generate electricity.
I think it is great that Israel is being bold in taking new steps in bringing renewable energy into people’s homes. Admittedly, there is still a lot of scope for improvements but this is a symbol of intent and direction. The number of collaborating nations on the project is also a huge encouragement. In the Old Testament the Tower of Babel divided people, but in this new age we are living in this solar tower is uniting nations with a common purpose.