Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Negev Desert: Strawberry Fields Forever

Greenhouses in NegevWhenever I think of them, I can’t resist that Homer Simpson-style exclamation “Mmmm, strawberries….” But do strawberry fields and the desert go together? I guess so, surprising as it is! Here are some details for the technically inclined:

General description of the method: Strawberries are grown in detached, small volume plastic foam containers in beds hanging on the greenhouse construction above the soil surface. The container is placed on a drainpipe, which enables drainage and collection of the drained water. The greenhouses are highly computerized and powered with solar energy.
Advantages of the method: Extremely high yields, optimal utilization of greenhouse area, maximum work convenience, relatively disease-free crops, relatively low costs, collection and recycling of drainage water.
Disadvantage of the method: The greenhouse construction requires special support.

And here are some pictures for the visually/romantically inclined:
Strawberries in Negev desert
Strawberries in Negev desert
Strawberries in Negev desert

Golda Meir once said, “We do not rejoice in victories. We rejoice when a new kind of cotton is grown and when strawberries bloom in Israel.“ And so they grow in the sand just about year round. I think I know exactly how Golda felt.

Please visit the web site of The Negev Foundation to learn more about sustainable desert development efforts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Electricity Initiative: Use Less, Save More

A new National Infrastructure Ministry plan to address the shortage of electricity and reduce air pollution will offer a 20 percent discount on electricity used to households that lower their electricity consumption by 20 percent. The ministry hopes to launch the initiative in August on a trial basis.

"Implementing such a move would help the consumer and the Israel Electric Corp save money and benefit the environment," said the ministry's Director General Shaul Zemach. The model is based on a plan successfully implemented in California since 2001 in which 34 percent of consumers have been able to reduce at least 20 percent of their electricity consumption.

Source: Israel National News

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chief Scientist instructed to give cleantech priority

CleantechMinister of Industry, Trade and Labor Benjamin Ben-Eliezer has instructed the Chief Scientist Dr. Eli Opper and Investment Promotion Center director Hezi Zaieg to give priority to cleantech.
Ben-Eliezer was prompted by the severe water crisis, and the realization that Israel must join developed countries to develop clean energy sources to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Ben-Eliezer's instructions will mainly affect funding applications submitted to the Chief Scientist for cleantech projects, such as renewable energy, carbon storage, energy saving, and water solutions. The Investment Center will also review applications for recycling projects.
Until now, the Ministry of Industry has given priority to nanotechnology and biomedical projects. The new priority for cleantech is not supposed to come at the expense of these two fields, but in addition to them.
The main significance of the decision is that cleantech projects worthy of support will be eligible for the maximum grants. Chief Scientist grants cover 20-50% of a project's cost, and Investment Center grants cover up to 24% of a project's cost.
Israel has already demonstrated itself to be an up-and-coming cleantech developer. The United Nations recently recognized the Jewish state as the world leader in water recycling.
A May 2009 Businessweek article entitled "Israel's Clean Technology Pioneers" emphasized various cleantech businesses which have caught the eye of U.S. venture capitalists, including a geothermal energy plant, solar technology works, and a desert fish farm using recycled spa water, which then channels the used water to an olive grove.
Source: GLOBES[online]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some good news for bees!

Bees may sting but we couldn't survive without them--they pollinate nearly everything we plant and we'd have no agriculture and no way of growing food without them. Kudos to Israel for saving the bees!

Off to grab some milk and honey, till next time!


"Garbage Power" to Turn on the Lights at Sharon Park

HiriyaThe largest and most ambitious "green" project in Israel – and ranking up with the top urban reclamation projects worldwide – gets a huge boost Sunday night, when the lighting system at Sharon Park will be turned on for the first time. But the lights won't use power from the electrical grid. The system will instead be powered by the recycled trash upon which Sharon Park is being built, with bio-gasses that have been festering on the site for decades to be used to power the lights.

Development at Sharon Park, also known as the former site of the Hiriya Dump, has been underway since 2007. At 8,000 dunams, it is the largest urban green space in the country, and one of the largest in the world. Current estimates say the park will be completed only between 2015 and 2020, but various sections of the park, including the Menachem Begin Park section, have been opening slowly as development continues. Visitors can already hike or ride bikes on several footpaths and bike paths, and a recycling museum and a small zoo are also currently open.

Hiriya was used as a dump between 1952 and 1998, and grew to encompass 112 acres, with its centerpiece a "garbage mountain" that reached 200 feet at its highest, with some 565 million cubic feet of garbage slowly decomposing underneath.

The park itself is also being developed with trash, which is being converted into mulch after recycling (and the removal of all dangerous components). According to officials in the Dan Region, the park will eventually save the Israel tens of millions of shekels, as hard-to-dispose-of items, such as building materials, will be recycled into sidewalks, pathways, and buildings in the park.

To learn more, please visit Ayalon-Park web site.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Got Hybrid?

Prius HybridIf you drive a hybrid, you are undoubtedly paying less at the pump than your SUV driving counterparts. Here in the US, that is a tremendous incentive. But what if Uncle Sam also gave you a tax break just because you're giving the planet a pollution break? That's the intention of the Israel Finance Ministry--offering special discounts on hybrids and in turn adding additional taxes and duties on gas guzzlers. The Ministry hopes that this will encourage Israelis to love the Earth even more by buying eco friendly cars and hopefully dumping their older, less efficient, more pollution inducing cars. Let's hope it works, keep it green, Israel!

Israeli FlagA special thanks to Kendall Toyota in Miami, FL for letting me use this red Prius in the picture as a model for this post. They even have an Israeli flag among their flag display in their showroom! Please check out their website!

To learn more about Israel's incentives toward eco-friendly cars, please check out this article.

I'm off to seek out a Prius of my own, or at least to find some more flowers to photograph, till next time!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Reversible, Green Window Technology

Reversible WindowsBen-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers have developed a new, highly energy-efficient window technology, featuring two reversible panes that will save energy all year round in homes and office buildings.

The "Seasons Window" features the only glazing system that permits effective passive heating in winter without glare or high radiant temperature near a window and reduces unwanted solar gains in summer without obstructing the view outdoors.

The reversible window system technology features two panes: one clear, airtight pane, and a smaller, tinted glass with an opening on top and bottom, which allows air to circulate between the panes. The window panes are fixed to a single frame and can be swiveled easily in response to changing weather. The window system is intended for buildings in sunny regions with distinct hot and cold seasons.

In winter, short wave solar radiation is transmitted through the clear glass, and is absorbed by the tinted glass which faces indoors. The interior is heated in two ways: by long wave radiation emitted from the warm tinted pane, and by heating of the air in contact with the warm glass, which flows through the gap between the panes and returns to a room as much a 20°c. warmer. The clear pane -- preferably double-glazed with a low-E (emittance) coating -- traps heat inside the building.

In summer, the glass panes are easily rotated so the tinted glass faces outward and absorbs the warm solar rays. This pane is then cooled by the outside air circulating between the two panes. The clear glass pane, which is on the interior, absorbs unwanted infrared radiation from the warmer exterior pane and helps to reduce a building's cooling loads.

Source: EurekAlert!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Generating Electricity from Road Traffic

Researchers at Haifa's Technion Institute of Technology have started testing a new system for generating electricity from road traffic on a 30-meter strip of highway near Tel Aviv.

The system is based on piezo electricity, which uses pads of metallic crystals buried over hundreds of meters of road to generate electricity when put under the pressure of quickly moving traffic.

While the concept is not new, the application is a novelty. One truck can generate 2,000 volts which could already be used to power traffic lights or street lamps. A kilometer of “electric road” could generate enough power for 40 houses, and progress in the technology could generate enough electricity to feed the national power grid.

A company called Innowattech is working with the team to develop the technology.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

IDF goes green in bid to protect Hermon wildlife

FlowersYou gotta love the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)...they are like no other army in this world. But to be fair, Israel is like no other country in the world -- their military is a big part of the spirit of the nation, a nation that prides itself on planting trees as a national pastime that is essentially, the heart and soul of the nation.

When one thinks of a mighty military, images are conjured up of bombings, artillery spewing rounds all over the place and smoke encompassing the atmosphere that is so thick that no one can quite see through it. The military is an establishment that is generally not thought to be particularly environmentally conscious.

Except in Israel.

The IDF is opting to coexist with Mount Hermon wildlife so it can flourish and so that flowers that bloomed in the spring can spread their seeds this summer for new flowers to grow and blossom in the future. That's all we can ask for--more nations on this planet who stop to focus on what will bloom and grow next year and in the many next years to come.

Read the whole story here.

Off to plant a few seeds of my own in my little garden, till next time!


Tel Aviv Univ. Research: Cellphone Towers Can Predict Next Flood

Researchers from Tel Aviv University say they have found a novel, cheap, effective, and reliable way to help predict the intensity of the next big flood, using common cell phone towers across the United States. Their model, which analyzes cell phone signals, adds a critical component to weather forecasting never before available.

Cell phone towers emit radio waves that are diminished by moisture in the air, a factor that can be used to improve model warnings on flood levels. In addition, the researchers measured the rainfall distributions and were able to accurately estimate the size of impending floods before they struck. This was demonstrated in post-analysis of two case-studies of floods in the Judean Desert in Israel, where cell phone towers ― and flash floods ― are abundant.

Using real data measurements collected from the towers, the researchers demonstrated how microwave links in a cellular network correlated with surface station humidity measurements. The microwave data used in this study was supplied by two cellular providers Cellcom and Pelephone in Israel.

“Our method provides reliable measurement of moisture fields near the flood zone for the first time,” notes Prof. Pinhas Alpert, a geophysicist and head of Tel Aviv University’s Porter School for Environmental Education, who also works with NASA on developing models to study global warming weather patterns. This new tool, he says, can add to the bigger picture of understanding climate change patterns in general.

Because hundreds of thousands of cell phone towers are already in place, the Tel Aviv University invention can be adopted quickly, and cell phone companies are already collecting the data anyway.

Source: Israel National News

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Self-watering plant" Discovered in Israel

Desert rhubarbThe world’s first "self-watering" plant has been discovered in Israel’s Negev desert – one of the driest regions on earth. The Desert Rhubarb can hold 16 times more water than its rivals and has developed a unique ability to effectively water itself in its barren habitat.

Researchers were confounded by the metre-wide plant’s giant leaves, compared to its desert counterparts, whose tiny leaves stop dangerous moisture loss. But they found the plant’s large leaves are the key to its success, because they are covered in microscopic streams through which water can be channelled. Scientists claim ridges in the leaves act like mountain valleys, funnelling the water slowly and directly into the plant while stopping it evaporating.

A team from the University of Haifa-Oranim, in Israel, said the leaves act like a mini irrigation system, the Daily Telegraph reported. "We know of no other plant
in the deserts of the world that functions in this manner," lead researcher Gidi Ne’eman said. "We have managed to make out the "self-irrigating" mechanism of the desert rhubarb, which enables it to harvest 16 times the amount of water than otherwise expected for a plant in this region based on the quantities of rain in the desert", he added.

Results of analysis of the plant’s growth — in an area with an average annual rainfall of 75mm — showed that the desert rhubarb is able to harvest quantities of water that are closer to that of Mediterranean plants, reaching up to 426mm per year.

Source: The Times of India

Come Alive at the Dead Sea

Dead SeaThe Dead Sea is currently ranked in seventh place in the “Lakes, Rivers and Waterfalls” category of the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World Contest, which would earn it a spot in the next stage of the competition. The Dead Sea is listed as being situated in Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. According to the contest rules, the nominee cannot participate in the next stages of the New7Wonders of Nature campaign without an official supporting committee from each country. Until recently, PA refused to join a committee of support for the lake’s nomination. Intervention from Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov and Civil Administration Chief General Yoav Mordechai succeeded in convincing Mahmud Abbas to sign on to the contest. As of today, the competition’s website had not been updated to reflect the decision, but officials said that it would take a few days for the proper forms to be filled out and submitted. Anyone can vote for his or her favorite natural wonders in the remaining 5 days of the contest at www.new7wonders.com. Please hurry and vote for the Dead Sea!

P.S. For the record, I strongly object to New7Wonders’ taking sides in the political conflict and listing Palestine as a sovereign country. If you agree, please
contact New7Wonders and protest.