Eilat Renewable Energy Summit

By: Samantha Hulkower

Solar energy has so much potential to replace conventional fossil fuels as the energy source to generate electricity - but there is one big hindrance holding it back - a lack of an effective way to store surplus energy generated. While this is an answer the whole world is searching for, the Eilot Regional Council, and neighboring city of Eilat are actually bringing people together to look for an answer. The southern Arava valley region has a dog in the flight, as they would say: immensely sunny and undeveloped, this area has huge potential to generate electricity from solar energy. They boast on their website their goal to be 'energy independent' by 2020 (which at this point, is not so far in the future!). What they are lacking is the ability to store that excess energy for when it's needed, or efficiently transfer it to other areas of the country (in the US an average of 7% of electricity is lost, just sending it from the plant through the power lines to consumers, and the longer the distance, the more is lost). Therefore, they are organizing an annual Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference and Exhibition. 

Now up to its 5th annual conference, the Eilat-Eliot summit is looking to change the face of electricity generation in the Negev. This year's summit, which is to take place Nov 21, looks to explore the challenges faced by energy storage and management. Panels at the event include interesting (at least to me!) topics such as the utility of fuel cells as a way to store surplus renewably-generated energy, alternative methods to management, and a discussion as to whether the ambitious efforts being taken in the southern Arava could serve as a model for the rest of Israel. 

Most of us take for granted that when we flip on the light switch, that the light will turn on. But the power company has put a lot of time and effort into ensuring the right about of electricity is available exactly when consumers need it. If there is too much demand and not enough supply, cities face 'brown outs', which is usually experienced on hot summer days, when everyone is trying to use their conditioner at the highest level at the same time, and lights will flicker or dim, giving the room a darker tint, as the power company is trying to keep up with the demand. Or, the power can just go out entirely, as California famously endured, 'rolling blackouts' at the turn of the last century. In this case, the burden of energy conservation in the face of insatiable demand was spaced out across the state, different municipalities agreed to have set times of blackouts, sharing in the burden, so that there would be enough energy for the rest of the state, and thereby preventing the power from going out to everyone.

This year's event promises to yield some important partnerships and ideas. A look at the speakers list has heavy hitters from academia, industry and government, from around the world. There will also be a screening of the new film, "The 4th Revolution: Energy Autonomy" where Israeli filmmakers traveled the globe searching for communities that were completely self sufficient generating their energy needs from renewable sources. You can check out the trailer here.
If you are going to be in Israel, and have some time to spare to head south, this conference definitely sound 'kedai' (worthwhile) - as they say in Hebrew. The Eilat-Eilot partnership also sends out a bi-monthly newsletter, for those who can't wait a whole year to hear what's new and innovative in electricity generation. 

Samantha Hulkower is an Olah Chadasha, living in Jerusalem. She enjoys trying to speak Hebrew, finding the humor in every situation (especially dating), and is looking forward to the day she can successfully argue b'Ivrit. You can also view her blogs Curls of Wisdom on life in Israel, and Derech Eretz Israel, on environmental issues in Israel.

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