The A-Z of Israel
On 22 January, Israelis will go to the polls. The world watches – but how much do we really know about the country that calls itself “the sole bastion of democracy” in the Middle East?
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
E is for Energy
For a country in the Middle East, Israel is not exactly flush with oil. The nation has no reserves of its own, and its relations with its neighbours aren’t conducive to running pipelines, either. What it does have – in abundance – is sunlight. The Negev Desert, a vast expanse that contains most of southern Israel, receives just 31mm of rain annually and typically has no precipitation at all for four months of the year. As a result, it is the location of the National Solar Energy Centre, one of Israel’s leading research organisations.
As well as bread-and-butter research on areas such as photovoltaic cells, the centre looks at ways to use energy from the sun without having to convert it into other forms, which is inefficient. Its Solar Optics Laboratory investigates methods of channelling and concentrating sunlight which could replace lasers in surgery, while its Parabolic Trough Laboratory experiments with focusing sunlight on a loop of heating oil, raising its temperature enough to drive a turbine.
Outside the lab, the use of solar power has spread throughout the country. More than a million households – in a nation of just seven million people – have installed solar panels on their roofs for heating water. That technology is now mandated for all new residential buildings.
But the squeeze for resources isn’t just about energy. Bordered by salt water on two sides and even saltier water, in the form of the Dead Sea, on a third, Israel suffers from endemic shortage of water. Solving its energy problems will allow it to scale up its desalination programmes and make at least some of that water usable and potable.