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Abundance of the Sea

July 3, 2014
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Israel Powers Up On New Ocean-Based Energy Sources

Willyam Bradberry Shutterstock.com

 “For they shall partake of the abundance of the seas and of treasures hidden in the sand” (Deut. 33:19b).

From the time God parted the waters of the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to pass through on dry ground, Israel has had a long and rewarding relationship with the sea.

In recent years, Israel and its surrounding waters have been renewing their acquaintance. No longer viewed as just a means of recreation and transportation, the sea has become an unlimited and untapped source of energy for those with chuztpah enough to take the plunge.

In March 2013, Israel started pumping its first natural gas from the newly developed Tamar gas field off the coast of Israel. The Tamar and Leviathan oil and gas fields are promising to supply Israel’s domestic fuel needs for decades to come, even transforming her into a gas exporter. Yet, up until the discovery of those massive fields in the Mediterranean, Israel was resource-poor and surrounded by enemies who controlled much of the world’s oil. She was compelled to seek other means of sustainable energy—a necessity which fueled her drive for energy independence.

And Israel was well-equipped to do it. What Israel historically lacked in conventional power, she abounded in some of the most brilliant minds on the planet. That brain power went to work and created a number of alternative clean and green energy innovations—simply using what makes up 70% of the earth’s surface—ordinary seawater.

Seaweed Biofuels

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 Israel has begun research and development on one of the most abundant life forms there is—algae or seaweed—for the production of biofuel, clean fuel used for transportation.

Biofuels have had a long history of development and use, but have primarily been made from food crops such as sugarcane and corn. In a world where much of the population goes hungry every day, it doesn’t seem reasonable to use those precious foodstuffs and divert available prime agricultural land to produce fuel. Scientists have looked for alternatives, using the ocean as ideal “farmland,” and seaweed, slimy though it is, as an ideal “crop.”

Seaweed could possibly produce 30 times more oil per acre than sugarcane or corn. It also biodegrades quickly with no harmful toxins. Seaweed grows more quickly than land-based crops, is easily harvested, and the impact of large-scale harvesting of seaweed seems to have only positive effects on the environment. The Mediterranean and Red Seas have suffered from pollution caused by sewage and fish farming. A positive byproduct of seaweed growth is that it will clean the seawater of excess nutrients and harmful algae, thus reducing the amount of pollution in these sensitive coastal waters.

Israel is experimenting with the combined use of seaweed with oyster production. Oysters filter the harmful algae that fish farming produces and utilize the excess nutrients in the water. The combination also symbiotically promotes an increase in the seaweed harvest. One liter of bioethanol can be made from five kilograms [11 pounds] of dried algae.

While much of the seaweed used is harvested naturally from the ocean, one company is using seaweed “pools” located near Ashkelon’s power plants. The pools are filled with the seawater used to cool the electric turbines of the plants. The elevated carbon dioxide in the pools increases the growth factor of the seaweed by one million, promising a sustainable future for this source of bioethanol production.

Wave and Tidal Energy

Willyam Bradberry Shutterstock.com

 Oceans contain an enormous amount of kinetic energy. The continuous movement of surface waves rolling into shore creates a huge potential for generating electricity, and Israeli developers have found a way to harness it.

Wave plants make a lot of sense as a renewable form of energy in Israel because there are 10,000 meters [32,808 ft] of breakwaters along the coastline, an important component in wave utilization. The first large-scale sea wave power plant was installed at Jaffa Port in 2010.

Wave energy depends on the vertical rise and fall of waves—wave height, speed, length and water density all determine the amount of energy produced by wave action. Power plants designed to harness waves work by transferring the energy from the waves into hydraulic pressure, causing a generator to spin, creating electricity. The energy produced from the horizontal ebb and flow of tides can also be harnessed at the same time.

Israeli companies have received international awards for their developments in this field and have won contracts with places such as China and India to install wave plants. China has contracted for four Israeli wave plants to date, producing energy critical to a country where coal reserves have seriously declined, and fossil fuels have created some of the worst air pollution in the world.

India realized its dependence on electricity in 2012 when the nation’s power grid collapsed and almost 700 million people were plunged into darkness, the largest blackout in history. India responded to the crisis by asking Israel to install a ring of wave plants along its 4,000 miles [6,437 km] of coastline. The power produced by the wave plants costs less than the power produced by coal and oil plants and is a reliable backup if the power grid goes out again.

Wave energy has low production costs compared to other forms of renewable energy, and energy from the ocean could eventually provide up to 10% of the demand for sustainable energy. Utilizing the vast energy found in sea waves is quickly coming to the forefront of the worldwide pursuit of renewable energy resources, and Israel is leading the advance of this innovative technology.

Three millenia ago, Moses blessed the children of Israel with the abundance of the seas, and Israel is—in a brand-new way—reaping that blessing once again.

Source: By Kathy DeGagné, BFP Staff Writer

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