The AGRISOL project unites Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian investigators in an attempt to alleviate two of the biggest problems common to Middle Eastern countries, coping with water scarcity and promoting the sustainable development of lagging rural areas. The key concepts of AGRISOL were first jointly developed by BGU and NERC within the framework of the CSPD-COMISJO (Concentrating Solar Power & Desalination for Communities in Israel and Jordan) cooperative research project, which was completed in December 2010. The project was a three-year endeavor funded by the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMBF) with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). BGU and NERC have contributed expertise in RO membrane desalination and in the generation of solar energy using photovoltaic technology, respectively, to the CSPD-COMISJO project. During the course of the project, BGU and NERC jointly assessed the potential for solar desalination at three sites, two in Israel and one in Jordan by means of water quality and meteorological measurements and modeling. The PI from NERC (Eng. Alawneh) visited Israel and BGU's facilities in Beer-Sheva in November 2007 and November 2010. An Israeli team, comprising Drs. Messalem, Kudish, and Ghermandi, visited the NERC facilities in Amman and Dr. Kudish visited the pilot solar desalination plant in Aqaba, Jordan, in November 2008. The collaboration between the two institutions has generated several publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at international conferences, including a joint presentation at the 5th EuroMed Conference on Desalination Cooperation among Mediterranean Countries of Europe and the MENA Region in Jordan .
R&D ARAVA and NCARE are collaborating in the frame of a USAID-MERC project (M24014), which aims at investigating the effect of irrigation with low-quality water on plant growth and crop yields in the Arava Valley. This project resulted in a series of publications [6, 7]. The agricultural component of AGRISOL largely builds upon the results of the study to developing optimized and more sustainable long-term irrigation strategies.
Specific joint activities during the proposed project
The fruit of the joint efforts of participants from academic and research institutes in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, the proposed project involves the exchange of information, transfer of technology, joint discussions, training, and the potential to strengthen economic ties between Israel, Jordan, The Palestinian Authority and other Arab countries. A true intellectual partnership between the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian institutions will be established on three distinct levels:
1) The highly complementary but distinct fields of expertise of BGU, EPRI, HU and NERC are all crucial to the success of AGRISOL. While BGU has extensive experience with conventional desalination, NERC's well-documented know-how and research record in the field of solar energy generation speak for themselves. Thirty years of experience with solar desalination have clearly demonstrated that efficient solar desalination does not consist of simply plugging a conventional desalination plant into an array of photovoltaic panels. Therefore, successful project implementation demands effective cooperation between the three partners. In particular, the integration of solar power and membrane desalination, i.e., the research area on which the most recent developments in solar desalination are focused, offers the biggest technological challenges;
2) R&D ARAVA, NCARE and EPRI are invested with similar responsibilities, i.e., to spearhead the diffusion of agriculture in arid and semi-arid areas of the country and to facilitate innovation in the agricultural sector, within their respective countries. As such, AGRISOL will foster a mutually beneficial relationship between R&D ARAVA, NCARE and EPRI expressed through the interaction, the transfers of technology and know-how during the agronomic experiments, and the comparisons of results obtained with desalinated water irrigation under different boundary conditions. Collaboration between the three institutions within AGRISOL will strengthen the ties between them and will likely extend beyond the scope of the present project;
3) The highly interconnected work packages dictate a continuous and effective flow of information, especially between BGU, HU and NERC in the design phase, between BGU/HU/NERC and R&D ARAVA/NCARE/EPRI during the installation and testing of the pilot plants, and between R&D ARAVA, NCARE and EPRI during the agronomic experiments.