The story of Israel’s burgeoning energy industry is absolutely fascinating as it reinforces the “can do” spirit of the Jewish nation. While its neighboring countries account for four of the top six oil producers in the world, Israel – ranked way down the list at number 98 – is rising to the occasion by discovering creative alternative energy solutions.

We have previously focused on (1) Better Place, the Israeli company providing a model for a worldwide electric car grid; (2) Israel’s recent discovery of significant gas fields; and (3) the country’s burgeoning oil shale industry. Let’s now focus on a creative hydroelectric development by an Israeli company called Leviathan Energy (hat tip to Israel 21c).

Hydroelectricity is the term for converting the energy of running water into electricity. Hydroelectricity plays a major role in today’s energy landscape, as it accounts for almost 20% of the world’s electric consumption.

Traditionally, hydropower has been produced through dams using the gravitational force generated by waterfalls or flowing water. In simple terms, the dam traps the water, and the water then flows with great pressure through channels, turning a large wheel called a turbine which, through a series of activities, generates electricity.

 A team of researchers at Leviathan Energy are turning the traditional model on its head, proving that you don’t need to build expensive dams to produce hydroelectricity. They have created a turbine which can operate using water flowing in a city’s existing water supply system, turning excess pressure into energy. This new turbine has been named Benkatina as a tribute to Benkatin, the high priest during the Second Temple who created twelve faucets for the laver – it originally had only two faucets – so that all participants in the Temple’s daily sacrifices were able to purify themselves at once.

The Benkatina turbine, which is currently undergoing pilot programs in Israel and the Philippines, has created tremendous excitement in the industry as it produces new energy without having to change the existing water infrastructure. In addition, it solves a major problem that has plagued water systems – leaks – which, according to some estimates, wastes up to $14 billion of water per year. The Benkatina turbine will be installed in locations of the piping system that have extra pressure, thereby decreasing the excess water pressure, which would otherwise lead to leaks.

 As the cost is relatively inexpensive to harvest this energy, the plan is that by next year to place hundreds, and possibly even thousands, of these turbines in Israel’s waterways to alleviate the stress on the country’s severely overextended electric grid.

One final benefit of the of the Benkatina turbine system is its ecological advantage over traditional large dams. Dams have an adverse effect on the ecosystem, affecting many things, including species in the area as well as water quality. In contrast, the Benkatina turbine is more environmentally viable as it does not alter the surrounding environment.

Between generating new electricity in a relatively inexpensive manner, limiting the traditional problem of water leaks, and being ecologically friendly, the Benkatina has all the makings of an industry-changing innovation.