Without electricity, Gaza invests in solar panels

The goal is to install solar panels on the roofs of 10 thousand homes in the Gaza Strip. Initial investment of about 5 thousand euro per person, but guaranteed long term benefits. After years of Israeli restrictions, it is now possible to import panels. And the prices have dropped.


Gaza (AsiaNews / OLJ) - The energy crisis that has long held Gaza, Palestine and other areas of the Middle East in its grip could be alleviated through the use of solar energy. The idea is to install solar panels on the roofs of at least 10 thousand homes in the Gaza Strip to counter the lack of local power stations. This has meant that due to the Israeli blockade and outdated electric system currently in use, the Palestinian enclave can barely provide a few hours of power a day to its 1.9 million inhabitants.

52 year-old Palestinian cattle farmer Nahed Abou is one of the biggest supporters of the initiative.  Lack of a stable power supply has severely curtailed his business, in addition to the wars - the main culprit in the deaths of his animals. After twice rebuilding the sheds where he keeps his livestock, he is ready to invest his money - if the bank will approve the loan - to equip the roof with solar panels.

"Every day we have power cuts - says the man - and have to use costly generators that often need maintenance". With an initial investment between 4500 and 5400 euro, he is ready to set up a system that will guarantee energy at no future cost.

And like him, an increasing number of inhabitants of the Strip are looking to solar power in a region where the sun shines most of the year and rainy days are very scarce. In recent years more and more roofs have been covered with the blacks and gray panels, as more and more magazines and newspapers advertise this type of alternative energy.

Even the authorities are closely following the lead of many private citizens, authorizing the installation of solar panels on the roofs of schools, hospitals and public institutions; an attempt, although "partial" to solve "the age-old problem of power supplies" explains Abou Raed al-Hajj, head of solar power projects within the Gaza Energy Authority.

Past trade restrictions imposed by Israel made importing solar panels impossible, but since they have been lifted the price has dropped significantly. A crucial issue for this small territory, where half the population lives below the poverty line.

As well as having beneficial effects on the family budget and the environment (no pollution, unlike the generators), solar energy is also "safer" as Mohammed Atallah, industry entrepreneur points out. He remembers the danger posed by generators and candles, which according health officials in the Gaza Strip, have caused explosions and fires that have killed 24 people in the recent past. And of these victims, the majority are children.

However, in the face of a growing interest in solar energy, it still has a marginal space within the Gaza energy market. The demand for electricity from the Strip is estimated at around 450 megawatts; at present there is only 250 available, just over half. 27% is supplied by Israel, 22% by the only power plant present - and active - in Gaza, finally, 6% from Egypt.

To date, renewable energies cover about 3 megawatts of total needs, concluded Abou al-Hajj, who announced at the same time that "over the next three years we hope to reach 15 megawatts ". Moreover, the solar energy is among the few, and concrete alternatives to meet the growing energy demand from the public and private sectors.