A Canadian Solar installation in NSW, Australia - the same company's panels are planned for the jenin Charitable Hospital in Gaza. Photo: Canadian Solar.
Gaza hospital 'goes solar' to combat power shortages
7th June 2014
The Jenin Charitable Hospital is going 100% solar in order to combat the power cuts and shortages that afflict the Palestinian Territory - and in the process save a small fortune on energy bills.
We continue to suffer from the power outrage problem and sometimes we happen to carry out minor surgeries by the lights of doctors' mobile phones.
Eager to improve this situation, a Gaza-based scientist has teamed up with an international group to undertake a renewable energy project for the health sector.
Its aim is to provide 168 solar panels and other equipment for the Jenin Charitable Hospital in al-Shajaiyeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City.
Serving 250,000 people frequently exposed to Israel's violence
Haitham Ghanem, the scientist behind the project, said his team decided to focus on this site "simply because this sole hospital lies in the densely-populated al-Shajaiyeh neighborhood and serves 250,000 inhabitants, who are frequently exposed to Israeli violence from the adjacent border areas."
Dr. Hisham Murtaja, deputy-chief of the hospital, said that he was "very happy" that the three-story hospital had been chosen.
"We continue to suffer from the power outrage problem and sometimes we happen to carry out minor surgeries by the lights of doctors' mobile phones", he said.
"It is true that we run a power generator here, which is too costly by the way. But still we continue to often suffer from maintenance problems, as well as the problem of providing gasoline for the power generator itself."
An international collaboration
The project is the result of contacts initiated a few years ago between Ghanem, a 47-year-old physics and mechanical engineering graduate living in the Beach refugee camp in Gaza City, and Barbara Capone, an Italian scientist living in Austria.
"Barbara asked me, how can we help the people of Gaza?" said Ghanem. "At first, I had no immediate answer but four days later, I came back with the answer: finding a solution for the prolonged power outages across the territory.
"I started searching and brainstorming until Barbara and I agreed on helping a Gaza hospital sort out the problem of electricity shortages."
Known as Sunshine4Palestine, the group aims to raise £80,000 ($133,000) for the project. So far it has attracted donations in excess of £25,000 ($33,000) - a significant sum, but there's still a long way to go for the project to be fully funded.
The website allows donations to be made using PayPal.
By storing power harnessed from the sun in batteries, the system should be able to power the hospital throughout the day and night.
According to Capone, Jenin Hospital now consumes about 40 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, but this figure is artificially low as a result of power cuts. Hence the project aims to produce almost double that total, 76 MWh per year.
Perhaps more importantly, the project should mean that the hospital will become independent of Gaza's main power plant. That plant has long relied on supplies from Israel.
The siege imposed by Israel in 2006 has had adverse consequences for the supply of power, with Israel deliberately restricting the amount available.
Solar energy the best solution for Gaza
Capone believes that solar energy could help relieve Gaza's power problems, with the territory receiving sunshine on 360 days a year.
"In Europe such panels have increasingly become widespread and many countries, including Italy have invested a lot in such installations that are cheap and environment friendly."
"It is true that the Israeli siege of Gaza continues and would likely hinder delivery of the raw materials for the project, but we are planning to ship the materials through an Egyptian seaport then to Gaza", she explained.
"Also, we will make sure that local staff are trained by internationals, even in Gaza itself, so we will avoid any delays on maintenance of the panels, once they are running. The plant will be made of high-quality Canadian products and will likely be sustained for 25 years."
Another factor is that over the 20 year lifetime of the solar installation, it will cost a fraction of the cost of buying in grid electricity, or generating electricity on site from gas or diesel.
Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.
This article was originally published on Electronic Intifada.
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