The original purpose of our project was to establish solar energy systems (photovoltaic, or PV) in four demonstration sites (one each in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Palestine) that will supply energy for various development needs, especially efficient water management. Maintenance of the PV and water treatment equipment is taught to local residents. A final goal is to connect these isolated villages via wireless technologies to the global community and to facilitate the selling of their handmade products, including rugs, cheeses, music and artwork via the world wide web. Thus far one of the four villages (Al Ka'abneh, West Bank, Palestine) has been successfully electrified, and is actively marketing on the Internet.
Since the initial project development, we have altered the business model to a digital one, whereby we develop and market "digital culture," digitized versions of art and music, which form a much more efficient (financially and environmentally) model for bringing wealth into the community. The village is not yet fully connected because of ongoing unrest in the region. Still, we have developed some of these digital products and they are available on the Web.
Situation before the initiative began:
In Palestine, 10% of the population lack electricity. In many Middle East villages, women and children draw, transport, and sanitize (boil) water supplies. Health problems connected to food poisoning and drinking unsanitary water abound. Al-Ka'abneh had no electricity, running water, or telephone lines. Medical care consisted of an hour-long doctor's visit twice a week. The school was dilapidated and lacking in any modern equipment.
Establishment of priorities:
Priorities for the Palestinian village was provision of electricity and potable water, which could be pumped from sub-surface springs and desalinated. Urgent needs included improving health care facilities and the local school. The overarching priority is to promote cooperation between Arab and Jewish communities towards the shared goal of sustainable development.
Formulation of objectives and strategies
First photovoltaic (PV) solar energy technologies appropriate for rural development needs were identified by the scientific partners from each country, with focus on water supply and management issues. Once the systems were implemented (by Greenstar) we aimed to develop local capacity in terms of practical knowledge and experience in using and maintaining PV-energy production systems. Third with the help of Greenstar we plan to connect the village to the global community via the Internet and develop a market for the locally produced "eco-wares," such as Digital Culture. The final priority was to serve as a demonstration project that promotes innovative forms of regional cooperation for sustainable solutions to development needs.
Mobilization of resources
Friends of the Earth- Middle East initiated the concept of "A Solar Bridge for Peace-Building", and organized the 14 March symposium. The feasibility study was conducted by scientists from Ben Gurion University, the American University in Cairo, Al-Najah National University, and the Royal Scientific Society. The feasibility study and symposium were funded by the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation. The symposium was held under the auspices of the Palestinian Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs with support from the World Solar Commission, UNESCO, the Israeli Ministry of Environment, and the Palestinian Energy Authority. Private companies Greenstar and WSBIC provided technical assistance, and Greenstar raised funds for and installed the solar panels for the Al-Ka'abneh village.
Regarding participation of the various stakeholders, this project is a break-through on many levels. Cooperation among regional professionals for solar energy is unprecedented in the Middle East. Local peoples from neighboring countries had the opportunity to meet each other, and to interface with and benefit from a high-tech world otherwise beyond their reach. Likewise, scientists were able to bring their ideas to fruition and be exposed to the reality of the vital need for their work. The major obstacle to implementation is the high initial cost of the panels.
The Palestinian village Al Ka'abneh was supplied with a 100 kW PV power generator, which electrifies a health clinic, mosque and school. In addition solar-powered water pumping and RO (reverse osmosis) desalination units were installed and potable water is now available upon demand. The school has been supplied with state-of-the-art computers and the village has its own presence on the Internet where villagers actively market their wares. To achieve this, researchers from the four partner countries, who had never previously met because of regional politics, worked cooperatively and will continue to do so for further sites. Village residents have been taught to maintain and repair the PV cells and are gaining computer skills. The village will serve as a model for the tens of other unelectrified villages located nearby.
First, we affirmed that local solutions to local problems exist. Solar energy indeed provides the necessary energy for isolated villages, rendering the national grid superfluous in these areas. Kibbutz Samar taught us that solar energy may also be incorporated into the national grid in a profitable way, both ecologically and economically. We learned that including the corporate sector early on in similar projects has the potential for enormous benefit. Finally, from a peace-building perspective, the solar project can be easily advanced because it involves no sovereignty issues. If done cleverly, other projects could be designed based on this non-sovereignty model and build tremendous confidence in this region and others.
A primary goal of this initiative is to inspire other communities and governments to invest in solar energy and incorporate PV systems into existing conventional systems. The success of the Al Ka'abneh project has given us momentum to continue in the same vein with other communities. In addition to the direct benefit for village residents, the workshop, publications and Internet site benefit the wider academic and environmental community. We are currently negotiating with BP Solar on the possibility of their donating solar panels for our project. In the future we will engage the corporate sector early on in project planning.
16 April, 1996: Renewable Energy Seminar in Amman, FoEME announces
Technology, Tools and Methods:
Infrastructure, Communications, Transportation:
Level of Activity: Regional (international)