How Solar Power is Helping Gaza Residents Overcome Electricity Crisis

Most Gazans can’t afford solar energy, but for upper and middle class people in the embattled strip it is becoming an increasingly popular option as the local energy system crumbles

By: Naomi Zeveloff

Muhammad Dahman stands near the solar energy panels he installed on his roof in Gaza City. Naomi Zeveloff for The National

With two sons at university, a third son in high school, and another daughter coming up through the Gaza school system, Muhammad Dahman’s children study day and night, using lights to read and fans to cool off in the heat of Gaza City.

Though Mr Dahman, a 46-year-old journalist, is proud of his children, their study routine was once a source of anxiety. In Gaza, where electricity is at a premium, more homework meant more money. On top of the 200 shekels, (Dh206) he paid per month to connect to Gaza’s weak power grid, he shelled out at least another 200 shekels per month for a generator, just to keep the lights on at night.

In April, when the Gaza Strip power plant ran out of fuel following a dispute between Hamas, which rules Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, Mr Dahman decided that enough was enough. On a friend’s advice, he invested in solar energy. In May, he spent about Dh7,350 — which he is still paying off — on four shiny solar panels on the roof, next to his nephew’s pigeon coop.

The panels provide the electricity Mr Dahman’s family uses during the day, and also charges the batteries that they use at night. Now, he says, the family has a “new life”. Not only does he have enough electricity to meet all their needs, his home has become a hangout for cousins wanting to cool off or charge their mobile phones.

Sitting in his fan-cooled living room, Mr Dahman said it was a relief to no longer depend on the Gaza Strip grid. Today, he believes that solar energy is the way of the future for the territory. The fact that solar energy is better for the environment is of secondary concern to him. “I just want light!” he said.

Most Gazans can’t afford solar energy, but for upper and middle class people in the embattled strip it is becoming an increasingly popular option as the local energy system crumbles. The United Nations Development Programme is also installing solar panels in schools and hospitals in Gaza. Last month, the Israeli government further reduced its energy supply to the territory at the behest of the Palestinian Authority, which blamed Hamas for failing to repay the energy costs. Now, Gazans are receiving just four hours of electricity every 24 hours.

Not far from Mr Dahman’s home on a busy Gaza City thoroughfare, a solar company has put shimmering panels on display on the pavement outside its shop. Inside, Tareq Darwish, the Oceanic Company’s 25-year-old accountant, says that sales of the India-made panels, which must pass through Israel to reach Gaza, have almost tripled in the last 10 weeks. From selling 15 panels a month, they are now selling up to 50. With more vendors selling the panels, prices have gone down from 1,000 shekels per panel to 600 or 700 shekels each.

It’s still not cheap — Mr Darwish says he can’t even afford the product he is selling — but he tells customers that solar panels are a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to generators, which can be deadly if misused. In the past, Gazans have died from generator fires and carbon monoxide poisoning from keeping their units indoors.

Business owners in Gaza are also looking to solar energy. In the northern part of Gaza City, the tall metal roof of the Al Nour Gas station is topped by tilted solar panels drinking up the sun. The petrol station is part of a large complex owned by the Abu Qamer family, which also includes a popular 24-hour grocery store known all over the northern Gaza Strip for its large refrigerators full of perishable items such as hummus and labane cheese, and a 12-unit apartment building housing more than 100 members of the family.

Family patriarch Fateh Abu Qamer, now in his 60s, invested US$52,000 (Dh191,000) in 90 solar panels and 30 batteries to power the complex last July. In the past, the two businesses would barely bring in enough money to cover the costs of electricity, he said. But he expects to make back what he spent on the solar panels and batteries in two years.

Others in the area have taken note and one of Mr Qamer’s neighbours has already followed suit. Mr Qamer welcomes neighbours who need to charge their mobile phones and even hooked up one neighbour’s electric-powered water supply, he said. In the Gaza heat, the Abu Qamer grocery store is a welcome oasis of cool in the locality.

“The most important thing is to keep the services running,” Mr Qamer added.

In Gaza today, that is no small feat.


Downtown Development Prompts Changes in County’s Solar Panel Plans

A variety of alternative fuel vehicles parked near a solar array supplying energy to a refueling station at Mage Solar in Dublin during a stop of the Alternative Fuel Road Show in this June 20, 2012, Telegraph file photo. Grant Blankenship

By: Stanley Dunlap

A 2016 agreement to install solar panels outside Macon-Bibb County government buildings was hailed as a historic moment as officials took the lead in supporting renewable energy.

But as measurements were being taken for panels that would go in the parking lot of the Macon-Bibb County Government Center, a proposed mixed-use development down the street prompted officials to change plans.

Instead, a canopy of panels atop a parking deck at the development will provide some solar power for the government center and Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency.

The six-story parking deck will tie into the future Central City Commons that will feature residential lofts, retail space and a hotel. The deck’s panels will provide another source of power for the two government buildings, including providing an extra layer of protection to the EMA building in case of severe weather.

“The panels in our parking lot will definitely reduce the footprint for both Government Center and the EMA bunker, but they won’t produce enough to fully power both,” Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said in an email. “They will supplement the power we get from Georgia Power, but will provide the triple redundancy for backup power at the EMA bunker should the power go out and the generator not work.”

But the solar panels initiative has been modified from the initial agreement with Cherry Street Capital that officials approved last summer. The plan was to install panels outside the new Bibb County Sheriff’s Office investigation annex about the same time as the government center.

The CEO of Cherry Street Energy, a development company of Cherry Street Capital, told Macon-Bibb officials in June 2016 that Georgia legislation was key to expanding solar power capabilities. Third parties are now able to place solar panels and sell the energy to municipalities and commercial property owners.

There are still plans to install solar panels near the sheriff’s annex, but there hasn’t been a time frame set for when that will happen, Floore said.

Macon-Bibb will continue looking at other possible government buildings that could be powered by solar energy, but some locations are much more feasible than others.

“I think the challenge we have now is finding the open area sunny enough to get enough light to power the size of the building,” Floore said.


China Built a 248-Acre Solar Power Plant Shaped Like a Giant Panda

By: Alexander Haro

Only in China, right? Literally. This is only in China. Photo: China Merchants New Energy

China is quickly taking the lead in the global race for the next and greatest form of energy. It’s not going to come from fossil fuels, which sucks for everyone who works in the fossil fuel industry and everyone with their hands fondling the balls of the fossil fuel industry. It’s good for the future of the earth, though, and everyone in it.

Solar farms aren’t generally set up to make people smile. Instead, they’re set up to make people’s lights turn on, which makes far more sense. But China decided they’d do both in a way that is just so… China. They built a solar farm shaped like a giant panda, and god damn is it ever cute.

The plant, built by the clean power giant China Merchants New Energy Group, is 248 acres and isn’t even half done. When completed, it will be 1,500 acres and have a whole other panda.

Giant pandas, for those out of the giant panda news loop, recently just made a big move. For years, they were on the endangered species list, but as of last year, they’re officially off of it.

Pandas were (and still kind of are, despite the upgrade off the endangered species list) in the direst of straits up until just a few years ago. That’s for a few reasons, all of which are thoroughly intertwined. Here they are, in quick and dirty short form: female pandas suck at reproducing. They only have a 2-3 day window in which they can get knocked up. Since humans in general and China specifically have decided that it’s fine to tear up vast tracts of land for our corn and wheat and high rise buildings, pandas were pretty much driven out of house and home. At one point, there were somewhere between 1000 and 2000 giant pandas left in the wild, and none of them were all that successful in finding each other to make that number increase. In 2004, the IUCN estimated that there were 1,596 left. Anyway, that’s your panda update. Now back to the solar farm shaped that’s just like one.

The first phase of it was finished on June 30th. At 50-megawatts, it began putting power into northwestern China’s grid. The panda will be getting a partner in a few months. The Panda Power Plant–that’s the actual name–will produce a pretty staggering amount of energy: 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of solar energy in 25 years, according to and China Merchants New Energy Group.


These Transparent, Solar Power-Generating Windows Are the World’s First

By: nbcmach


A tech startup on a mission to make modern commercial and housing estates energy neutral has outfitted the headquarters of a Dutch bank with the world’s first commercial, fully transparent solar-power-generating windows.

A close-up photo of one of Physee’s installed PowerWindows at Amsterdam’s main business district. Image Source: Jasper Juinen

The windows have solar cells installed in the edges at a specific angle that allows the incoming solar light to be efficiently transformed into electricity.

“Large commercial estates consume a lot of energy,” said Ferdinand Grapperhaus, co-founder and CEO of the startup, called Physee. “If you want to make these buildings energy-neutral, you never have enough roof surface. Therefore, activating the buildings’ facades will significantly contribute to making the buildings energy-neutral.”

The windows could generate 8 to 10 watts of power, according to Grapperhaus.

“This enables the user to charge a phone per every square meter [11 square feet] two times a day,” he told Live Science.

The first installation of Physee’s PowerWindows was unveiled in June in Eindhoven, in the south of the Netherlands. The headquarters of Rabobank, the Netherlands’ biggest bank, has been fitted with 323 square feet (30 square m) of the PowerWindows. The bank’s employees will be able to plug their smartphones into the windows using USB ports to charge their batteries, according to Physee.

Other buildings in the Netherlands are already lined up to receive the innovative solar technology, which has won Physee a place on the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers 2017 list.


At the end of June, the headquarters of the Amsterdam-based charity the Postcode Lottery were fitted with the PowerWindows. After that, Physee will move forward with its first large-scale project: a 19,000-square-foot (1,800 square m) installation in a large, newly built residential complex in Amsterdam, the Bold tower.

“I believe that every new type of glass needs power,” Grapperhaus said. “Either for the glass to be tinted electrically or heated or inside windows there are these solar blinds, which are electrical and can go up and down but also more and more you can see video glass.”

Grapperhaus said that the cost of the wiring that brings power from the grid to such windows is considerable in large commercial estates, and investing in power-generating windows would, therefore, make commercial sense.

Physee is already working on the next-generation technology that would triple the efficiency of the PowerWindows. The surface of the second generation of PowerWindows will be coated with a special material that transforms incoming visible light into near-infrared light, which is then transported toward the solar cells in the edges of the windows.

“It works similarly to a [glow-in-the-dark star],” Grapperhaus said. “The difference is that the glow star emits the green wavelength, but the coating on our windows emits light in near-infrared wavelength.”

The coating is based on the rare-earth metal thulium. Grapperhaus, together with his friend Willem Kesteloo, discovered the ability of thulium to transform a broad spectrum of light into near-infrared light in 2014, during their studies at the Delft University of Technology.

“Over time, our efficiency will improve further due to the development of better solar cells but also because of the economies of scale,” Grapperhaus said. “Right now, we are looking for iconic projects all over the world to show that a large glass building can be made energy neutral in an aesthetic way.”

Physee was among 30 early stage technology pioneers highlighted for 2017 and selected by the World Economic Forum for their potential to change the world. The list, announced June 14, consisted of firms developing various technologies, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity solutions, and biotechnology.

Physee’s presence on the list shows that the world is starting to take climate change seriously, Grapperhaus said.

“Ten years ago, sustainability was something that wasn’t taken very seriously — not by venture capitalists, not by many governments and neither by large corporations,” Grapperhaus said. “What I have seen over the last three years is that corporations are becoming more and more responsible, governments are becoming more and more supportive, and venture capitalists are becoming more and more interested” in sustainability.


Germany Breaks Green Energy Record by Generating 35% of Power from Renewables in First Half of 2017

By: Markus Wacket, Erik Kirschbaum

Wind turbines in RWE Offshore-Windpark Nordsee Ost in the North Sea 30km from Helgoland, Germany Christian Charisius/Reuters

Germany raised the proportion of its power produced by renewable energy to 35 percent in the first half of 2017 from 33 percent the previous year, according to the BEE renewable energy association.

Germany is aiming to phase out its nuclear power plants by 2022. Its renewable energy has been rising steadily over the last two decades thanks in part to the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) which was reformed this year to cut renewable energy costs for consumers.

Germany has been getting up to 85 percent of its electricity from renewable sources on certain sunny, windy days this year.

The BEE reported on Sunday the overall share of wind, hydro and solar power in the country’s electricity mix climbed to a record 35 percent in the first half.

The government has pledged to move to a decarbonized economy by the middle of the century and has set a target of 80 percent renewables for gross power consumption by 2050.

It aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in 2020 from 1990 levels and 95 percent by 2050.