Tag Archives: electricity

Shine some solar in Gaza

Some solar entrepreneurs in Israel have decided to shine some light in Africa, Haiti, Romania and a dozen other countries.   Yosef Abramowitz says his Arava Power Company, which established Israel’s largest solar field to generate electricity, plans to deploy $20 billion by 2020 to build 10,000 megawatts and supply green energy to 50 million people.”

The company now has a 4.9-megawatt field up and running, nine fields under construction, and plans for forty more energy projects in Israel over the next three years, including the first solar field on Bedouin land. Their goal is to eventually supply one tenth of Israel’s power.

Abramowitz has been dubbed Captain Sunshine and three times nominated for a Nobel Prize.

The inauguration of Israel's first solar field, at a kibbutz in the Negev desert, on June 5, 2011. (photo: Matthew Bell)

The inauguration of Israel’s first solar field, at a kibbutz in the Negev desert, on June 5, 2011. (photo: Matthew Bell)


What about the Gaza Strip, probably just miles from his kibbutz in the Negev desert?   Nearly 1.7 million Palestinians are sitting in the dark several hours every day without electricity.

Generators sitting on the sidewalks with extension cords running into the business.  Very common sight in Gaza.

Generators sitting on the sidewalks with extension cords running into the business.  A very common sight in Gaza.

Schools, hospitals and businesses rely on diesel-burning generators when the power goes off, obnoxiously loud and polluting.  Children do their homework by candlelight.  People are dying when burning candles set fires in the houses.

Battery-powered lanterns found in many homes.

Battery-powered lanterns found in many homes.

In June 2006, Israel destroyed Gaza’s power plant in retaliation for the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit.  Power has never been completely restored.

The current capacity for electricity supply in the Gaza Strip is 242 MW (as of summer 2011).

The Gaza Strip receives most of its power, 120 MW, from Israel, while up to 100 MW are produced at the only power plant in Gaza, and 22 MW are imported from Egypt. Under ideal circumstances, this adds up to 242 MW versus a peak demand of up to 350 MW in 2011. By 2020, the peak demand for electricity in the Gaza Strip will be 550 MW, more than twice what is supplied today.   See Gaza in 2020: A liveable place?

We played a game of Risk sitting in the dark.

We played a game of Risk sitting in the dark.

Gaza has plenty of sun.  I know, I saw it.  Shouldn’t Israel (as the occupying power) be helping Gaza become energy independent?  In fact, Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur, made that very recommendation in his report to the UN Human Rights Council on June 10, 2013, available here.

This is very frustrating.  A feasible solution to a serious problem could be deployed in a very short time, but Israeli officials aren’t talking about it, and the private sector in Israel appears more interested in helping with humanitarian efforts in Africa.

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Filed under Environment, Gaza, Israel, Occupation, People, United Nations

شمعة و كهرباء


شمعة  و كهرباء = electricity and candle

There are rolling black-outs in the Gaza Strip every day.  In fact, most families know when they will have electricity and when they won’t — almost like clockwork.   10-12 hours on, 10-12 hours off.

When the power shuts down, the commercial areas and more well-to-do residential neighborhoods have back-up generators.  The sound of all those generators running on the sidewalks with extension cords stretched into the stores is deafening.  Omar al Mokhtar Street, a major commercial center in downtown Gaza City, is particularly noisy.  And these generators can’t be good for the air quality.

The homes without generators either use battery-powered lamps or candles when the electricity is cut.   You might think — “That’s not so bad. Almost sounds romantic!”

Generator running on the sidewalk with extension cord into the building.

Generator running on the sidewalk with extension cord into the building.

The reality is horrific!  Three entire families have died this winter in Gaza when the candles burned their homes down.  Mother, father and all the children in each family.

And having the power cut for hours each day is extremely disruptive for all sorts of activities we take for granted in the West, such as cooking, washing clothes, researching on the Internet or Skyping with family or colleagues.  Gazans consciously plan their schedules around the electricity schedule.

The Gisha Legal Center reports that nearly 26% of the electricity demand is not being met.

Today the Gaza Strip needs a total electricity supply of 280 MW at times of peak demand in the summer and winter: 120 MW comes from Israel, 17 MW from Egypt and the rest of the needed electricity, 143 MW, is supposed to be supplied by the Gaza power plant, whose actual manufacturing capacity is limited to 60-70 MW because of shortages of spare parts and/or industrial diesel. Therefore, there is a permanent deficit in Gaza of at least 73 MW, or nearly 26% of the required electricity.

As a result, the Gaza Strip is subject to power outages, lasting 35-40 hours per week. In addition to the impact on the daily lives of Gaza residents, the power outages disrupt the normal functioning of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including health and educational institutions, water and sewage facilities and the agricultural sector.

Who is to blame for putting 1.7 million people in the dark in the 21st century?

Press TV says the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip is responsible.  Sufficient quantities of industrial diesel are not being allowed into Gaza.  And Al Jazeera notes that Israel will not allow the mechanical parts to enter Gaza that are needed to repair and support the power station.

Israel counters that it has recently upgraded parts of the electrical grid, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The Jewish Press points the finger at Hamas and reports:

There is a power shortfall in Gaza, chiefly because the Hamas regime which rules Gaza has, as a matter of deliberate and very cynical policy, refused to allow the import of fuel from Israel, resulting in its one and only power station operating at 20% capacity.

Wherever the truth may lie, Gaza’s future clearly depends on gaining control over its own power.   Alternative energy must be the answer, and engineering students at the Islamic University of Gaza are designing exciting new projects to meet this challenge.


311237_4811158402750_630842074_nNo one should be sitting in the dark in the Gaza Strip — not in the 21st century.  Investing in the future of these aspiring engineers is a good investment for everyone!


Filed under Economic Development, Gaza, Israel, Occupation

The 2030 Challenge in Gaza

I spent the day trying to resurrect my sustainability paper from the far corners of my brain since it’s stuck on my old computer’s hard-drive.  I’m speaking on Sunday at a Green Architecture conference in Gaza. 

Thinking about the future challenges in Gaza, it doesn’t seem at all fair that climate change must be on that list too. 

It’s not a pretty picture.  Almost seems like a perfect storm.

  • the aquifer beneath Gaza will likely be unusable by 2016 and the damage to it irreversible by 2020. 
  • the population will swell from 1.64 million today to 2.13 million by 2020 and 2.76 million by 2028.
  • the current demand for electricity cannot be met, requiring daily blackouts, but in 8 years the demand is expected to double.
  • the climate change impacts are already being felt.
  • the 65-year-long occupation and the 5-year siege are already devastating.
  • and the list goes on and on.

In the Mediterranean,  “NOAA reports that global warming is harming humans right now in a dramatic way:   Wintertime droughts are increasingly common in the Mediterranean region, and human-caused climate change is partly responsible, according to a new analysis by NOAA scientists and colleagues at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). In the last 20 years, 10 of the driest 12 winters have taken place in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

The 2010 National Center for Atmospheric Research notes “By the end of the century, many populated areas, including parts of the United States, could face readings in the range of -8 to -10, and much of the Mediterranean could fall to -15 to -20. Such readings would be almost unprecedented.”

Indeed, the new NOAA study should be especially sobering to those in the Mediterranean since they clearly face some of the most extreme drying in the entire world.

The Mediterranean has long been identified as a “hot spot” for substantial impact from climate change in the latter decades of this century because of water scarcity in the region, a rapidly increasing population, and climate modeling that projects increased risk of drought.

“The question has been whether this projected drying has already begun to occur in winter, the most important season for water resources,” Hoerling said. “The answer is yes.”

I wish Santa Fe architect Ed Mazria was here.  I’m going to share his 2030 challenge with the young architects in Gaza.

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Filed under Climate Change, Environment, Gaza, People

Lights Out!

A friend asked me what I found to be the most frustrating thing about Gaza so far.   #1 – the extreme difficulty in traveling to Gaza.  More about that later.

#2 – the damn electricity goes off about 8-10 hours every day!   In some cases, the generator kicks on, but not always.  And my hunch is that there are few generators in the refugee camps.

It’s much more than a mere inconvenience.  The second day in Gaza I heard reports of a young child burned to death the night before when the candle fell over.   That apparently happens often.  😦

And I wonder what my public health friends would say about these generators running.   In addition to the noise, they leave a film of black stuff (?) over curtains and other surfaces.   What are they doing to people’s  lungs?

My host family and I passed the time away one evening after the lights went out by playing a game of RISK with a battery-powered lamp.   I lost.    But this situation is no game.

Playing RISK in the dark.

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Filed under Gaza