Green Prophet recently interviewed Achmed Khammas. Achmed grew up in Syria and now lives in Germany, and he tells us about the new popular online resource he built: The “Book of Synergy,” and his vision and research in renewable energy, environmental activism in Syria, and personal views on Middle East peace.
My full name is Achmed Adolf Wolfgang Khammas, and I was born to a German mother and Iraqi father in 1952 in Berlin. I grew up in Damascus.
After finishing the school in Syria I worked, but did not study, for a few years at the Technical University in Berlin (TUB). Then, in 1977, I took over the engineering office of my parents in Damascus.
I started my own experiments and developments in 1979 in the field of domestic solar thermal devices and the training of staff members.
The first solar collector was produced then in 1980, which was the beginning of a ten year long odyssey with a lot of trouble and a lot of fun and success. Our team also worked in the field of wind energy, in which I used to have a European Patent for a new ‘splitted blade.’
I came back to Germany a few months before the fall of the Berlin wall, and worked for awhile as head of the sales department of a TUB-spin (LAR Laser and Analytical Research) and supplied the former GDR with all the necessary equipment for environmental controlling, laboratory equipment, water analysis etc.
In 1992 I changed to one of my ‘other’ jobs and became a freelance translator and interpreter (German/Arabic) which I have been doing since then. I have four children between 24 and 2.5 years.
Tell us about the solar technology you are developing now. How does this solve a problem of existing technology. Here in Germany I don’t work on practical solar technology for many reasons. One of them is the fact that 99% of private roofs aren’t flat (as in Syria), so you need special devices and training and courage…
In the first years I tried to found a company to develop the patented blade into a product, but I failed for many reasons. So I stop paying for the patent and let this technology become an ‘open source’ device. Now there are groups in Korea, Hungary, Iraq and Germany which continue the experiments (as grassroots science).
So I started to collect all my documents, books, letters and notes about renewable energy in general and start to write a book “Buch der Synergie,” aka “Book of Synergy.” My idea was that the most people worldwide don’t get any relevant information about renewable energy devices, so they can’t even tell their politicians that they want to change from burning resources as coal, gas, oil or uranium.
Also they can’t start their activities without knowing anything about all the possibilities in this field from solar to wind, from biogas to waves, from geothermal to micro energy harvesting, etc.
In 2007 I released the book as a cost-free online publication in the internet. It is about 2,500 pages long and seems to be one of the biggest online-collections worldwide: www.buch-der-synergie.de. Recently the site has been getting about 800.000 clicks per month, and this is only the start – in ONE language, leaving out English, Spanish and even French! So I’m now trying to get the funding for translating this ‘encyclopaedia’ into other languages…
What was your inspiration for developing this solution? Well – this is a very long story, maybe we can talk about it separately some other time. In short: In 1973 it was very clear to me that oil is much more a weapon than a sustainable energy resource. So I started to search for alternatives…that’s how it all began.
What’s the clean tech business like in Syria. Is anything happening there? Don’t forget that I’m away from Syria for many years now. Ok, I visit Damascus from time to time, because I love the city and the people there, I have a lot of friends and also a part of my family lives in Damascus.
But any change there takes years and years and years. The people are very conservative and the government hasn’t taken care for the environment at all. Maybe something changes now, as Mrs. Asma al-Assad is very engaged in environmental issues. Also there are now some groups concerned in this theme. But if you compare the POSSIBILITIES of the land with what really happens you could cry…
What is environmental awareness like in Syria? Is the environment important to Syrians? Environmental awareness is a matter of education and starts in the childhood, at home and at school.
The only guys that took care in the 1960’s were the Boy Scouts (I was one of them), but the Baath party banned them later.
Since the year 2000 more and more ‘environmental groups’ have been established, but they are still weak and limited to the upper class in the bigger cities. I’m a member of the first group to be established in Damascus, but they are still on the same level as the German groups in the late 1960’s.
Also in this case the POSSIBILITIES are gigantic. Even the holy Koran tells the Muslims to care for the environment and has some verses one can understand as encouraging us to use solar, hydro and tide energy (wa sakharna al-shamsa wa al-qamara, 22/65 etc.). So I’m waiting for the first real ‘Green Sheikh’ who tell the people about this and push them to take responsibility for their world.
How do you think environmental issues can solve Middle East conflicts? There are a lot of plans about this, such as the ‘Peace Channel’ between the Red and the Dead Sea. But this needs at least a Palestinian state to be part of the program, planning and realisation.
Also in Syria there was a man in 1975 who offered a new energetic device I called the ‘Synergetic Model.’ He’s dead now but his idea is still alive and I wrote about it in part D of the Book of Synergy. There is also a English translation about this technology published on Peswiki.
Anyhow I can’t imagine that environmental issues can solve the Middle East conflicts. But they can help them not to increase… as could happen if Israel and Syria can’t find a sustainable solution for the water resources of the Hermon, and so on.
At least I’m optimistic – because environmental issues and climate change is a worldwide matter which does not care about races, nationalities, religions and borders. And this is VERY GOOD!