Jordanian Activists Pilot Test Clear Thin Film PV Cells on Mideast Greenhouses

This past weekend I traveled to historic Madaba, Jordan at the first Middle East Green Bloggers Conference.  Among this inspiring collection of environmental writers, professionals, and activists, I’ve just met a trio of Jordanian young innovators bringing a special variety of “thin film” technology to the Middle East.

Zein Nsheiwat, Sawsan Issa, and Osama Suliman first met in 2005 when they were all students at the Arava Insitute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel.  After they returned home to Jordan, they wanted to find a way to take advantage of what they had learned at the Arava, and to apply it in the context of their home country.

Today, this team is conducting a pilot project on clear thin film photovoltaic (PV) cells in the Middle East.  Thin film PV cells are made out of bendable plastic.  They use less silicon than traditional PV cells (the ones you find on roofs, for instance), which is part of their raison d’etre – because of the global boom in solar technology, silicon is getting more and more expensive.

Zein, Sawsan, and Osama are using clear thin film PV cells, a special subset of thin films, to line the tops of greenhouses in Jordan.  Their hope is that the because the cells are transparent, they will both let enough sunlight in for photosynthesis, thereby increasing plant productivity, and produce electricity for Jordanian farmers who often live off the traditional energy grid.

There are a few downsides of thin film technology.  Since the panels use less silicon, they have lower efficiency. PV cells usually capture about 18 percent of the sun’s energy, but think film captures 8-11 percent.  The clear thin film is even lower – in lab conditions they capture about 5 percent, or even lower.

“Lab conditions,” however, is the operative phrase.  By engaging in a 14-month pilot study in the field, these researchers aim to study how this technology actually behaves in the field.

If their pilot study in Jordan is successful, Zein, Sawsan, and Osama aspire to enable small farmers to sell solar energy to the Jordanian grid, contributing to both sustainable development and overall environmental wellbeing both in their country and the entire region.

More on solar energy in Jordan and beyond:
Ausra Reflectors to Power 100 MW Solar Thermal Plant in Jor
Jordan Launches EDAMA Initiative on Energy Independence, Water Conservation
Lebanon and United Nations to Develop Solar Energy Projects

Read more on our green workshop:
Multifaith Writers and Activists Unite in Jordan
Green Bloggers Page (with all updates)
Meet the green bloggers and activists from Jordan
Part I: Learn About Jordan
Instigating Environmental Awareness in Palestine

Image via GJSolar

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