The prospects of solar energy are heating up in Palestine. Rachel reports on a new solar thermal plant at Beit Jala school.
The Talitha Kumi school in Beit Jala, Palestine just became home to Palestine’s first solar thermal plant for warm water supply and central heating, Green Prophet learns.
The 200 square-meter plant, which went into operation on December 2, is a partnership of MAN Ferrostaal, DENA (the German Energy Agency), and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.
Talitha Kumi is a big school, boasting 830 Palestinian students in grades K-12, including 30 students who live at the school as boarders, as well as a community college with 25 students and a guesthouse with capacity for 100 visitors. Accordingly, utility costs are a huge burden on the school, whose funding comes primarily from outside donations.
But according to Principal Georg Duerr, the new solar thermal collectors will help the school save 20,000 Euros a year. More immediately noticeable, the entire school will now have a consistent, reliable supply of warm water all year round. And of course, as an added benefit, the new system is expected to reduce the school’s greenhouse gas emissions by 57 tons per year, which is about the equivalent of removing 25 mid-size cars from the road.
The installation of the new solar thermal system is part of the DENA’s Solar Roofs Programme for Foreign Market Development. Through this program, DENA creates “reference” solar roof installations around the world.
“People have to be able to look at solar insallations,” explains Nicole Schneider, the project’s director. “They have to see them and understand how solar works, that solar works, and get a feeling of the output.”
By building awareness and understanding of solar energy’s potential in local communities, DENA hopes to develop new markets around the world for German solar energy technology.
Ferrostaal, for instance, the German corporation that donated the solar collectors, develops and manages energy plants all over the world. They consider solar power a “core business,” (although they also run less environmentally-friendly petrochemical, oil, and gas businesses) and see their donation as both an example of their social commitment and an opportunity to make their solar power division visible to the public in the Middle East.
While market penetration might still take a little while, there is certainly one group who is already very aware of solar technology’s benefits: Talitha Kumi students. The school had a strong environmental education component even before the collectors were installed; in addition to electing a representative for the student government, for example, each class elects an “environmental representative.”
But now, the new solar thermal system adds even more educational opportunities. A panel in the school monitors the collection system, so students can see the energy their school is collecting every day (see picture above). Also, the school will now start offering courses on solar energy.
“We are very lucky that we have been chosen for this project,” concluded Principal Duerr.
Photos courtesy of MAN Ferrostaal and Talitha Kumi School.
More on solar energy in the Palestinian Authority:
Comet ME Finalist in BBC Challenge
An Interview With Comet ME’s founder Elad Orian
A Solar Powered Comet Lights Palestinian Villages
Solar Ovens in Gaza