Like Egypt, Israel, and Jordan, Lebanon has been beset with energy shortages recently – a crisis that will escalate as demand grows alongside an ever-expanding population. Sidestepping these constraints and taking advantage of almost year-round sunshine, the Transportation Ministry has installed 766 solar-powered street lights on a 10km stretch of relatively unpolluted highway in Hermel. Some residents are grateful and excited about the $1,072,000 project, but others are skeptical.
Ahmad Shahin, an engineer from the Union of Hermel District Municipalities told The Daily Star that they have been asking the transportation ministry for street lights for a long time in order to improve safety not only at night, but also during foggy weather. Eventually the ministry came back with a proposal to install the solar-powered lights designed to reduce gas emissions and costs.
The Union accepted this proposal and the ministry oversaw construction of the lights. It is uncertain which company supplied the bulbs, solar panels and other equipment, but they are required to guarantee the products for one year under the terms reached between them and the transportation ministry.
A solar panel crowning each light collects and stores solar energy produced during sunny days. When the sun goes down or when fog settles in, a lightbulb automatically switches on. They each run for up to 12 hours a day.
Installed on the Baalbek-Homs highway from the old Bekaa train station to Hermel, and on the 5 kilometer stretch between Bekaa and Al-Qaa, the new lights improve visibility without undue environmental destruction.
Although Nizar Dandash, the head of the League of University Professors for the Protection of Environment, believes this project – the largest solar installation commissioned by the Lebanese government – is a step in the right direction, past experience has generated criticism that the equipment used is substandard and will require costly maintenance that the municipality can scarcely afford.
Nonetheless, the union’s head, Mustafa Taha, told the paper that they will take responsibility for any maintenance costs going forward.
Recently a Lebanese goat farmer subverted municipal energy shortages by setting up his own solar panel that has allowed him and his family to connect with the rest of the world. It seems that finally, finally Lebanon is catching on to the reality that solar isn’t just a passing phase. It makes good business sense, as long as no corners are cut.
Image Credit: Highway Light Trails, Shutterstock
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