Seeing no end to power crisis, Gazans turn to the sun

Wed Mar 9, 2016 11:52am EST
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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Faced with power blackouts lasting anything from eight to 12 hours a day, residents and businesses in Gaza are increasingly turning to the sun to supply their energy needs.

Not only are solar panels more reliable and cheaper in the long run, but in some cases, including that of Tamer al-Burai, they have become essential to staying alive.

"To me, power is not just about lights or entertainment, it's a matter of life and death," said Burai, 40, who suffers from a severe sleep disorder that affects his breathing and has to be hooked up to an oxygen ventilator at night.

Burai used to spend around 18,000 shekels ($4,600) a year on fuel to run a generator that helped make sure he could weather the daily blackouts. Now he has invested in solar panels, making the long-run costs much cheaper.

"I paid $5,000 to get solar energy for the entire house and that will provide relief for years to come," the father of four told Reuters proudly.

Whereas three or four years ago only a handful of Gaza's 1.95 million people could afford to think about solar panels, in the past couple of years, as prices have come down, it has become a much more accessible option.

Schools, hospitals, shops, banks and even mosques have started to install panels on their roofs across the Gaza Strip, a self-governing Palestinian enclave which suffered considerable damage in 2014 during a seven-week war between Israel and Palestinian armed groups based in the territory.

Nabeel Marouf, the general manager of the Gaza-based Renewable Power Engineering and Contracting Company, said he had been overwhelmed with orders. Two years ago, he might have had a dozen clients, he said, but now it's in the thousands.   Continued...

A Palestinian worker installs solar panels atop the roof of a medical centre in Gaza City March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa