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Solar Energy Helps Solve Gaza Fuel Shortages


Khaled Bardawil and Jamal al-Meqati pose with their solar-powered car. (Courtesy: Gaza Al-Azhar University)

Khaled Bardawil and Jamal al-Meqati pose with their solar-powered car. (Courtesy: Gaza Al-Azhar University)

Like so many requirements of daily life in the Gaza Strip, electricity is in short supply.

In many cases, local officials have been forced to adopt a system that shuts down electricity to parts of the region on a rotating basis. And last year, the delivery of diesel fuel and gasoline to the Palestinian enclave nearly shut down.

Those troubles led two engineering students at Gaza's Al Azhar University to look to one source of energy that is constant and abundant: the sun.

Energy that's constant and clean

"We decided to depend on a power that God gave us," says Khaled Bardawil, "which is renewable, alternative and clean energy. So we decided to make a solar power vehicle."

It was a huge undertaking, because most of Gaza runs on electricity called alternating current, or AC, while solar cells produce another form of electricity called direct current, or DC.

"The DC motors are not available in our city," says Jamal Al-Meqati. "And, unfortunately, nobody knows how to make them in the city, nobody knows how to create them. So we had to bring a motor and make a lot of changes to it, and these changes were not easy to make."

But they did it, financing their experiment with about $1,500 from their own pockets.

Slow but never needs a refill

And while its top speed is only 30 kilometers per hour, their professor says it's a start towards solving the ever-present fuel crisis in Gaza.

"By building this vehicle we wanted to introduce a prototype as some European universities did," says Mazen Abu Amer. "We wanted to spread awareness and the culture of using solar power through these projects."

The students hope that a sponsor might help them move the prototype to mass production someday.

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