Spreading the word about renewable energy is one thing, but who would have thought that you could run a hospital on wind power? Well, you can and the proof is in Hebron, where the Al Ahli Hospital plans to use wind power to cover about 40% of its energy needs. The project, which is the first of its kind in the country, is supported by the European Union and will include the installation of a wind turbine that can produce up to 225 kilowatts of energy.

by Elias Zananiri for EU Neighbourhood Info Centre 16-10-2012

HEBRON – “It’s all about being green and clean,” says Mohammad Tamimi, chief engineer in charge of the wind energy project at Al Ahli Hospital in Hebron, West Bank. He takes us to the roof of the hospital, stands at one edge and points down to where work has started. With the funding from the European Union, Tamimi hopes the wind turbine will be up and running before the end of the year, supplying the hospital with electricity and saving 35% of its current expenditure on energy, be it electricity or fuel. The wind system, he said, will provide the hospital with 330MW of electricity per year while the solar thermal system will save the hospital 100,000 liters of diesel per year. In exact figures, the hospital annual consumption of diesel is about 200,000 liters and when the project runs, half of this will be saved through renewable energy.

A new way to cope with power shortages
Sitting on top of the highest hill in the area, Al Ahli Hospital serves over 600,000 Palestinians living in the Hebron district, on the southern edge of the West Bank. In normal circumstances, the hospital has a capacity of 365 beds, but in emergency situations, it can go up to 500 beds. In 2001, a few months after the second Palestinian uprising against Israel broke out, the security situation in the West Bank deteriorated. The hospital staff had to think of ways to cope with the new challenges, including shortages in fuel, power and oxygen supplies. A team led by Tamimi put together a comprehensive plan to create alternative resources for the hospital. They thought of digging a well to store water, they implemented a project to produce the oxygen needed to all hospital facilities including the operating theatres and they built a huge tank for up to 50,000 liters of fuel needed for power generators and other machinery. The fourth idea they came up with was to use wind energy.

There are some things in life that you just cannot believe until you see them and that was exactly the case with the wind energy site, which we visited under the burning sun in June. The wind that blew on the hospital roof was so refreshing, that it was hard to believe that it was summer or that the temperature was 38 degrees centigrade. That was nature at work. And this natural phenomenon will be transformed into energy in less than six months from now. The idea of renewable power in OPT started back in the 1980s. Tamimi said that he was moved by the scene of Palestinian women who came to the city from remote villages and brought with them batteries to charge and take back home to operate their small TV sets and emergency lights. “I told myself something should be done to help those women,” he said. “I thought of solar energy. I installed simple sunbeam receivers to transform solar energy into electricity, which is stored during the day and used at night.” The system worked. And Tamimi won an important victory on two fronts. For one thing, he sold quite a few receivers but, more importantly, he became convinced that renewable energy is something that Palestine should consider as an option in the future. Tamimi hooked up with Al Ahli Hospital and put together a core team made up of experts belonging to different stakeholders in Palestine, including Najah University, the Hebron Electricity Company, the PA Energy & Environment Authority, Hebron Polytechnic University and the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Together they prepared a comprehensive study on wind energy in Palestine. At a certain point, contacts started with the EU, culminating in a strategic agreement: the European Union would fund 80% of the overall cost of the project, i.e. providing €1.6 million. The project was officially inaugurated in May 2009.

Capacity building and dissemination of information
A main objective to the project is to increase the capacity building in the fields of energy and environment. In its capacity as the European partner, the University of Twente helps in designing and conducting a technical and managerial training on different topics related to energy. The trainees were from different Palestinian institutions connected to clean energy technologies. Among them were universities, municipalities and NGO’s. Alongside with in-house capacity building, the project sent two engineers to study issues related to energy at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, where they both acquired their master degree. Besides, the project contains five workshops; two already took place and two in the near future. The fifth workshop will be the closing ceremony of the project. Those workshops are designed to increase community awareness regarding renewable energy and environmental issues.

Now the planning phase is over and the installation process of the turbine is due to start by this autumn. It is a pilot project that is designed to spread the concept of renewable energy throughout Palestine, a country that enjoys a moderate climate in the winter and summer. The estimated power consumption in the West Bank is approximately 600 megawatts. The Palestinian National Authority’s Energy & Environment Authority has a plan to generate no less than 15 megawatts of power from wind energy by the year 2020. According to Dr. Imad Ibrik of Najah University, the institute has decided to mobilize all its resources to help promote renewable energy.

“For this purpose, we have set up stations throughout the West Bank to measure wind speed and force and to decide accordingly which areas are good for wind and which for solar energy,” he says. Dr. Radwan Tahboub, from the Polytechnic University in Hebron, says his team of researchers worked closely with Tamimi’s staff. Noting that fuel-operated turbines release huge quantities of CO2, causing major health and environment hazards, he stresses that renewable energy is gaining momentum in Palestine as well as elsewhere in the world. Tahboub has other objectives that he wants this project to help him achieve. “We should build women’s capacity and engage them in promoting clean and green energy. We also need adequate legislation by the PNA to regulate the spread of renewable energy in the future.” Expressing his profound appreciation for the EU initiative to support the project, Tahboub hopes to transform this pilot project into an example that others will follow in Palestine and in the region. “The cost is high today – he says – but it was a lot higher in the past. The more we make progress in this area, the less it costs,” he says.

Read more at: http://www.enpi-info.eu/files/features/PALESTINE%20-%20Hebron%20power%20plant-en.pdf