PALESTINE – In a world region where the sun shines for more than 320 days per year, installing solar photovoltaic panels comes as a very logical method for generating clean electricity. In Palestine, the Latin Patriarchate has installed a Photovoltaic System in its schools in five cities; Ramallah, Birzeit, Aboud, Beit Jala, Gaza and currently underway in Zababdeh. The environment-friendly system brings benefits not only to the Patriarchate’s schools but also to its kindergartens, priests’ houses, the Latin Patriarchal Seminary and printing press in Beit Jala.
“The Latin Patriarchate schools are able to reduce their electricity consumption bills to almost zero, pointed out Mr. Habib Sleibi, a Latin Patriarchate engineer, while energy generated at the Latin Patriarchal Seminary is able to cover about 60% of its consumption.”
But does this system necessitate direct sunlight to function? “Our region is very rich in solar energy, especially in high-mountain and coastal areas,” replied Mr. Sleibi. “But even in cloudy conditions and with the new photovoltaic models that we recently installed, electricity can be generated with efficiency rates that reach 60 and 70%.”
Electricity crisis in Gaza
The Photovoltaic System proves most crucial in the Gaza Strip, where people have been living on 4 to 5 hours a day of electricity for over a decade. Candles, flashlights and gasoline-fueled generators had become their other sources of power. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, the electricity crisis in Gaza “has further deteriorated since April 2017 and the ongoing power shortage has severely impacted the availability of essential services, particularly health, water and sanitation services”.
Throughout the decades, the popes had published encyclicals that advocated, among others, the protection of the environment. On March 12, 2018, speakers of the three Abrahamic faiths converged at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem, where they dealt with the theme of integral ecology raised in Pope Francis’s “Laudato Si’”, an encyclical that urges human beings to “care for our common house”. Cardinal Peter Turkson, one of the speakers, made a comprehensive study about the continuity of Pope Francis’s encyclical with those of his predecessors. He pointed out, drawing upon previous encyclicals, that “integral ecology is inseparable from integral society,” where concern for the environment can’t be separated from concern for the poor and justice.
In his reply to a question raised by an audience member about the crisis of Gazans and the persistence of the dire living conditions of the Strip in spite of efforts of the Catholic church to alleviate such circumstances, Cardinal Turkson pointed out that more ecumenical effort is needed and change should be emphasized at the grassroots level, and hence not waiting for any political interventions or solutions.
At the Holy Family parish in Gaza, the compound currently relies on the photovoltaic system to run its day-to-day activities in the church, two schools, kindergarten and the houses of the priest and Sisters.
But installation of the system is not the last step of the project. The topic of sustainably is always taken into consideration. “15 is the number of years these systems can work efficiently,” said Mr. Sleibi. “That’s why we need qualified and certified technicians who are trained to operate them and provide maintenance”.
Spreading environmental awareness is also an important issue. During the implementation of the project in Gaza, companies that installed this system planned lectures for students whose age ranged from 10 to 14 years. Topics such as green energy technologies and reducing air pollution were covered and students had the opportunity to learn about the importance of the photovoltaic system and the functions of its operation.