The scarcity of fuel in Syria has left many without access to hot water and heating, which is especially harsh during the winter. With the hike in the price of diesel as a result of it being scarce in the Syrian market, many Syrians now suffer continuous power blackouts.
Technical expert Ammar Hamideen has been continuously trying to promote the use of solar power from his workshop in Damascus. Having previously failed to convince people to switch to solar energy, Hamideen says that many Syrians have now embraced the idea as the only solution to the enduring power shortages.
Syria Deeply: When did you start promoting the use of solar power in Syria? How does it work?
Hamideen:Some have been talking about switching to solar power in Aleppo since 2005 and even wanted to go ahead and implement it, even if only on a small scale. In 2009, Qalamoun University launched a project to create electricity from solar power, but it wasn’t put to actual use until now, as a result of scarcity of fuel.
The idea involves using metal tubes as panels, to be placed on rooftops, then connecting to other tubes that are directly in contact with home water tanks. The tubes on the rooftops would absorb the sun’s heat and would then be transferred to provide hot water around the clock. Water that’s been warmed up during the day can be used at night [and would be hot then] and that way, solar power would be a real alternative to diesel and water heaters that run on gas or electricity.
Syria Deeply: Why did you start implementing this now?
Hamideen:Necessity is the mother of invention. When we first suggested this idea, people didn’t pick it up because there was an abundance of traditional sources of energy. But now, most sources of heating and power have been depleted, or they are insanely expensive if found. Many people realized the need to turn to solar power. It never goes off and it doesn’t get more expensive. Since last winter, people have been trying to harness solar power even after the professionals gave up on it. That breathed new life into the idea, and the first trial was on two buildings on the Mazzeh highway in Damascus. After that, the orders kept coming in to install solar power systems.
Syria Deeply: If we want to estimate how many people have asked to purchase solar power systems, what would your estimate be?
Hamideen:It’s hard to give a specific number, but in my workshop, we usually have customers wait between two and three weeks. I am speaking about the winter season because of the huge need, but in the summer, demand goes down. I can say that our workshop has installed 20 solar power systems a month in the winter.
Syria Deeply: What is the cost of the solar panels? Are they reasonably priced to be available to all people?
Hamideen:One panel costs 70,000 Syrian pounds (roughly $438) with all its gear. This provides four hours of hot water every day. The good thing is it just works off the sun.
Syria Deeply: Where are the solar panels manufactured?
Hamideen:Most of the solar power systems are imported mostly from China. There have been several attempts to produce the panels locally, and hopefully we will be successful.
Syria Deeply: Have the solar power systems been installed in all Syrian governorates? Or is it limited to certain areas?
Hamideen:It all started in Aleppo before the security situation deteriorated there. Then they were installed in Damascus, Latakia and Tartous. There are efforts to expand into other governorates. Most importantly, it ought to be within everyone’s reach. The rebuilding of Syria must be built with solar power, as it is a 21st century source of power and the next revolutionary leap of our time.