How We Work

Comet-ME is a unique hybrid of technological start-up, development aid agency, and political grassroots human rights organization, while functioning day to day as a mini-utility for off-grid Palestinian communities in Area C. Comet-ME’s Palestinian-Israeli team combines technological and technical expertise with project-management, organizational, financial, and community-outreach skills. Our work is based on the following principles:

Installed in an ancient cave in the south Hebron hills, the electricity room of our Center for Appropriate Technologies is emblematic of the spirit of Comet-ME: cutting-edge technological applications supporting age-old farming and herding traditions. Photo credit: Ryan Brand

Renewable energy

The leader in rural electrification in the occupied Palestinian territories, Comet-ME designs, installs, and maintains renewable energy systems (wind and solar) that provide electricity 24/7, 365 days a year. Our renewable energy installations range in size from single-family systems to community-scale mini-grids, designed according to the needs and situation of each community. The energy systems provide 2.5 kWh/day/household—enough for illumination, refrigeration (of food and medicine), cell-phone charging, television, radio, and computers, water pumping, and use of basic appliances, in particular washing machines and butter churns.

Appropriate technologies

We espouse a dynamic, needs-driven approach to our technological solutions, based on a uniquely short cycle of needs assessment, research and development, piloting, wide-scale implementation, and user feedback. The technological applications developed over the past decade include hybrid wind and solar systems that exploit of the unique climate of the south Hebron hills; demand-side management and custom-designed Comet-MEters that encourage users to rationalize their own energy consumption; online diagnostics that allow us to monitor and identify problems as they arise; a custom-designed smart controller that channels surplus energy from the renewable energy systems to automatically power the water pumps in Comet-ME’s household water systems; and a PVC bio-sand filter adapted from an open-source design by the Canada-based Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology and manufactured locally.

Open source

All technological details of our systems are available in the public domain. Our partnership strategy extends to a global network of practitioners. Sharing our experience with and benefiting from that of global partners, Comet-ME is part of a uniquely short loop of technology development and implementation. Thus, lessons learned in the occupied Palestinian territories can serve communities in Africa, just as developments made in student labs in the US can find their way to the field within weeks.

Comet-ME builds and maintains its wind turbines in-house. This allows us to make quality products without dependence on commercial suppliers, modify the turbines according to our needs and experience, and simply build a new part when something breaks. The design we use is a modified Hugh Piggott turbine. The constant production of wind turbines allows the team to gain experience in a variety of techniques, including metalworking, woodworking, and casting. Photo credit: Ryan Brand

Local sourcing

By investing in local West Bank tech infrastructure, we help develop local knowledge and practice in the field of renewable energy. Comet-ME procures inputs from local manufacturers whenever possible. We purchase components for installation and maintenance from suppliers in Yatta, Hebron, and Ramallah and contract with local workshops to manufacture some of the custom-designed components of our systems.

Community

Community participation and trust-building are integral to our approach. We invest in building a direct and long-term relationship with the community members, whom we consider both beneficiaries and partners. Our work model is based on substantial and meaningful community participation, ownership, training, and capacity-building at every stage of the process. Our team of Palestinian and Israeli engineers, project managers, and technicians trains local community members in basic maintenance and diagnostics, helping to develop a local knowledge base that serves as a source for future development.

Since our earliest installations dating back to 2008, we have been involved in the communities on a day-to-day basis—maintaining and monitoring the systems, connecting new households when children grow up and marry, upgrading systems to meet the growing needs of developing communities, building the capacity of community members, and accompanying many of the communities in ongoing legal campaigns to protect their systems from demolition.

Through detailed house-by-house surveying we identify the energy and water needs of each household and design and deploy the systems accordingly. Photo credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Sustainability and service

Functioning as a mini-utility company for off-grid communities in Area C, Comet-ME ensures the sustainability of all of its past installations through reliable maintenance and management of systems. Beneficiaries pay an electricity bill based on metered use according to the same tariff paid by grid-connected users in Palestine and Israel. Paying for electricity creates a sense of ownership and contributes to maintenance costs for the systems and to the eventual replacement of major components. Because usage is capped at 2.5 kWh/day/household, users pay no more than 40 ILS/12 USD per month, a manageable cost even for the most vulnerable families. Beneficiaries also make a contribution of about 7% of the cost of their water systems and 1/3 of the cost of the energy-efficient refrigerators that Comet-ME subsidizes as part of our energy installations.

One of a dozen vending points throughout the West Bank where users can refill their prepaid electricity meters. Photo credit: Waseem al-Ja’bari