Energy

Problem definition

Lack of reliable access to electricity is a major hindrance to development in Area C and makes day-to-day survival difficult. Lack of refrigeration, whether for food, water, or medication, particularly in the hot summer months, requires frequent trips by car or on foot to the nearest town to buy food and receive medication. Basic activities, such as doing laundry, finishing homework after dark, and even charging cell phones, cannot be taken for granted. Moreover, the production of dairy products, a backbone of the local economy, requires hours of manual labor, in particular on the part of the women. Those who have partial access to electricity via diesel generators can spend hundreds of shekels a month for just a few hours a day of electricity, and they suffer from air and noise pollution next to their homes. 

The implementation of Comet-ME’s off-grid energy solutions in the communities over the past decade has had manifold humanitarian, economic, and social benefits. Those who experience the change in the most palpable and meaningful way are the women, who traditionally bear the brunt of the manual labor involved in the day-to-day tasks of maintaining the household and its economy—from carrying water, cleaning, cooking, and doing the laundry, to milking and producing dairy products for family consumption and sale. The core activities of the energy program are the installation of renewable energy systems and regular monitoring and maintenance of all systems.

Installations

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. Our electricity install base as of 2018 includes 78 communities, some 850 households, and nearly 5,500 beneficiaries.

With a 96-panel (30 kWp) solar array, the Comet-ME electricity micro-grid in Jib adh-Dhib, to the east of Bethlehem, provides electricity to 31 households, the village mosque and kindergarten, several small businesses run by the women in the community (a seamstress, beauty salon, and a mini-market), as well as a weekly mobile health clinic. The system is designed with considerable growth in mind over its expected life time of more than 10 years. The solar array is located on leased land next to the Jib a-Dhib village mosque—in the heart of village life. The children in the village know they must take good care of this community resource, because if they don't they won't be able to use their laptops! Photo credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Maintenance

In order to ensure the long-term impact of our renewable-energy systems and services, Comet-ME implements ongoing maintenance, management, and monitoring program, operated by our professional team of engineers, technicians, and community workers. The program has been developed over the course of several years and includes regular diagnostics and remote online monitoring of systems, seasonal checks, rapid response to system malfunctions (through field visits, telephone service, or a combination of the two), upgrades of systems to meet the changing needs of growing communities, grid extensions to new homes, schools, and clinics, training of community members in proper use of the systems and in basic maintenance and diagnostics tasks, and a pre-paid metering and bill-payment scheme that contributes to covering maintenance expenses, rationalizes energy use, and fosters a sense of ownership among the users.

The team repairs a wind turbine in Qawawis, south Hebron hills. As part of our maintenance program we conduct seasonal preventative maintenance on all of turbines. Photo credit: Ryan Brand
A training session for household members on a family-based solar system. With over 600 family-based systems installed to date, often in extremely remote locations, the ongoing connection with the users is crucial. We often succeed in solving technical issues over the phone with users, restoring electricity immediately and saving the team a trip to the field. Photo credit: Jimmy Granger