Lebanon kick off solar powered schools

24 May 2011

imageStudents explore how to construct environmentally sensitive buildings. (Photo: UNDP)

Beirut - Teachers and students at 25 public schools in South Lebanon are to benefit from a constant supply of electricity to their offices and classrooms following installation of solar panels that provide an alternative to expensive and polluting diesel generators.

Three schools, in Kfour, Akkar and Bekaa, launched solar-panel systems this month with ceremonies including 900 students, representatives of the Government of Lebanon, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the project’s funder, the Government of Spain.

Like many public and private buildings across Lebanon, the schools experience daily blackouts that can last six hours or more. Solar-powered systems enable constant use of equipment, such as photo-copying machines, during sunny days which number more than 300 per year.

“We’ve done away with diesel generators,” says Kherbit Selim, a director at one of the solar-powered schools. “We don’t use electricity from the grid anymore, so expenses are reduced to only fixed costs.”

The US$10 million project, Country Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Demonstration for the Recovery of Lebanon (CEDRO), was started in 2007 to increase use of renewable energy sources and cut consumption of national electricity supplies.

“Installing these systems must come with engraining the necessary awareness on the relationship between climate change, energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Shombi Sharp, UNDP Deputy Country Director, speaking at the Kfour inauguration.

The ceremonies this month involved comedy theatre performances and classroom-style lessons drawing attention of students and their parents to the importance of conserving energy through solar-power.

CEDRO is part of a larger UNDP programme to assist in the country’s recovery from the 2006 conflict with Israel which devastated the livelihoods of thousands of people, disrupted education of school-aged children and destroyed large parts of the south’s infrastructure.

Some 36 additional sites across Lebanon are set to receive solar-powered systems under CEDRO. Seven of the sites are schools.