Solar Power Brightens Villagers’ Lives in Northern Syria

Four rural villages in the Aleppo region in northern Syria not connected to the national electric grid are generating power locally with solar panels, a model that holds promise for other remote rural communities around the country.

ALEPPO, Syria – May 24, 2002 [] The Japan International Cooperation Agency installed solar panels to supply electricity in all the villages, including individual systems for homes in three villages – Fedre, Katoura and Kaliff – and a central system in Zarzita. The agency also installed solar power for pumping water in Kalif and Zarzita and for water desalination in Kalif, which is in an arid area with brackish water. A complementary United Nations Development Program initiative, carried out by Syria’s Higher Institute for Applied Science and Technology and funded by Japan, provided training in operating and maintaining the power systems. It also laid the groundwork for wider use of solar power, as part of the national electricity supply system, to serve remote rural communities. Most households in the villages use the electricity for lighting and for televisions and radios. The centralized solar system provides enough power for some families to use refrigerators, fans and washing machines. A technical team from the General Electricity Company in Aleppo manages and maintains the solar systems and a team from the Aleppo Water Authority manages the water pumping and desalination units. “These projects contribute to improving living standards in the four villages by providing a sustainable and environmentally friendly source of energy,” said Taoufik Ben Amara, UNDP Resident Representative. The centralized solar system in Zarzita generates excess power during the sunny summer months, enabling villagers to set up a workshop and earn extra income by producing key medallions that are sold to tourists at Simon Castle in the region. Surveys have found that the villagers are happy with the solar systems. Although they produce less power than would be available from the national grid, solar panels provide a workable alternative to the long waiting list for extensions of the grid. The units have proven reliable and have not been vandalized. Villagers prefer them to kerosene for lighting. The systems have helped attract some urbanites to return to the villages. Villagers also credit improved living conditions with increasing literacy and school enrolment, and the workshop has boosted incomes.
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