Gaza’s more than two million residents are accustomed to frequent electricity cuts and costly bills, as the terrorist organization Hamas, which rules the Strip, has systematically neglected the welfare of Gaza’s civilians in lieu of investing massive amounts into its terrorist infrastructure against Israel.
Both Israel and Egypt have closed the border with Gaza at times of high tension with Hamas and instituted blockades, more generally, to limit Hamas’ military imports, including certain materials or products that have both military and civilian applications.
Gazan fish farmer and restaurant owner Yasser al-Hajj decided to address the electricity challenge by drawing from a different source of energy – solar power. Al-Hajj decided six years ago to invest in solar panels, The Times of Israel reports.
Al-Hajj’s efforts equipped his seafood restaurant, “The Sailor,” in Gaza City with a solar farm facility to power both it and the oxygenation of the fish pools beneath it.
Several rows of photovoltaic panels are on full display at both The Sailor and al-Hajj’s beachfront fish farm.
“Electricity is the backbone of the project,” he told The Times of Israel. “We rely on it to provide oxygen for the fish, as well as to draw and pump water from the sea.”
Al-Hajj’s solar energy investment has apparently already paid off, helping the restaurateur to dramatically reduce his monthly electricity expenses from $42,000 (150,000 NIS) to $14,000 (50,000 NIS).
Green energy is a priority today among many prosperous Western nations, especially in northern Europe. However, due to a lack of affordable options, many residents in the impoverished Gaza Strip increasingly turn to small-scale renewable energy sources to address the local energy crisis.
Solar panels have increasingly become a common sight on the rooftops in Gaza City, home to a population of approximately 600,000 people.
Bishara Shehadeh, a Gaza bakery owner, recently placed hundreds of solar panels on his rooftop, which has already paid off, leaving Shehadeh with surplus electricity to sell.
“We have surplus electricity in the day. We sell it to the electricity company in exchange for providing us with current during the night,” the local Gaza bakery owner said.
While Hamas is ideologically committed to Israel’s destruction, some hardened locals like Shehadeh have embraced a more pragmatic approach towards Israel.
“We are working on importing ovens, depending on electrical power, from Israel, to save on the cost of diesel,” Shehadeh explained.
However, due to high initial investment costs, local business owners like Shehadeh and al-Hajj largely rely on foreign donations.
Since approximately 80% of Gazans reportedly live in poverty, Shehadeh and al-Hajj represent the few privileged locals who can afford to undertake alternative energy projects.
Solar energy seems like a great option for Gaza and other societies in the arid and sun-rich Middle East.
Furthermore, more-advanced solar energy technologies and know-how are just around the corner – or just next door. Gaza’s neighbor Israel is considered a world pioneer in the development of solar energy.
In 2020, Israel generated some 8% of its electricity from solar power; and the state wishes to increase this number to 20% in 2025 and 30% in 2030.
Yoav Katsavoy, acting chairman at Israel’s Electricity Regulatory Authority, emphasized that solar energy is one of Israel’s few natural resources.
“As Israel doesn’t have many different natural resources, we don’t have a lot of potential for hydro facilities, and the wind is also quite limited. To reach high targets of renewables, we have to rely on solar energy,” Katsavoy said.
If Hamas’ hostility towards Israel ever ended, or if Gaza were to promulgate a new form of peace-based education for its children, the Strip could benefit greatly from its neighbor’s cutting-edge technology and solar energy know-how.