by Ahmad Melhem
09 July 2019
The Palestinian Authority is working to incorporate renewable energy in the northern West Bank's water infrastructure in cooperation with the European Union and the French Development Agency.
The project, launched June 20, concerns the governorates of Tubas and Jenin, where it will add solar cells and establish wind turbines, a first for Palestine. The energy produced is to be used for water projects including water treatment stations, thereby reducing the costs that the PA pays to import electricity from Israel.
Shadi Othman, the spokesman for the EU Commission in Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor that the project will cost a total of $20.3 million, of which $9 million have been provided by the European Union and $11.3 million by the French Development Agency.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh was there to ceremonially open the project, accompanied by French Consul General Pierre Cochard, EU Deputy Representative Thomas Nicholas and a number of Palestinian officials.
“This project is a decisive initiative that will help grant the Palestinian people the right to water,” Cochard said in a brief speech at the ceremony. “France and the EU are committed to the implementation of water reform in Palestine,” he added.
Nicholas said, “The volume of projects funded by the EU in the water sector in the West Bank and Gaza during the last three years amount to more than 100 million euros [$112.8 million].” He added that this project aims at “supporting the Palestinians’ right to water. Water is a right just like dignity and freedom. We choose to stand by this right, and we choose to be with the Palestinians in their long journey until we reach an independent Palestinian state.”
Ziad Daraghmeh, project manager at the Palestinian Water Authority, told Al-Monitor that the project is expected to reduce the operational cost of water and sanitation services and cut energy costs. Daraghmeh said that the project will contribute to improving the water and sanitation services provided by the Northwest Jenin Joint Services Council to 65,000 people and by the Tubas Joint Water and Sanitation Services Council to 50,000.
He explained that the project aims to provide two artesian wells belonging to the Tubas Water Authority with renewable energy, replacing energy now imported from Israel, as well as lift stations belonging to the Tubas Joint Water and Sanitation Services Council.
As part of the project, water purification stations in Tayasir will be opened in the coming weeks, Daraghmeh added. He said the project will produce 3.6 megawatts of electricity per hour when it is completed in 2022.
Issa Dababat, an engineer at the Tubas Joint Service Council, told Al-Monitor that following a field study about air currents in Palestine, a forested area has been selected in the city of Tubas for the installation of the mills.
However, the project's organizers, including Dababat, have concerns over problems that could arise, most notably “Israel's obstruction” of the importation of windmills.
“We will try to obtain Israeli approval before we import the windmills so that we do not import them and end up having them seized at the Israeli port,” he said. “Once we get the Israeli approval, we will invite tenders for the import of windmills.”
He added that two windmills producing about 800 kilowatt-hours each will be installed. Each mill consists of a tower of 50 meters (164 feet) and a fan with three blades 25 meters (82 feet) long.
He went on to say that the project will open prospects for investment in renewable energy, especially in the field of wind power. The project will also reduce the bill of electricity purchased from Israel and improve many water, sewage and wastewater treatment services.
Studies are underway to establish wind power plants in the Jenin governorate as well, he said.
Several areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip suffer from a lack of access to water because Israel controls about 85% of Palestinian water sources.
This project sets the stage for other joint service projects in Palestine and greater production of wind energy, thus expanding the energy supply options and helping the PA reduce its energy dependence on Israel.