Somewhere, in North-Eastern Lebanon, near the Syrian borders, there is a small village in the Baalbeck-Hermel Governorate, called Qaa. Until now, Qaa was known for things like the kidnapping of a former in 2012, an attack by suicide bombers in 2016, for an archaeological site - type site - of the Sheperd Neolithic Industry, and also for being lightly cultivated with a thin soil covering conglomerates. Starting 2020, Qaa will also be known for being an example of agricultural uses of solar energy.
In a time of global Lockdown, in the middle of the worst Lebanese economic crises in decades, HE, Said Riachi, an electrical engineer from Zahle, gave us the biggest lessons of all: if there is a will, there is a way.
One of the biggest problems of the area is the unavailability of the national electricity grid, so diesel gen-sets were used to power the water pump system.
Considering the unstable situation of the country and the fear of diesel shortage, the owner was easily convinced to implement a solar water pumping system, even though “fresh money” had to be used for its financing, especially because “currently, in Lebanon, diesel is a scarce commodity, and the decision taken was proved to be the right decision. In this case, it was not only about saving money by saving fuel, but it was also and most importantly about survival by being able to water the trees when diesel was not available”.
The 3.7 MWp off-grid system has a total area serviced of almost 2.5 million square meters, a PV installation of 20.000 square meters, and the modules used are from tier 1 suppliers. All electric components are from the global technology leader, EATON.
According to Said, “the main challenge in this particular project was to have longer operating hours at a constant flow of water. For the owner, and since drip irrigation is used, constant flow is a must, that is why, the system was designed to automatically use help from the generator in case water is needed in low light conditions. All protective measures are implemented, but another challenge was that, the operation of the system is complex and the user in many cases is an illiterate person, so simplification was needed. We came up with a system that can run all by itself, all the operator has to do is flip a switch to start pumping water and flip it back to stop.”
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