The Munib and Angela Masri Institute of Energy and Natural Resources (MI) and the Issam Fares Institute (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) kicked off an innovative clean energy project on June 15, 2023, as a showcase, which UNRWA can replicate in all refugee camps in Lebanon. The renewable energy solution is based on a low-noise micro wind turbine technology developed by AUB engineering alumnus, Dr. El Makdah, who started a company, Biominic Renewable Energy Solutions Inc (BRES), in Canada to promote small-wind mass market adaption. Dr. El Makdah, of Palestinian origin, was raised in Ein El Hilweh Palestine refugee camp and attended UNRWA schools before joining AUB.
Currently, the refugee camps rely primarily on diesel engines to meet their energy demands. Aside from the negative environmental impacts, the financial implications for the refugees are enormous. Because of the high worldwide fossil fuel prices and the Lebanese economic crisis, Palestinian refugees are paying up to 0.5 USD/kWh. Therefore, installing renewable energy systems to supply affordable electricity to the Palestinian refugee camps is essential.
1) The first stage includes the acquisition of wind speed and direction sensors for installation at selected camps in Lebanon for wind resource assessment and the acquisition of the SamarWind unit to install and test at AUB. The unit will be tested for performance so that the design is tailored to the location in term of orientation of the micro-turbines platform to eliminate the need for yaw mechanism and improve conversion efficiency. Besides testing at AUB, the unit will be used for training purposes in future installations when the project is to be fully implemented in UNRWA facilities. This stage will include the follow up work on the design blue print for a showcase at one of the selected UNRWA facilities.
2) The second stage of the project will follow in which wind resource assessment is performed based on collected wind data from the refugee camps to come up with feasibility study of system installation in at least three camps to supply electric power needs. This phase will precede the project implementation on a large scale for refugee camps in Lebanon where funds will be solicited from external sources.
It is hoped that this innovative solution not only be replicated and scaled to the UNRWA buildings but can also be used as clean solution for AUB campus power production; in addition, it can replicated in the city by interested investors.
The project's success will help replicate it at many locations and bring visibility to the talent that emerged from the camps that came back with an innovative contribution to the quality of the lives of the camp community.