Julia Macfarlane
Last updated: 23 February, 2012

A new underground energy movement in Palestine

A Canadian-Palestinian engineer is paving the way for a cleaner, greener Palestine by introducing the territories to geothermal energy.

Entrepreneur Khaled al Sabawi, 28, founded MENA Geothermal with aspirations of creating a new cost-efficient, green energy market from scratch in the Palestinian territories, where prices for energy are the highest in the Middle East. He is hoping to bring a patented energy system to the typical Palestinian home, having installed a 1.6 megawatt geothermal system in the University of Madaba in Jordan. The US Environment Protection Agency has called geothermal systems the ‘most energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost effective systems today’.

Around 60% of Palestine’s energy consumption is found in the heating and cooling of buildings, where diesel boilers are most widely used. The traditional boilers have a high consumption rate and emit carbon dioxide straight into the atmosphere – a system that al Sabawi is hoping to replace.

His geothermal energy systems work by drilling and installing a small network of water pipes two metres below ground, where earth temperature remains a constant of 17˚C. The water acts as a heat exchange for an electrically powered heat pump. The heat is compressed and the system outputs the heat to the building at around 40-50˚C. The systems can be used for heating homes when winter temperatures drop to around 3˚C, or for cooling when temperatures rise to 36˚C. The systems save around 70% of the energy consumption that would otherwise have been used, and al Sabawi claims his systems have a payback period of four years.

Palestine imports 97% of its energy from abroad, and has one of the highest population densities in the world where almost a fifth are living on the bread line.