The regime regularly targets electricity grids and generators to punish residents in rebel-held areas, which has compelled them to resort to alternative means of powering their homes and cities.
In the early stages of the conflict, residents of opposition areas began using small electricity generators. But the rarity of fuel, and a corresponding increase in its price, led to the appearance of “monthly subscriptions,” whereby residents would pay generators’ owners for power.
People turned to solar panels as an appropriate solution.
“There’s been quite a movement towards using solar panels here, because they provide electricity all day, especially in the summer when the sun’s out for a long time,” Abu Sara al-Qais, an electronic engineer in the northern Hama countryside, told the Syrian Voice.
“The initial experience was successful, and it grew, caught hold, and pushed more people to do without electricity generators and other sources.”
“A solar panel system costs between $400 and $700 to put in your house. Solar power allows you to use all of your appliances, while before, some had lost their value because you couldn’t power them with electricity being so rare.”
A household system requires solar panels of different sizes, in addition to chargeable batteries and a power inverter.
Solar and wind: cheaper and easier on the environment
The energy that comes from solid fuels damages the environment, and is expensive in opposition areas, which rely on primitively-refined diesel. The use of such low-quality diesel damages machines and generators, and expels polluting gases that harm the environment.
“The use of alternative energy like solar and wind has really caught on in opposition areas, and saved a lot of money for people who use it, in comparison with electric generators,” Mohammed al-Rahhal, an energy engineer, told the Syrian Voice.
“It doesn’t require regular maintenance, nor a monthly subscription, just a change of batteries every two years, which means this type of energy is available to everyone.”
Mohammed al-Masri, a civilian in the northern Hama countryside, talked about his experience with solar to the Syrian Voice: “the generator was exhausting, it cost a lot and broke all the time, which led me to buy solar cells for $700. Now the house has electricity all day.”
Investment in solar
A number of humanitarian organizations and local councils have used alternative energy in development and service projects. There has been a recent increase in programs to provide cities in the northern Hama countryside with streetlights, as well as the southern Idlib countryside. These programs have developed at a rapid pace because there are no costs associated with running or regularly repairing them.
Mr. Ibrahim Musteif, the head of the local council in Tramla and its surrounding farmland, talked to the Syrian Voice about an upcoming plan to light up Tramla’s streets. The local council will implement the plan along with the local Free Police, with funding from the Safety and Social Justice program, following an electricity cutoff that lasted more than three years.
“The use of energy panels has made street lighting easier, which is important to put a stop to crime at night, and make people feel safer walking around–in addition to making the job of the Free Police easier,” said Musteif.
Farmers in the northern Hama countryside have implemented plans to power wells with solar energy, including a well in Kafrzeita, which has saved farmers time and money, according to the Syrian Voice’s correspondent in Hama.
Local councils are trying to exploit renewable and alternative energy sources in order to implement future plans, while residents have started to use wind and solar as an alternative to electricity, after the regime brought normal life to a halt in opposition-held areas.