Lebanon News

Tripoli solar project faces uphill battle

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A project to install solar panels on the main hall of Tripoli’s Rachid Karami International Fair complex is moving forward, but many doubt the initiative will ever be completed despite the potential benefits to the city. The project aims to produce solar energy for local homes and businesses with 40,000 to 50,000 square meters of electrovoltaic solar panels with a 5-megawatt capacity installed on the roof of the exhibition hall.

However, despite the enthusiasm that often surrounds developmental projects in Tripoli, given the city’s dire economic and social situation, some doubt that it will ever materialize. Key figures associated with the project told The Daily Star that there were several legal and logistical hurdles that may prevent the project’s implementation.

“It is natural for us to welcome the idea and express readiness for cooperation and contribution in making a developmental project that will benefit our city succeed,” Hossam Qbitr, chair of Rachid Karami International Fair, told The Daily Star.

“But in return, we asked that we are supplied with the technical and logistical studies so that we can build on them, especially since we are handling the management of a public facility that serves a specific function,” Qbitr added.

The board’s inability to contravene the founding aims of the fair is compounded by the poor condition of the roof space where the solar project is meant to be installed.

Qbitr revealed that the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Tripoli and North Lebanon sent a memo to the fair’s administrative body on May 13 of this year. The note announced that Chamber was in the process of the preparing a comprehensive study regarding the project.

It added that the Energy Ministry also knew about the project, as well as the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation and the Qadisha Electricity Company.

Qbitr added that solar plant would provide electricity for public street lighting as well as electricity to several areas of Tripoli and the north.

He explained that experts from the Energy Ministry visited the fair three months ago and inspected the site. But, he added, the fair wasn’t informed about the result of the visit.

“So it is difficult to say that work has begun to study the project,” he explained. “We are very excited and we will benefit from it directly because it will provide round-the-clock electricity for the fair, but as an administration we are responsible to both the Economy and Finance ministries to provide all documents as well as technical and economic studies.”

Qbitr, however, insisted that the Fair’s administration wouldn’t try to impede the implementation, but rather wanted to make sure everything was done by due process.

Tripoli, has suffered years of underinvestment and had few major developmental projects to boost the economy. As well as a high unemployment and poverty rates, years of fighting have left areas of the city devastated. For this reason, many local residents fear the project will never be finalized, given the additional political and bureaucratic challenges involved.

One of the main logistical and legal issues that must be addressed is how to feed the generated power into the national grid and monitor the quantity produced via the Qadisha Electricity Company.

A source from the company explained that, under existing regulation, using the company’s facilities and equipment to measure this isn’t allowed. “The ... available solutions are for the energy minister to issue a decision to allow using the [power] network,” the source said, or for Parliament to intervene and pass a bill to allow the company’s facilities to be used.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 05, 2016, on page 3.

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