Did you know that Jordan gets 300 days of sun per year. Really, 300 days. Imagine, then, a Jordan where power is derived from the sun. Can you see it? I definitely can. Mind you, I grew up in the US at a time when the hippie influence had waned, but small pockets were still trying to change the world. Somehow they evolved from promiscuous substance abusers to people with a passionate concern for the global environment and human impact on it. In that transition, you began seeing houses that utilized solar panels to power the entire needs of the house. They not only worked on sunny days, but took their energy and stored it for more inclement weather.
Moving to Jordan was a revelation, and not in a good way. In a place that gets 300 days of sun a year, eco-friendly houses use solar power to… heat water. Really? I found myself mystified. The March 2011 issue of venture magazine has an outstanding look at solar power in Jordan. Based on data from the Department of Statistics, they highlight Jordan’s energy consumption. The picture it paints is troublesome. For example, 2500 families use solar power to heat their house. While that is a staggeringly small number, the 123,100 that use it to heat water is likewise troubling. Out of millions of people, a tiny percentage use solar power at all. None use it to power their homes.
In thinking about this and talking about this, an industry participant noted that the government banned the importation of the transformation units that take the solar power and make it usable to power homes. I don’t know if this is due to concerns about competition or national security. What I do know is that Jordan’s government is missing the boat – big time. By ignoring a resource that Jordan receives abundantly (one of the few, might I add), the government takes Jordan down frightening paths. The undaunted push towards nuclear energy is terribly troubling. This article in the Jordan Times today concerns me greatly.
After watching the worrisome events unfold in Japan with its now-defunct nuclear reactors, how can Jordan push blithely ahead. After all, asking vendors to tell you what they’ll do is easy. Talk is cheap – very, very cheap. Nuclear spillage is not cheap. It’s frankly rather scary. And, living in the ma3lesh world that is Jordan, it worries me.
On the other hand, solar farms would provide clear, clean, abundant energy. In fact, the government doesn’t even have to have a solar farm, per se. They could simply install solar power panels on the roofs of buildings across the Kingdom. Rather than run new power lines to remote locations, Jordan would simply install panels. Or install small farms outside villages and towns to power them. Nuclear power is not nearly enough to provide for the needs of Jordan’s booming population. And, it isn’t safe enough, by a long shot, for peace of (a Mommy’s) mind.
At the TEDxRamallah event, we actually heard about another unique and creative idea for power generation. Khaled Sabawi has found a way to harness the geothermal (solar) energy all around us. His company, MENA Geothermal has found a way to use the solar energy stored in the ground to heat and cool houses. This type of resource could change the face of Jordan’s energy situation.
Basically, surely Jordan has experts in energy. I am not one of them. But somehow they have become fixated on nuclear power as our salvation. Personally, I am more fearful than hopeful about nuclear energy. I say let’s find ways to use our most plentiful resource – the sun – to build a truly sustainable model for energy in Jordan.
Happy Bright Ideas!