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19.01.2022 | Blog

Solar Energy for Northern Iraq

Through the use of solar energy, returnees in northern Iraq now have a sustainable livelihood for a new beginning.

Saubere Energie für den Iran. Die Wasserpumpe wird mir Solarenergie betrieben, 2019.
As the energy supply in Iraq is very unstable, solar-powered water pumps help to supply drinking water. © Welthungerhilfe

Farman is a farmer and owns a grocery store in Sinuni in northern Iraq. His store in the marketplace of the small town is very popular - he also sells fresh fruit and locally grown vegetables. However, Farman faces a big problem: He doesn't have a functioning cold storage room to keep the produce he buys from local farmers fresh. Especially in the hot summer months, the fruits and vegetables spoil quickly, and he can not sell the products after just one day in the store. This leads to food waste and a 30 percent loss of profit.

Lack of Funds for the Reconstruction of the Power Grid

But running a cold room in this area is extremely expensive. After the so-called Islamic State invaded Iraq in 2014, electronic infrastructure was completely destroyed in many parts of the country. Today, the state's power grid is notoriously unstable, with regular outages due to insufficient generation capacity and a dilapidated distribution infrastructure. Many places are no longer connected to the power grid at all, and there is a lack of funds for reconstruction. As a result, reliable electricity is only available through expensive diesel generators, which pollute the environment and the health of the population.

Ein Mann zeigt Säcke voller Gurken, die mit einer Decke von der Sonne geschützt werden.
Unrefrigerated, these cucumbers spoil quickly. Thanks to a solar-powered cooling system, they can now be sold even several days after harvest. © Welthungerhilfe

In northern Iraq, however, solar energy has great potential: annual solar radiation in the Sinjar region, for example, is around 1950 kWh/m2 - almost twice as much as in Germany. And unlike in urban areas, where most people have a high demand for electricity, the needs of people in rural areas can often be met by solar energy solutions. That is why Welthungerhilfe (WHH) promotes the use of solar energy in its project areas using best-practice examples to boost confidence in this green technology.

Solar Energy Creates Sustainable Livelihood for 14,000 Returnees

Nine solar stations now guarantee daily access to running water for residents in remote villages. In 21 villages in Nineveh Governorate, a total of 156 m2 of solar panels have been installed, providing 342 people with solar power. Welthungerhilfe is also supporting smallholder farmers* to install solar systems that will allow them to run irrigation systems. Solar-powered irrigation reduces costs by 70 percent compared to diesel generators. Farman also received a solar-powered refrigeration unit that allows him to cool two tons of fresh produce a day during the hot season. Even when the outside temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, the fruits and vegetables now stay fresh for days.

As a grocer, I benefit greatly from the use of solar energy.

Farman Farmer and grocer in northern Iraq.

"I, as a grocer, benefit a lot from the use of solar energy. It would be very useful if this system could be expanded throughout the region, as we lack the necessary capacity for electricity," Farman said. Welthungerhilfe is using the project to create sustainable livelihoods for some 14,000 people who have returned home after years of conflict. Tomasso Portogalli, Welthungerhilfe's area manager in Iraq, believes, "Such a project would thus serve as a model for sustainable power generation and would provide an alternative to the current power supply."

What Welthungerhilfe does in Northern Iraq

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