MENA Geothermal Company is the First Palestinian Company Succeeds in Using Renewable Energy in the West Bank and Jordan
- Eng. Khaled Al Sabawi: We have patented the use of an invention that has not been used previously to reduce the operational cost of geothermal energy in Palestine
- We have implemented the largest (Geothermal) project in the Middle East in Jordan
- We refused to work with the Israeli Ministry of Infrastructure
- We presented our project before all official Palestinian bodies, but they have shown no interest.
Jerusalem, Mohammad Abu Khudeir- It is doubtless that education and knowledge elevates societies and nations and it is well known that the Palestinian people have capacities and creative minds that could make the impossible possible and overcome all odds. One of these creative Palestinian minds is Eng. Khaled Sabawi who has a distinguished patent in geothermal energy systems and ranked as one of the World"s Top Energy Entrepreneurs by Global Post for 2010.
“Alquds Newspaper” met with Eng. Sabawi to highlight his accomplishments and to learn more about the geothermal energy and how it supports the Palestinian economy and saves 70% of energy.
Eng. Khaled Sabawi stated at the beginning of the meeting: “When I came back to Palestine from Canada in 2007 after completing my studies there, I found out after research and study that there are significant problems in energy in Palestine and the Palestinian people pay the highest prices for fuels of electricity and diesel in the Middle East. We also do not have any sources of energy and depend completely on Israel. I wondered how would we be able to build an independent economy since we are highly dependent on the Israeli occupation for energy supply and while we do not have sources of energy? And how would we build and develop our economy without solving the issue of energy which is an important basis for construction and development”.
Al Sabawi added by saying: “Concerning the Palestinian economy in general with regard to consumption in particular, the majority of consumption in Palestine comes from buildings. Buildings consume the highest rate of energy. A normal building consumes nearly 60% -70% of energy on heating and cooling. However, we need to construct because the Palestinian population growth rate is high. When I looked at the available solutions in the world, I concluded that the activation of renewable energy and the issue of sustainability in new buildings must be taken into account”.
Al Sabawi explained that due to studies and experiences, he has considered the available technologies and solutions in the world and it was found out that the geothermal system has a great future in this country. Moreover, this technology has been used for 25 years in Canada, US and Europe, but it has never been applied in the Middle East and Israel. This technology is based on an engineering study and design and not just something bought and installed. The nature of land and air shall be studied in order to prepare designs.
He said: “We have studied the situation and applied the first tests in the Middle East for lands in Palestine through digging a hole 100 m deep where the temperature is constant in earth throughout the year and the earth absorbs heat. This the information used to design a heat exchanger in the ground”.
How it works
Concerning the working mechanism of geothermal energy, Al Sabawi explained how to take advantage of this new method saying: “This technology works on a simple and easy principle; the earth naturally absorbs 50% of the sun"s energy, therefore the earth’s temperature remains relatively constant throughout the entire year. This is a universal fact and in Ramallah the temperature in the earth is at a constant 17 degrees the entire year. In the winter, temperature above the ground falls down to 3 or zero, while the ground temperature is constant at a rate of 17 degrees throughout the year. Thus by pumping water into a system of pipe installed deep in the earth we can absorb heat from the warmer ground, channel it to an electrically powered geothermal heat pump which takes the heat, compresses it and outputs it to the building at 45C or 55C and provides 100% heating and saves 70% compared to conventional systems, i.e. it consumes 70% less energy in order to give us the required heat.
Al Sabawi pointed out to the advantages of this system, where the same exact system that is installed for heating is simply reversed in the summer. The 17 degrees constant temperature in the ground is now cooler than the 36C outside hot air in Ramallah for example. Thus, we take the building’s heat returning chilled water to the building, and reject the buildings heat down to be to the cooler earth ground where it is cooler than the weather above the ground. Hence, the system saves 70% in comparison with conventional systems used in Palestine.
Geothermal Projects in Palestine
Al Sabawi stated that “after making tests, the first Geothermal project in the Middle East and Palestine was applied in the Model Villas of the Etihad Subdivision project in Al-Bireh in Ramallah, which has an area of 400 square meters and was run for one year after installation. The results were amazing and exceeded all expectations. According to the study, it saved 70% in comparison with conventional systems”.
He went on saying: “the Union Construction and Investment company building is the second largest geothermal heating and cooling project at the UCI/Ahleia Insurance building which has an area of 4600 square meters”.
He added: “After our success in both projects, we have established a company for geothermal energy. We are proud that we as Palestinians were the first to apply this system in the entire Middle East and even before Israel. The company is named MENA Geothermal and we hope to reach the entire Middle East region and provide as Palestinians geothermal energy services to the neighboring countries”.
He continued saying: “We invited all official bodies in the Palestinian National Authority to follow up on our experiences and work, but nobody gave us any attention, in return we were surprised by an email from the Israeli Ministry of Infrastructure that they are mesmerized by what we have done and they want to learn from us. We are proud of this because no one expects that we as a Palestinian company are working in a new field before Israel. After that we have installed the system in one of the apartments in the residential complex Arcadia in Almasyoun. Hence, we have installed more than one successful model for this system in Palestine.
Installation in Jordan
Al Sabawi stated that after success in Palestine, we have started work in Jordan. We won the bid to install the geothermal system for the largest project in the Middle East at a capacity of 1.6 mega-watts (thermal load) , in Jordan, specifically in the Science and Business Department buildings at the American University in Madaba.
He pointed out that the company has put in mind success before profits in the Jordanian market. The implementation of this project was more important than profit. It is significant because it will remain a large model and even a starting point for us in the Jordanian which is a friendly neighboring market. MENA Geothermal currently has branch in Jordan and we have received lots of projects and offers.
He noted that the project contains more than 420 boreholes of a depth 100 m per hole with a diameter of 6 inches. The system has been operating for a year and a half with great performance. We have established a branch in Amman and our engineers are currently working on three huge Villas projects.
Projects in India and Cyprus
Al Sabawi Said: "We have designed a project for a company in India and currently a project in Cyprus. We have also contributed to implement a project in the United Arab Emirates. Our website www.menageothermal.com is showered with inquiries, requests for information, advice, offers and invitations to participate in tenders from all companies in the Middle East who are interested to work with us and want to have this technology in their countries.
Al Sabawi stressed again that this technology has a great future and said we are proud of these achievements because others do not expect that the Palestinians have what is new and developed and added that we have proved that the Palestinian people are one of the most creative people and that we can develop technologies that do not exist in the entire region.
The Cost of a Geothermal System
Al Sabawi’s answer to the question about the cost of this new technology: “It is important to note that one must look at a geothermal system like it’s an investment. In Palestine and Jordan, geothermal systems cost roughly double the cost of a conventional system. The extra capital is investment in day one and then the system saves 70% on their energy consumption every year with payback period on the initial investment of 5-7 years. Geothermal systems are completely environmentally friendly and have an average services life of 24 years. The most important thing we have taken upon ourselves that this geothermal energy must be accessible to everyone in order to succeed and prosper. The biggest problems facing companies that invest in renewable energy that the investment price is higher than the traditional system. Therefore, in order to reduce the cost of running the system, we depend on labor, local materials, Palestinian designs and have trained all workers.
He added: “We have certificates from Canada and the United States in training, designing and implementing geothermal energy. In addition, We patented the use of limestone powder, a natural by-product of Palestine’s limestone cutting industry, as a grout for filling geothermal boreholes. Such an innovation led to the increased efficiency of geothermal heating and cooling systems and significantly lowered their installation costs. In Canada and the United States, they use sodium bantonayt and in order to import it to Palestine, it shall be shipped and besides it is heavy and expensive. Therefore, to eliminate this cost, we searched for a replacement to fill these boreholes”.
He continued saying: “After study and research, we have used the Palestinian limestone and mixed it with sand and then sent it for examination to the United States and found that it can absorb heat exactly like sodium bantonayt in the USand even better. Therefore, we have used it to fill all boreholes and by doing this we have saved 15 - 20% and reduced the cost of geothermal energy in the country. Hence, we have developed a new method and we recorded this invention at the Ministry of Palestinian Economy.
Regarding the status of the company, Al Sabawi said that the company grows and prospers and has a special status in Palestine and Jordan, especially after they explain to investors and citizens that a geothermal system costs double in comparison to a conventional system, however it saves in return 70% of the heating and cooling bill while fuel prices like solar and gas are rising every year. Thus, savings increase annually. It takes between 5 to 7 years to payback your initial investment. After that, it’s as if your making money. In investment terms, geothermal systems provide an equivalent annual rate of return of 15%.
Al Sabawi answered to a question: "All equipment are local except the heat pump is imported from the United States and manufactured by a Canadian company. To make this technology accessible to everyone in the US and Canada, they followed a new system in an agreement with banks in order to finance the installation of this system. The amount is paid through installments over 10 years or 15 years, instead of paying the full amount in the first year. During the installment period, less energy is consumed by the geothermal system and thus the total monthly bill (installment payment plus small energy consumption) becomes less in comparison with an equally financed conventional system from the first month (due to the conventional system much higher operational cost). This is what we are studying with local banks in order to make this technology accessible to the Palestinian citizen.
He continued saying: “We are working on a new idea called geo operator, i.e. instead of asking the customer or consumer to pay the whole investment amount in order to apply the system, we could become like the electricity company; we could generate and produce energy through establishing a Geothermal Station for investors which produces energy for heating and cooling and sells it to neighboring buildings with a consumption price less than 10 to 15% of available fuel prices. Thus, the consumer benefits by saving 10%-15% on energy consumption and the investor who invests in the Geothermal Station sells energy and pays back his investment within a period of 5-7 years . This method has been completely studied and will be applied soon.
Problems and Challenges
Al Sabawi stated concerning the cooperation with ministries and institutions of the Palestinian National Authority: “We have presented our project before all official governmental bodies and sent letters to almost all ministries but unfortunately they have shown no interest. We hope that there will be more cooperation from these bodies to activate the use of geothermal energy in Palestine, which has become a very urgent need”.
Eng. Khaled Al Sabawi
- Khaled Al Sabawi is the founder and president of MENA Geothermal. He is also the General Manager of Union Construction and Investment, MENA"s parent company and one of the largest real estate development and investment companies in Palestine. Khaled is 29 years old.
- Under Khaled’s leadership, MENA Geothermal became a two-time winner of the Energy Globe Award twice (2009 and 2011), the world’s most prominent and prestigious environmental prize. He was also named "One of the World"s Top Energy Entrepreneurs" by Global Post in 2010 and was ranked the 195th Most Influential Arab by Arabian Business Magazine’s Top 500 Most Influential Arabs for 2012.
- Khaled received his Bachelors of Applied Science, Honors in Computer Engineer degree from the University of Waterloo in Canada in 2006 and his certification in the design and installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems in early 2007. Khaled is certified as a Commercial Geothermal Designer in Canada and an Accredited Geothermal Installer in the US.
- Khaled"s vision to bring sustainable development to Palestine and the MENA region is best explained in his highly watched TEDxRamallah talk which can be viewed on YouTube. In addition to speaking at TEDxRamallah, Khaled is constantly invited to share his vision on university campuses around the world. He has spoken at McGill University in Canada, at Harvard University and MIT in the United States, and other universities and major green energy conferences around the world.