AUC’s RISE Partners with Schneider Electric to Provide Solar Energy to Rural Communities
In an effort to provide advanced solar energy solutions to rural communities in Egypt, The Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment (RISE) at The American University in Cairo (AUC) recently partnered with Schneider Electric, a global company specialized in energy management and automation, to provide an automatic, solar-powered water pumping system and 50 solar-powered portable lamps for families living in local communities in the town of Marsa Alam, including Wadi El Gemal, Abu Ghusun and the New Valley.
“We chose to partner with AUC because we can rely on its support to offer innovative solutions to local communities,” said Ayman Ismail, partner projects marketing senior manager for Schneider Electric Egypt and Northeast Africa. “We are working extensively with Egyptian universities, research centers and educational institutions to help support scientific research, while providing local communities with innovative solutions to make the most of natural resources and also to address day-to-day challenges.”
It all started when RISE implemented a drinking water project in Wadi El Gemal National Park in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, around 80 km south of Marsa Alam. “While implementing the project,” said Tina Jaskolski, senior manager at RISE, “the RISE research team noticed that Bedouin nomads, who lived in basic, make-shift tents, herded their livestock including sheep, goats and camels; were always in search for rain and plants to feed on; and had no access to electricity,” she explained. “Due to the long distance between the coastline, which is the closest electricity connection, and the villages where nomads are located, there was a dire need for electricity.”
The Mobiya solar lights provided by Schneider Electric are an innovative solution that is easy-to-transport to off-grid areas and villages in Marsa Alam. “The solar lights are small, easy-to-use, round lights, with a small solar panel attached that can last between six and 36 hours,” said Jaskolski. “The lights can also be operated at different power levels and easily hung into a tent.”
On average, one solar lamp can support three to five people, depending on space availability. “To provide equal distribution of solar lights, we have collaborated with the Wadi El Gemal National Park to select families that have not benefited from any other lighting project,” noted Jaskolski. “National Park staff members also accompanied the RISE and Schneider Electric teams into the wadis to distribute the lights.”
With 10 years of experience working with farmers in the oases of the Western Desert, RISE saw the need for creating a more sustainable water solution. “Due to many artesian wells running dry, farmers were forced to install diesel pumps to pump water about 350 meters deep,” explained Jaskolski. “So we wanted to introduce renewable ways that allow farmers to pump water out of wells or into irrigation systems.”
With Schneider Electric’s Water of the Sun, the solar-powered pumping system can pump water from a depth of up to 20 meters. “This new solar-powered irrigation system can benefit 15 to 20 farmers in the community,” declared Ismail. “It is an effective alternative to conventional groundwater extraction solutions.”
The water system is efficient in that it relies 100 percent on solar energy and is compatible with different types of pumps and solar panel arrays available in the local market.
For many families living in Marsa Alam, solar lights are their only source of electricity. “Families live in groups of tents; there is no real community, as the tents are situated kilometers apart from each other,” said Jaskolski. “Such projects provide sustainable solar energy solutions that have the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for rural communities.”
Ismail added that these projects should help these communities become more productive, healthy and sustainable, “we hope to see self-sufficient communities that rely more on renewable energy, rather than fossil fuels.”
For Schneider Electric, access to energy is a basic human right. “Delivering solar lighting and solar pumping solutions to these areas is our mission,” said Ismail. “Sustainability is our main objective. The reason we chose RISE is due to its easy access to these areas, awareness of local needs and periodic presence. We believe the real future of energy in Egypt greatly relies on alternative and renewable energy.”