First publish at We Are Not Numbers
The electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip pervades every aspect of life for the 2 million residents—the food we are able to eat, the medical care we can receive, our ability to keep up with school, the extent to which we can stay connected to the outside world. And relief doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon, so the next generation in Gaza is setting out to find immediate solutions. Some have turned to solar power, but four newly graduated engineers think harnessing the sea could fill a big part of the gap.
The 26-year-old inventors are Haitham Mushtaha and Mahmoud Murad, from the Islamic University of Gaza’s mechanical engineering department, and Sani Subaih and Mahmoud Abu Zayed, electrical engineering. Each of them found their way to IUG’s engineering school because of their knack for taking things—and problems—apart so they could discover how to fix them. And, of course, all Gazan parents dream of their kids growing up to be engineers or doctors.
The young men found each other during their senior year of university when they happened to be in the same structural engineering class. Each had a tendency to sit in the back row to escape the prying eyes of the teachers, and soon they started chatting during every break. When it came time to choose a graduation project, it seemed natural to join forces. Mushtaha suggested they focus on hydraulic power as one solution to the aspect of Gaza life that was the source of so many of their complaints: the constant search for electricity and a Wi-Fi connection.
“I have always wanted to try do something to help our situation here, so I said why we can’t we use our own sea, our greatest asset, to generate power?” recalls Murad.
The fruit of their collaboration is the Wave Energy Converter (WEC). This is how it works: A large buoy is anchored in the Mediterranean Sea, which is in turn connected to a mechanical device that converts the power of the waves into electrical energy that can be shared and distributed.
“The system absorbs the stored energy of waves and transforms it into hydraulic power,” explains Mushtaha. “A set of controls regulates the converter to protect against surges during storms and other causes of high waves that might overwhelm it.”
Recognizing the potential importance of the project, the Gaza government has secured land near the Gaza seaport for the necessary infrastructure, which otherwise would have been difficult to procure. However, more resources are needed to scale up to meet demand.
“Our financial resources are limited, so the WEC needs to be sponsored by other organizations,” says Sobeih.
Abu Zayed adds, “We also suffer from a lack of scientific and practical experience in the field of wave energy and related disciplines. And we don’t have some of the equipment necessary to improve the efficiency of the converter.”
Still, so far, the project is on track to produce 10-15 kilowatts of electricity, which the team projects will be enough to light the 1,800-meter wharf on the Gaza seaport.
“This project took a long time and great effort from the Engineering Department to develop, but it is vital,” says Nasser Farahat, head of IUG. “We hope we can see wave power plants in the Gaza Strip soon.”
The WEC is just one example of the successful projects that have emerged from the Islamic University of Gaza, which runs a Business and Technology Incubator (BTI). Another such project is Green Cake, an innovative construction material developed by fellow engineer Majd Mashhrawi, and a 3D printer developed by Mohammed Abu Matar.
“Since its formation in 2006, BTI has supported the implementation of 129 projects developed by Gaza youths so they can be applied on the ground both inside and outside of Palestine,” says Basil Qnadeel, head of BTI. “I am so happy that despite the bad economic situation here, we have young entrepreneurs who still dream.”