First pineapple farm opens in Gaza

A Palestinian man holds a pineapple during a harvest at a farm in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2017
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First pineapple farm opens in Gaza

KHAN YUNIS, Palestinian Territories: Pineapples are being harvested in the Gaza Strip for the first time as part of efforts to help the impoverished Palestinian territory work toward food self-sufficiency.
The fruit, for domestic sale, is grown in a 1,000-square-meter greenhouse in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis as part of a project sponsored by the Dutch government.
Mussa Al-Jadba, an agricultural engineer who supervised the project, said they had cultivated pineapples “for the first time in the temperate Gaza Strip after we have created the environment and climate for their growth.”
Two hundred and fifty plants have so far reached maturity with up to 4,000 expected to bear fruit throughout this harvest.
The goal is to develop new crops to help Gazan farmers achieve self sufficiency, Jadba added.
“The Gaza Strip suffers fundamentally from salty water, which has encouraged the union to grow pineapples as they don’t need much water,” he added, referring to the agricultural union.
Gaza suffers from severe water pollution, with more than 95 percent of its groundwater unclean, leading to increased risk of serious diseases.
The UN has warned the strip will be uninhabitable by 2020.
Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza for a decade, citing security reasons.


Bangladesh inches toward green power goal

Updated 24 min 27 sec ago
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Bangladesh inches toward green power goal

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s electricity generation from renewable sources has passed the 5 percent mark with the opening of a major new solar plant — boosting hopes the country might meet its goal of getting 10 percent of power from renewables by 2020, experts said.
The new 28 megawatt solar power plant in Cox’s Bazar District is the largest yet opened in the country, following the earlier construction of a 3 MW plant.
The solar plants come on top of the widespread use of solar home systems in the low-lying country, considered one of those most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Currently about 5.2 million small-scale solar home systems provide electricity to almost 12 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people, Dipal C. Barua, president of the Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
He said that accelerating construction of solar power facilities “will build confidence among future investors.”
The new 116-acre solar park will supply enough electricity to meet about 80 percent of power demand in the Teknaf sub-district where it is located, said Mahmudul Hasan, chief financial officer for Joules Power.
That area has about 300,000 power users, though little in the way of industrial or large commercial users, he said.
Nuher Latif Khan, managing director of Technaf Solartech Energy, part of Joules Power that owns the plant, said it had begun operations ahead of schedule.
In Bangladesh, “the future of solar power is very fantastic,” he said.
Khan said the solar park can produce up to 28 MW of solar electricity at peak capacity and has contracted to provide 20 MW to the government grid.
Barua said several other large solar plants are in the pipeline in Bangladesh, after receiving government approval, with a few at advanced stages of construction.
While solar plants need a large amount of initial investment to set up, he said, they have small operational costs afterward, unlike plants that need ongoing sources of coal or other fossil fuels.
The government has supported construction of rooftop solar plants on factories and other commercial buildings, he said, with some facilities on large plants expected to generate a megawatt or more each. With such solar plants, thousands of factories in Bangladesh should be able to meet their own electricity needs, and contribute surplus power to the national grid.
“I think one day we will see every building has a rooftop solar power system,” Barua said.
However, finding available land to set up ground-level solar plants is a major challenge in densely populated Bangladesh, he said.
Sheikh Reaz Ahmed, director of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA), said the country’s 2008 renewable energy policy calls for generating 10 percent of electricity from renewables by 2020. With the country expected to generate 20,000 MW of electricity in total by the date, renewables would have to reach 2,000 MW to hit that target, he said.
So far Bangladesh generates just over 530 MW from renewables, nearly half of that from hydropower plants, he said. But the country is set to put online another 600 MW of renewable power in 2019 alone, he said, with another 1,100 MW rolled out in 2020 and 2021.
Not all construction is progressing smoothly, however, with some plants tied up in problems with land acquisition and other issues.
Meanwhile, energy generation from fossil fuels also is rising.
Last year, Bangladesh approved a proposal to construct 10 new oil-fired power plants, capable of generating 1,800 MW of electricity.
In January, construction also began on a 1,200 MW coal-fired power plant in Cox’s Bazar, funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
That means boosting Bangladesh’s percentage of renewable energy above 10 percent won’t be easy, as “each year total power generation from traditional sources will go up” too, Ahmed said.