Sustainability from the Sun: A New Solar Pump and Capacity Building by SEKEM Energy

SEKEM is presenting one more time the power of the sun as a crucial sustainable solution for the future of agriculture in Egypt. Funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), a new solar pump has been recently established on SEKEMs Farm in Wahat El Bahariya. Based on an intense cooperation, as well as comprehensive trainings and practice, this new venture has come to light.

In September 2017, the young Egyptian and former student of Heliopolis University El-Sayed Mohamed, was responsible for installing the new solar pump with two other engineers from SEKEM Energy and one engineer from the Austrian company Merl1928. Having over a 90-year track record in the renewable energy field, Merl1928 designed the whole project and supplied it with the construction materials. After one month, the four young engineers successfully accomplished their mission under the supervision of the Austrian company, Merl1928.

Photovoltaic panels of the new solar pump at the SEKEM Farm in Wahat Bahriya.

“Lacking the access to the public electricity network had led to using mainly diesel power for generating electricity,” says El-Sayed, who is a recent graduate from Heliopolis University (HU). “Now, a 62-kW photovoltaic system replaces an inefficient 100-kW diesel power generator and runs a submersible water pump of 40 horsepower,” El-Sayed explains. And it’s worth it: the new solar pump is estimated to reduce around 87.6 Tons of Carbon Dioxide emissions per year. It irrigates an area of 12 hectares (30 feddans), with an average of 108 cubic meters of water per hour – of course depending on the solar radiation and the type of the cultivated crops. On the same land in the Western Egyptian desert, SEKEM had already installed another photovoltaic system (PV) in 2015. This powers two other water pumps and thereby irrigates an area of around 25 hectares (60 feddans).

Youth empowerment and trainings by SEKEM Energy

Two years ago, El-Sayed Mohamed was granted an internship at SEKEM Energy in Austria, funded by the municipality of Graz and the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). “There, I got insights to a huge project of solar heaters by which I was inspired for my graduation project,” says El-Sayed, who then implemented with his HU colleagues a comparable solar water heater in Egypt.

In order to support SEKEM and Heliopolis University in implementing renewable energy projects, SEKEM Energy has been already holding an ongoing series of so called “Training the Trainers Sessions” (TOT). Under the name “Sustainable energy solutions for agriculture in Egypt” this program is not only targeting SEKEM staff but also the ministries and governmental institutes in Egypt, concerned by the sector of renewable energies. Michael Puttinger, Project Manager at SEKEM Energy: “Next to SEKEM and Heliopolis University co-workers, governmental officers join these trainings to get certified as trainers. By passing knowledge and experience, we hope to contribute to the development of Egypt’s solar sector.”

Trainers received their certificates from SEKEM Energy, after their completion of the TOT program.

“I believe that one day all the operations at SEKEM will be running by renewable energies,” El-Sayed Mohamed, SEKEM’s Energy Engineer

Beside the TOTs, SEKEM Energy also offers practical trainings for the students at SEKEM’s Vocational Training Center. These trainings target the capacity building, in order to actively take part in maintaining and operating SEKEM’s current and future solar energy projects.

Even at SEKEM School, from which also El-Sayed graduated, students are exposed to the concept of renewable energy at a very young age and start to become aware it benefits. “I had been interested in such sustainable projects already when I was young and developed the wish to become involved to renewable energies in my job. Now, I believe that one day all the operations at SEKEM will be running by renewable energies, and I hope I will contribute to achieving it.”

El-Sayed Mohamed (standing in the middle) together with his colleagues during the installation of the new solar pump.

Together with his colleagues at the Energy Department of HU, El-Sayed was also involved in excursions to the SEKEM Farm in El-Bahariya during his study years. “There, we could practice on real solar pumps which were very helpful for our practical understanding and is not a usual offer in the Egyptian education system,” El-Sayed reveals. “This experience enabled me to take part in implementing the new project now,” says the young Engineer.

“We aim to be the voice of Solar Energy in Egypt,” Michael Puttinger, Project Manager at SEKEM Energy in Austria

“Our aim is to be the voice of Solar Energy in Egypt. This needs an intensive cooperation from all the involved parties. However, cooperative advocacy should in the same time happen on the individual level,” says Michael Puttinger. “And that’s what I find in my colleagues at SEKEM, especially Naglaa Ahmed, the project coordinator of SEKEM’s new solar pump.” Naglaa proactively paved the way for the whole project from the beginning, starting with the trainings, to the installation process and even organizing the excursions.

Naglaa Ahmed (on the right) with the partners of the new solar pump project.

For almost eight years, SEKEM Energy is promoting the benefits of renewable energies in SEKEM and in Egypt – by creating a platform for both public and private sectors, by implementing specific projects and by fostering an exchange of knowledge. People like Naglaa Ahmed, El-Sayed Mohamed, and Michael Puttinger are playing a crucial part in this context; they are coming from different backgrounds and perspective but all work for the same vision – a sustainable future for Egypt.

Noha Hussein
Pictures: © SEKEM Energy

The Power of the Sun – New Solarpump in El Wahat El Bahareya
Conference by SEKEM Energy at Heliopolis University