Arlington Resident, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Captain, Iraq War Veteran Works to...

Arlington Resident, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Captain, Iraq War Veteran Works to “Energize the Middle East” with Distributed Solar on West Bank

Does the mere mention of the phrase “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” give you the heebie jeebies? If so, nobody could blame you, as it seems like there hasn’t been any hopeful news coming out of that situation since…I dunno, Yitzhak Rabin was still alive (or possibly the Taba Summit in 2000)? It’s been a while, regardless.

Anyway, there’s no doubt the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be highly discouraging to even think about. Which is why I was glad to hear about what Arlington, Virginia resident, Marine Corps Reserves Captain (UPDATE: I hear he’s recently been promoted to Major; congratulations!) and Iraq War veteran Jonathan Morgenstein is up to these days — Empowerment Solar.

Energizing the Middle East: Fostering energy independence and economic prosperity for individuals and business owners across the Middle East and North Africa by supplying affordable and easy access to distributed solar electricity.

Beginning with Palestine: In 2014, Israel provided 99% of the West Bank’s electricity, draining up to $700 million from the Palestinian economy. Today, Palestinian firms pay 10% more than Israelis and 64% more than Americans for electricity, despite the fact that Israel’s per capita GDP is 7 times that of Palestine’s and the U.S.’s is 12 times greater. Palestinians also face an unreliable grid, plagued by brownouts and shortages… 

How? Empowerment Solar will design and install distributed, commercial-scale solar photovoltaic electricity systems for small- and mid-sized enterprises on the West Bank.

For more, check out the Indiegogo fundraising page on Empowerment Solar, which explains the thinking behind this cool project.

I witnessed first-hand the links between energy, prosperity, stability and peace as a U.S. Marine Corps officer, while patrolling the streets of Ramadi, Iraq in 2004. When insurgents cut Ramadi’s power lines, instability and violence proliferated around black markets for generators, their fuel, and water (since the water pumps were run by electricity). Staring at Iraq’s powerful sun, it became clear to me that distributed solar electricity could play an extraordinary role in building a brighter future for the entire region. 

Empowerment Solar is our vision to help the people of the Middle East solve these types of challenges themselves. By designing and installing distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity systems, for small-and-mid-sized Palestinian businesses on the West Bank, we put electric and economic power back into the hands of everyday Palestinians, creating jobs and promoting a more prosperous and stable future. Our dream is to then extend this model of energy empowerment across the Middle East.

I’d add that distributed solar power would replace largely fossil-fuel-generated electricity, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of nasty, health-harming pollution. Sound interesting? Maybe even hopeful for a change, in that part of the world at least? If so, check out Indiegogo and see how you can help (hint: they’re looking for $50,000 “to open our doors, train our staff, and develop our first solar project”). You can also follow Empowerment Solar on Twitter and Facebook.