Microgrid Shows Lebanon Way Out of Pollution and Power Outages

Aug. 21, 2019
A solar-plus-storage microgrid in Lebanon is demonstrating how the country can overcome its lack of energy access, poor sanitation, environmental pollution and lack of economic development.

A solar-plus-storage microgrid in Lebanon is demonstrating a way the country can overcome its pollution and lack of energy access while boosting economic development.

For a month running, Recycle Beirut and an adjacent residential building have been receiving all of the electricity they need with a microgrid that uses 100-kW of solar and a 100 kWh battery energy storage system.

Small as it is, the microgrid’s benefits are large.

Lebanon depends on fossil-fueled generators and experiences regular power cuts that can last as long as 12 hours, according to Florian Stark, project manager at Firebird Energy, which built, operates and maintains the microgrid in partnership with Recycle Beirut.

“Those power cuts are obviously slowing down economic development since there’s a lack of electricity, and it’s produced by diesel generators that produce a lot of air pollution,” Stark told Microgrid Knowledge.

Joining with a group of Chinese solar, battery energy storage and microgrid software developers, Firebird and Recycle Beirut began designing the project in the spring of 2018. They purchased equipment last summer and installed the project between March and June this year.

“Since June 2019 the system has been operating without any interruptions or trouble,” Stark said.

The Recycle Beirut microgrid

The microgrid consists of Yingli 72 Series 2 HSF smart modules made in Baoding, China with racking provided by Xiamen’s Corigy New Energy Technology. Xiamen-based Kehua Technology supplied the power control system and inverter, while the battery control system was provided by Shanghai’s ZN Tech. Ningde, China’s CATL supplied the lithium-ion batteries, Stark explained in an interview.

The microgrid operates in off-grid, island mode, although it does have an emergency, back-up grid connection to charge the batteries when possible. The grid backup can serve the microgrid during persistent extreme weather or other events that may compromise its ability to meet Recycle Beirut’s electricity needs. The system also includes a subscription to an emergency back-up diesel-fueled generator.

Most of the capital used to finance the Recycle Beirut microgrid, which was unspecified, came from one of Recycle Beirut’s founders, who owns the project. The balance of the system cost was carried by the company, Stark said. Recycle Beirut is paying the founding investor’s investment back over a four-year period, at which time the company will assume ownership.

Battery energy storage system, Courtesy of Firebird Energy

Severe economic and environmental conditions

Lebanon faces severe economic and environmental crises, Stark said. The country is economically dependent on international aid and investment. An energy production deficit and excessively high energy costs make it difficult to build and run industrial plants and businesses economically.

In addition, “environmentally, Lebanon is rated as one of the most polluted countries at the Mediterranean coast,” Stark added. “The country has no recycling system and dumps most of its waste in landfills or the Mediterranean. What increases the pollution is the nearly exclusive use of diesel generated electricity. Lebanon uses leased power ships from Turkey running on diesel, and the few power plants in the country are by far not able to supply the national demand. Additionally the country’s grid is from the 1960s, leaving inhabitants to use diesel generators operated by private companies.”

Deployment of solar microgrids can address these problems by providing electricity 24 hours a day, independent of the national grid, Stark said.

Furthermore, “Lebanon is very well suited for solar power with over 300 sunshine days, making it a perfect place for an innovative approach to decentralized electricity supply,” he said. “Our microgrid makes Recycle Beirut independent from any diesel generated electricity, provides a 24 hour supply and leads the company towards a carbon negative emission balance.”

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About the Author

Andrew Burger

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