In 2010, Fadi Quran came back to Palestine during winter break from his senior year at Stanford University, where he was studying Physics and International Relations. During his vacation, a plumber came with his thirteen year-old son to fix a problem with the water system in Quran’s house. The boy was working with his father instead of going to school.
“I asked him what subjects he liked, and he said math,” Quran recalls. So he gave the boy a quick lesson in college level mathematics and several problems to do.
“He comes back two days later… and he’d answered the questions,” Quran continues. “That… inspired me. It moved me to [realize] that I’ve been given a lot of opportunities and I need to ensure that everyone in Palestine gets the same.” He decided on the spot that his place was in Palestine, helping to channel the raw talent – and raw natural resources – of his homeland into something that will better its future.
Three years later, Quran is the Vice President of Operations at Independent Wind, the first large-scale wind farm developer in Palestine. His goal? Nothing less than creating an energy self-sufficient Palestine.
Need and Potential
In most parts of the world, interest in renewable energy stems from its environmental benefits and profit potential. In Palestine, this interest also comes from a desire to create an independent state and economy.
Currently, Palestine is almost entirely dependent on Israel for its energy supply. In 2011, Palestinians purchased 86% of their electricity from the Israeli Electric Corporation. In comparison, the Palestine Electric Company provided for 10% of national need.
At the same time, Palestine is a ripe natural environment for renewable energy development. “There is good interest in alternative energy here… because it’s available,” Quran emphasizes, citing Independent Wind’s extensive data on wind speeds in the West Bank. The company has used this data to create digital maps highlighting the areas with the highest wind potential in order to purchase land and begin developing Palestine’s wind harvesting industry.
Independent Wind has looked to successful existing wind energy companies as inspiration for their own business model, Quran reports, including Next Era Energy Resources in North America, and Panama Wind Energy, operative in Brazil and India.
Projects and Challenges
For its pilot project, Independent Wind is working with the Rawabi Foundation to install Palestine’s first wind turbine, in Rawabi City. The goal is to have the turbine up and running within a year.
But one turbine isn’t nearly enough: plans are also in the works for a large-scale wind farm. The company is currently in the middle of the contracting and licensing process with the Palestinian Authority, which will be its biggest customer. Once that is complete, the organization will begin developing the first wind farm in the West Bank. “Our plan is to be producing 8 – 10% of Palestine’s energy demand in 7 – 10 years,” Quran says. “It’s a huge project.”
As with any large project, this one faces challenges. For almost all startups, there is a need to attract more investment capital, although Palestinian businesses and investors around the world interested in sustainable energy have already taken notice, Quran says.
Other challenges are more unique to the situation in which Independent Wind is operating.
Palestine does not control its own borders, Quran points out. Therefore, the wind turbines will have to be imported via Israel, which could slow down the process and make it more expensive.
There is also a high level of risk for people investing in Palestinian businesses because the political situation is so unpredictable. As a result, Independent Wind is in the process of purchasing political risk insurance to cover its shareholders’ investments in case the situation becomes unstable to a point at which the project cannot move forward.
Despite the difficulties of working in an emerging field under Palestine’s unique constraints, Quran is confident that Independent Wind’s vision will make it successful.
“For great companies in the history of mankind… a vision larger than simply profit… has always been… an important factor of growth and success,” Quran continues. “The main purpose of the company is to… push toward our people’s independence.”
Independent Wind also hopes to jump on the bandwagon of renewable energy, trending worldwide. “We hope to make Palestine not only part of that trend, but a leading actor in spreading it,” Quran concludes.