Kandahar University, located in western Kandahar City, received 36 pallets of solar panels from a private U.S. company Jan. 8, marking an important day for energy independence in the Kandahar region. The panels, worth nearly $1 million, were donated by First Solar of Arizona and will provide enough electricity to fully support the campus.
With support from the local municipal government and the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, a total of 900 solar panels which will generate 135 kilowatts of electricity, were delivered to the university. After installation, the university will boast about 170kw with unused energy available to give back to the grid.
Chancellor Dr. Hazrat Mir Totakhil and Vice Chancellor and Lead Engineer Abdul Tawab gladly welcomed the convoy of local flatbed trucks, escorted by U.S. military personnel and the Infrastructure Team.
Infrastructure Team lead Navy Lt. Jason Gabbard and Army Civil-Military Operations Center director Maj. Narvaez Stinson, planned, coordinated and executed the overall movement from Kandahar Airfield to the university.
“Today is possible because of the tireless efforts of my predecessor, Mr. Gerry Paulus, who never wavered in his vision of energy independence for Kandahar University,” said Gabbard. “I am honored to continue his legacy.”
“With these solar panels, our success will be an example for other universities and the rest of the country,” said Tawab as he watched a forklift provided by the 501st Brigade Support Battalion unload a pallet of solar panels.
Afghanistan and Kandahar province in particular, are in a climatically strategic region with an average of 320 days of sunshine per year. Kandahar University recently established an energy department designed to focus on optimizing Kandahar’s energy potential.
Kandahar University, established in 1990, is already using 30 panels previously donated by First Solar in its administration building and campus street lights.
“We spent over 500,000 Afghanis to install the first panels, which now generate 8kws of electricity.”
The future of the university looks bright, according to Tawab, who believes that Kandahar University will soon be a national model.
“We want a stabilized Afghanistan through solar energy, so we’ll take this opportunity to realize it.”
Once installed, Kandahar University will not depend on international support for power generation.
“In a time of transition from coalition-led infrastructure development to Afghans taking the helm, Kandahar University is setting the benchmark,” Gabbard said.
Only a portion of the campus is currently powered by solar power, while the majority is supplied from expensive diesel fuel by way of generators. The installation of these panels will allow for eventual energy self-sustainment.
Beginning with the completion of the administration building and network center, Tawab foresees the university being powered 100 percent by solar energy.
However, he projects that installation will not start for at least a month, with hopes that all panels will be installed within a year.
Tawab states that plans to use a cooperative construction effort between local contractor and the student body are underway in hopes of providing their students with the opportunity to gain invaluable hands-on experience. The university has submitted an on-budget funding request through Kandahar City’s municipality office.
“We’ve submitted all paperwork, so it should only be a matter of time,” said Tawab.
After the total conversion of the campus, Tawab plans to expand its laboratory and energy faculties. Four new full-time energy professors recently began developing curriculum in preparation for students in the next academic year.
The university’s energy department is designed to focus on optimizing Kandahar’s energy potential. Currently this is the only department of its kind in the country.
Gabbard concluded, “With clean and reliable energy just around the corner, Kandahar University shines as a beacon of hope for the future of renewable energy in Kandahar and maybe someday, all of Afghanistan.”
By Staff Sgt. Jeff Neff
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