Iraq may install off-grid solar panels in order to supply electricity to people across the country. Electricity from conventional sources is available on average for only two hours a day in Iraq. Iraq's actual power production is only about one-third of its installed capacity of 11,000 megawatt. Six thousand solar-powered street lamps already exist in Baghdad. Iraqi Ministry of Electricity has ordered thousands more solar street lamps from the Phaesun GmbH (Phaesun).

Matthias Kaiser of Phaesun said that the Iraqi government was increasingly exploring the role solar power could play in supplying the population’s future energy needs, especially in rural areas.

Choosing solar energy has many advantages for Iraq. The country has a large surface area, which is good for setting up solar panels and also plenty of sun and solar radiation. The national grid doesn’t function well and that makes off-grid solar power systems a super solution, Kaiser said.

Kaiser said that installing off-grid solar technology would speed up the process of supplying reliable and efficient electricity to people across the country, boosting efforts to rebuild Iraq’s economy.

One benefit of installing off-grid solar panels is speed. Large numbers of people can start harnessing the energy within months, Kaiser said.

Six engineers from Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity participated in a training course run by Phaesun in Germany early in February 2009 to learn how to build and maintain off-grid solar systems, including the solar-powered street lamps for Baghdad that are adapted to the local climate and capable of tolerating large variations in temperature.

The Iraqi engineers looked at the role solar panels could play in Iraq’s future energy mix, generating electricity to power homes, shops and businesses as well as institutions such as hospitals, government buildings, etc.

They’ll be able to go back to Baghdad and teach other colleagues how to build solar-powered street lamps and other systems. That way crucial know-how can spread quickly, Kaiser said.

Phaesun along with local partners helps in speeding up the introduction of off-grid solar and wind technology in less developed countries by doing specialized planning tasks as well as supplying the components for systems and the knowledge needed to install and maintain those systems through tailor-made training courses.

We have all the components for solar-powered street lighting systems, for example, on site, and we offer them to our customers in a tailor made package to streamline the process of adopting a technology, Kaiser said.

Kaiser said that there was a growing demand for off-grid solar technology from developing countries.

Kaiser said that Phaesun was one of the first companies offering off-grid solar technology and training services to Iraq.

A lot of German companies supply solar technology and know-how for national grids within Europe, but more and more are now supplying off-grid solar technology for countries which don’t have access to any national grid, Kaiser said.

Kaiser said that the German solar companies were increasingly active in helping to build up the capacity of developing countries to install and manage their own renewable energy power systems.

Kaiser thinks that photovoltaic technology could spread rapidly in developing countries as costs come down.

Scientists like Martin Green at the the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering in Australia are developing third-generation photovoltaic modules that could even help in reducing the cost of solar electricity to less than $0.20 per watt.