(MENAFN - Jordan Times) AMMAN — The University of Jordan (UJ) is finalising the preparation for the launch of an off-grid solar energy tree, which aims to raise awareness on renewable energy and the involvement of university students in project implementation, a university official said.
Director of Water, Energy and Environment Centre at UJ, Motasem Seidan, said that the solar tree's construction process, which started in January, witnessed the completion of its second stage in six hours earlier this week, with the participation of 12 engineering students.
The final stage of the project will be implemented in September.
'It's not only about a project in renewable energy; it's about raising awareness and making students feel at home when it comes to innovation and practical work,' Seidan, who works in the chemical engineering department, told The Jordan Times, stressing 'we wanted to build something different with an environmental approach and we chose the tree structure as a symbol of nature.'
The 18 branches, or tubes, he said, are built to gather the beams of sunlight throughout the day and absorb the maximum amount of solar energy. Each branch will carry panels of an average area of 70x90cm, while the area under the tree expands over around 80 square metres.
The peak value capacity of the tree, which is 7 metres high, is around 2 kilowatts, with the ability to light around 10 lighting units at the centre of the university, according to the professor.
The tree was implemented under the 'three-day autonomy' concept, in which the structure can absorb and save sunlight within its batteries for days when the sun does not appear, he explained, highlighting 'in 2011, the energy bill in Jordan reached around JD4 billion, with [around] 96 per cent of Jordan's energy being imported. This is not a business option anymore; it is a security option. As of 2011, only 20 per cent of the national GDP was from the energy sector'.
'Jordan has a strategic location for solar and renewable energy projects; this sector needs to be invested in as the sun is almost present 365 days a year in Jordan; the sun's radiation is high, with low dust waves. We need to go in this direction to achieve self-reliance,' Seidan stated.
While similar structure have been built at Bristol University in the UK, the UJ project is different as its branches, which hold the solar energy panels, must follow the sequence of the sun in Jordan, he explained, stressing that it allows the structure to utilise solar energy "to the fullest".
With an estimated 45,000 enrolled students, the university seeks to get as many people as possible to "know about these systems, how they operate, the students who brought it to life, and the benefits of using renewable energy', according to Seidan who said 'this will break the ice between students and innovations.'
Assistant professor Khaled Omari said the design was shaped as the closest structure to nature, adding that plants will be placed around it so it looks even more natural.
'The project is a mixture between technology and nature,' he said, stating that the location of the structure, close to the street outside the university's main gate, "is always crowded and is therefore a great place to get more people's attention to the topic of renewable energy'.
'We wanted students to be involved to prove that they can achieve change and that they can serve their country through sustainability and innovation," he added.
Hayel Ahmad, who was among the student team in charge of constructing the solar tree, agreed, noting 'the location was studied carefully. We thought, by building it next to the library, it would be an expansion of the library and it would stimulate discussions between students from all faculties.'
'We are hoping it would be a one-minute message to all students and young innovators to know more and start implementing their ideas, knowing that it was designed from scratch by a Jordanian team, it would generate campus and family debates, to target student leaders and show them it is a doable project,' Seidan said.
He noted that the university is expected to build seats around the tree, where students can charge their laptops and mobile phones, while being surrounded by posters on renewable and solar energy, voicing hope to see the location becoming a platform for environment-related events in the future.
'The tree would be a generator of social events on campus, to engage students in the community and student activities,' Ahmad told The Jordan Times.
The solar tree, expected to save around JD300 of the university's electricity expenses, was funded by the European Commission and the French embassy in Amman.