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Blog: Bringing light to Baghdad

  • Story Highlights
  • Baghdad has two solar power programs to light city streets
  • Stems from security concerns rather than eco-friendly ambitions
  • Could prove successful in city where grid power is unreliable
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By CNN's Arwa Damon
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Solar lights in Baghdad? I thought I must be hearing things.

Keeping the lights on in Baghdad is more to do with security than being eco-friendly.

Keeping the lights on in Baghdad is more to do with security than being eco-friendly.

Not that the concept of solar energy is novel, but this is after all a war zone and hardly the setting for innovative and environmentally-friendly technology.

Then again, the logic behind using solar lights here has nothing to do with wanting to be eco-friendly. Its more of a practical solution to keep violence down.

Insurgents use the cover of darkness to plant roadside bombs, creep up and ambush U.S. and Iraqi forces, intimidate and attack the Iraqi population.

Residents, especially in the more volatile neighborhoods in Baghdad, stayed safely indoors once the sun set, trying to avoid the menace of Baghdad's streets.

We went into Ghazaliye with the U.S. military, a western Baghdad neighborhood, once anAl Qaeda stronghold.

Violence, though much lower than before still exists today.

The day before our patrol, the U.S. lost one of their soldiers to a sniper. "Careful standing under the lights, keep moving".

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Concertina wire was strewn around, the Iraqi police guided traffic through a checkpoint, blast walls stretched along one side of the road -- a typical Baghdad scene, except that the street wasn't pitch black, it was bathed in an orange glow from the solar lights.

And below, one of the nicest grocery stores I have seen in Baghdad.

The owner said he'd closed shop for over a year and a half when the violence was at its worst. He re-opened when the lights came on.

There are two solar light projects in Baghdad. One run by the Iraqi government that's a larger country-wide effort. They are your typical solar lights -- panel, battery, and light.

And then there's the American version that's something of solar lights a-la-war zone. Bullet proof glass is meant to protect the lights from insurgents wanting to shoot them out. Special bolts are meant to keep them from being stolen.

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Major Tom Nelson and I joked -- just imagine, Baghdad could end up being the first city powered by solar lights.

Iraq's power grid is hardly reliable, the sun is.

All About Nature and the EnvironmentAlternative Energy TechnologyIraq

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