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Abu Dhabi Aspires to Become Global Hub of Renewable Energy

T Ramavarman / 18 January 2009

ABU DHABI - Abu Dhabi’s forays into the alternative energy sector are part of a well-chalked out plan to make the emirate a global hub of renewable energy, and are organically linked to its strategy of building world-class and competitive economy.

This was stated by the Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of Masdar Initiative — a multi-faceted initiative launched by the UAE in April 2006 for advancing the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable and alternative energy technologies and solutions — in an interview with Khaleej Times here.

The interview was done in the context of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) being hosted here by Masdar from January 19 to 21.

Hailing the decision of the government to launch the Masdar Initiative, Dr Sultan Al Jaber  said, “Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas, with sufficient reserves to last many generations, but now it is taking bold steps to prepare for the world’s changing energy demands. Abu Dhabi also understands the need to diversify its economy, providing fresh career opportunities to nurture local talent. Masdar will play a role in this by helping to position Abu Dhabi as an intellectual capital hub and ultimately an exporter of advanced technology.”

To put it simply, Masdar makes sense. Masdar has grown out of Abu Dhabi’s half century of energy leadership, and it is a natural extension of the country’s contribution to global energy growth, development and security.

Through Masdar, Abu Dhabi is leveraging its substantial resources and experience in global energy markets towards the technologies of the future. One key objective of Masdar is to position Abu Dhabi as a world-class research and development hub for future energy technologies, effectively balancing its strong position in an evolving world energy market.

Masdar is a key element of the Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan and the Government of Abu Dhabi’s strategic policy framework. Both of these policies share a vision that seeks to build a sustainable, open and globally competitive economy.

Recalling that the first annual World Future Engery Summit was held last year in Abu Dhabi, he said, the leadership of Abu Dhabi founded this summit through its Masdar Initiative to debate, find solutions and create an open platform for global cooperation to meet the growing energy demands and climate change challenges.

This second annual WFES is also being arranged by Masdar to bring together the world’s leading innovators, educators, scientists, venture capitalists and experts in the field of alternative and renewable energies. WFES 09 again will stimulate innovative solutions for some of the most pressing challenges of our time: energy conservation, energy security, the environment and truly sustainable human development.

The summit is being held under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. It will be the largest meeting of the future energy movement and the premier event for world leaders to preview new solutions and technologies and seek partners, he said.

What are the other sources of energy available, tapped and explored here? To this he said, “Masdar is engaged across the full spectrum of renewable energy. Abu Dhabi’s geographical location and climate make solar power a viable option. In fact, Masdar City will be home to the largest grid-connected solar power plant in the region.”

“We are also making investments in other kinds of renewable energy, including wind. We have taken a significant stake in WinwinD, a leading European turbine manufacturer. We are exploring the development of a wind farm on Sir Bani Yas Island, in partnership with TDIC, to help protect the natural enviroment on this protected island.”

Masdar, is a wholly owned company of the government of Abu Dhabi through the Mubadala Development Company. We are dedicated to developing renewable energy technologies abroad — but also here in Abu Dhabi.

Because Abu Dhabi is geographically located within the world’s Sunbelt, solar is a key industry for Masdar. Accordingly, Masdar has made significant investments, formed joint ventures and R&D partnerships, and established its own manufacturing capabilities to accelerate the drive towards significant global usage of solar power.

In May 2008, Masdar invested in a new company, Masdar PV in Erfurt, Germany. Masdar PV is constructing a thin-film PV manufacturing facility, which, once complete, will use advanced production technologies to bring PV closer to grid parity.

In the first quarter of 2009, Masdar PV will break ground on a thin-film manufacturing facility in Abu Dhabi.

In addition to developing our own projects within Abu Dhabi, we also seek additional projects with our in-country partners. Torresol Energy, a joint venture between Masdar and Spanish engineering group Sener, has three solar power plants under construction in Spain with an approximate combined value of $800 million, one of which will be a CSP Central Tower Receiver System. The joint venture will feature the first-ever commercial deployment of this technology by 2012.

Independent of Torresol Energy, Masdar is developing CSP plants in Abu Dhabi, including the flagship project known as SHAMS 1 (“sun” in Arabic). Shams 1 is a 100 MW CSP plant in Madinat Zayed that uses parabolic trough technology and will be scaled up to 2000 MW over time. The project will be the first of many CSP plants that will feed green power into the Abu Dhabi grid. The project is finalising bidders at this point in time, and the successful companies will be named in March/April 2009.

How far Masdar has progressed? “2008 was a productive year for Masdar, beginning with the inaugural World Future Energy Summit last January. In February, we broke ground on Masdar City and are powering the construction through the first grid connected solar plant in the Middle East. Masdar has established its position as a player in alterative energy through strategic partnerships and the Clean Tech Fund, London Array and Masdar PV. Additionally, our joint venture Torresol Energy has secured funding and will lay the foundation for the world’s first CPV project. Abu Dhabi is taking bold steps to actively reduce its carbon footprint as we embark on the front end engineering and design for our Emirate wide CCS network.

“We are also excited that the Masdar Institute faculty and facilities are in place, and we have 24 pre-class students who are currently doing research projects and will begin their studies this fall.”

On the impact of the global financial meltdown on Masdar Dr Sultan Al Jaber said: “Many of the issues Masdar addresses, such as energy conservation, energy security, the environment and truly sustainable human development, are not tied to the economic markets — they are the most pressing challenges of our time and must be addressed regardless of the state of the global economy.”

Furthermore, investments in sustainability and renewable energy provide an opportunity to stimulate the economy and jumpstart growth through the development of an entirely new economic sector, he added.

Masdar provides market-driven incentives by creating and monetising greenhouse gas emission reductions, primarily in compliance with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) framework of the Kyoto Protocol. Masdar views the CDM as an exceptional opportunity for Abu Dhabi to lead sustainable growth in the region and to simultaneously address global environmental concerns, offering companies in developing economies around the world the opportunity to receive tradable “carbon credits” against project-based emissions reduction.

Masdar is currently developing a large portfolio of CDM projects with major asset owners in the UAE and the Middle East, including Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority and Dubai Aluminum. Projects include energy efficiency, industrial process improvement, flare gas recovery, power plant upgrades, CO2 recovery and re-utilisation and reduction of fugitive emissions.

Ten quick facts about Masdar Eco-city

  •  World’s First Zero-Carbon Zero-Waste City expected to be open in late 2009.
  • The six square kilometre city will be powered by photovoltaic panels.
  • Water will be provided through a solar-powered desalination plant.
  • To reduce dependence on desalinated water, all buildings will have dew catchers, rain-water harvesting and electronic sensors to detect leaky pipes.
  • The city will be walled to protect it from hot summer winds.
  • It plans to house 50,000 residents and 1,500 businesses.
  • The city will host Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), a graduate-level research institution developed in cooperation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • The city will be free of cars. Residents will have to walk or take “personal rapid transit” powered by solar energy — small rail cars that run on fixed tracks.
  • The government of Abu Dhabi has invested about $15 billion as a seed capital for this venture.
  • It will also generate power from refuse by a waste-to-energy plant. 

·         ramavarman@khaleejtimes.com

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