Dubai is the new hotspot for solar energy

Dubai is the new hotspot for solar energy
It seems Dubai is on track to achieve the vision of its leader who knows how to make it happen every time.

The UAE is racing to be a solar-powered economy. Its youngest residents are bringing the community together to build the road to the solar capital of the world. The UAE is racing to be a solar-powered economy. Its youngest residents are bringing the community together to build the road to the solar capital of the world.

By Eva Prabhakar

Published: Mon 21 May 2018, 8:54 AM

Last updated: Tue 22 May 2018, 1:39 PM

If there's one thing that Dubai, and the world at large, has come to appreciate and looks forward to witness, it's the realization of one man's vision. Once a superlative has been picked, we know that it will happen - the tallest tower, the biggest mall, the largest indoor theme park, and the list goes on. HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has the vision to make Dubai the cleanest city and the solar capital of the world.The whole community has geared up to reverse a very large carbon footprint, and come together to make it happen. So, how do you imagine tomorrow - the future of the city you live in? You ask the children, of course. It's the children who can not only envision innovative ways of redesigning the present; it's them who will live in the future we create together. "This year, I worked on developing a way to use the friction of a car's wheels as it passes by a traffic signal to convert kinetic energy into electricity," shares Salim Mohammed Ali Alblooshi, Grade 11 student, Arab Unity School, Dubai. It's such innovative ideas that are actively being boosted by the government, businesses, and schools across the city. Residents are making great strides in building green lives for their communities. Whether it's a solar-powered bus shelter or a mini-power plant on the roof (read: solar panels), the sun is definitely shining on the novel projects currently in process. With environmentally-conscious actions taking place across the community, it seems that Dubai is on track to achieve the vision of its leader who knows how to make it happen every time.

The government has a green vision in mind

As part of the Dubai Clean Energy Plan 2050 (the year when 75% of the energy produced will come from renewable sources), the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) joined hands with the 'Dubai Solar Schools Initiative - by ArchItaly Green Energy DMCC' and the Clean Energy Business Council to provide a platform for the children of Dubai to design their city. The 2017 Dubai Vision Competition submissions were categorised into recycling crafts, sustainability writing, and imagining tomorrow through conceptual models. Each category came with a Dh40,000 award for the winning school. "We have a unique situation in Dubai with the Emirati population being the minority. We've used this to our strength and built bridges with expats, who now call Dubai their home. Our city is an amazing success story built by the collaboration between multiple cultures," says Abdulla bin Eisa Al Serkal, director, SMCCU.In October 2017, the year-long competition culminated in an awards ceremony to honour the green vision of the children. "43 schools submitted brilliant concepts," shares Giulia Senigaglia, education coordinator, SMCCU.

Winning ideas for a clean future

Our Own High School, Al Warqa'a, Dubai won the recycling crafts category of the 1st edition of the Dubai Vision Competition in 2017. The students presented a fully solar-powered city with vertical forests as part of residential towers - and they even involved their parents in collecting recycled materials for the models. Buds Public School, Dubai penned a novel, Green Pen - Green Eye, and won the sustainability writing category. Each chapter was written by a different student and ultimately told a story that drove the narrative from a dream to affecting change as it slowly built a green city. "This submission really touched my heart. Every chapter claimed Dubai as 'my city' regardless of where the child originally came from - Dubai is now their home," says Senigaglia. The winning submission for the category that imagines tomorrow with a conceptual model came from New Indian Model School, Dubai. The students developed an automatic waste segregator that separates paper, plastic, wood, metal, and glass. The idea took shape from their daily routine - they do not let water bottles at school go to waste and use them to plant saplings."This has been an amazing journey with the schools. Even at a young age, the students have an imagination that reflects the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum - be it a technological, social or humanitarian project," adds Senigaglia. The 2nd edition of the competition was announced in March 2018 with the hope to bring about partnerships between the public and private schools.

Schools get innovative

Besides the innovative ideas of the youth, schools are also gearing up to become solar-powered. They are expected to feed into Dubai's electricity grid and be part of the vision towards 'rooftop solar power plants'. "Our solar schools initiative requires zero upfront capital from the schools. Third party funding is allowing us to approach schools with DEWA's Shams Dubai plan to connect solar energy to buildings. The schools can pay off this 'solar lease' in installments over years as they reduce their electricity costs and even supply excess energy directly into the grid," shares David Provenzani. A short visit to schools such as The Indian Academy, Dubai is a good showcase for how students across all ages, parents, schools, the local government bodies, and the private sector are instrumental in creating a green community, quite literally. The students actively participate in organic farming and projects such as the creation of an electric bug (solar powered, of course!) that acts as a scarecrow in the field. "It has only taken one year from the time the school's leadership decided to go green for good for the school to transition its syllabus, activities, facilities, and even the adjoining community to reflect a sustainable mindset," says Jwairia Saleem, principal, The Indian Academy, Dubai.

The corporate sector wants sustainability

Schools have been contemplating going completely solar with the installation of solar panels on their rooftops. "The vision of this country is an example for the world. Schools are important stakeholders in Dubai's goal to operate on 75% solar energy by the year 2050," says David Provenzani, managing director, ArchItaly Green Energy DMCC, a design and management consultancy. He adds, "It is important for children to see sustainability as part of their daily life. We want the children to use solar labs and think of green careers."With solar panels in schools, the students can bring their environment-related classes and social clubs to life - a step further into a future that's completely sustainable and clean."When I was growing up, there were mainly public schools, and houses made of clay and palm leaves. Then, came the private schools, and eventually, international schools. Dubai has changed rapidly and drawn people from everywhere to its shores. We don't compete with others; we are our own benchmark," says Al Serkal. "Just like the green past when we used wind towers as air conditioners," adds Senigaglia.

Ten of the best clean energy projects that are already making our lives easy in the UAE

With the Solar Impulse 2 in the news for a couple of years - the first round-the-world, solar-powered flight, sponsored by Abu Dhabi's Masdar - the UAE is making the world sit up and take notice of its progress towards being a sustainable global economy. The Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority is in the process of building the world's largest solar power plant in Sweihan; Dubai's Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is currently the world's largest single-site solar park; and Dubai has also set a world record for the lowest ever cost of solar power, even beating out the price of fossil fuels. The next time you're out and about, notice all the ways in which the UAE has gone green.
The ENOC petrol station, Dubai Internet City is the first solar-powered service station in the UAE.
There are a little over 5,500 high-tech parking metres all over the UAE that are controlled by GPRS in real-time.
Al Mu'ayrid, Ras Al Khaimah is home to the first smart and green mosque.
There are 100 solar-powered lighting poles in the Khor Fakkan area in Sharjah.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has launched solar-powered SOS telephones to help when in distress at the cycling track at Seih Al Salam, Dubai.
The Italian Embassy, Abu Dhabi runs completely on green energy today.
The Umm Suqeim Beach and Za'abeel Park have palm-tree inspired Wi-Fi stations that are solar-powered. Al Khazzan Park, Dubai operates 100% on solar power.
Little Leaders, located in the Hamdiya area of the Emirate of Ajman, is the UAE's first solar-powered preschool.
There's also a labour camp in Ajman that runs completely on solar energy.
172 solar-powered bus shelters in Sharjah have been in the process of going operational since 2017. The UAE is using its solar technology to help its neighbours too - solar-powered vaccine refrigerators were sent to Yemen recently. As Dubai aims to have a solar panel on every roof by 2030 and Abu Dhabi is working on the world's first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city (Masdar), we can look forward to many more solar-powered devices around us.

Want some sunshine in a jar?

Let there be light - everywhere you go. Make your own portable light in a jar or keep it by your bedside at night.
What you need:
Solar patio light
Mason jar
Tape or glue
Frosting spray (optional)
What to do:
Remove the solar panel from the stake bit of the solar patio light. Take out the circular part of the mason jar lid and keep only the ring aside. If you want a frosted effect, use frosting spray only on the jar (not the ring) from the outside. Keep it aside to dry. Stick the solar panel to the ring using tape or glue. It should fit snugly inside the ring. Twist the lid back on to the mason jar, and keep outside to charge the solar panel. If you want coloured lighting, use a tinted glass jar or insert coloured paper in the jar.

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