alternative, dubai, energy, friends, renewable

On the use of the Sun

A question that gets asked a lot around here: why solar power is not that spread across the UAE. It seems logical to ask: the Sun is in abundance in the Middle East, and yet this country only plans to diversify its energy sources and get up to 24% of it from clean sources*. Our old friend, one of the brightest people we know and the Sun expert, Anthony Bassil, shed some light on the solar power. He also sketched the schemes for this post.

Solar energy harvested via photovoltaic panels can be classified into two main schemes: off- and on-grid. Off-grid, or stand alone system needs a large battery bank to store the collected energy, charge controllers and inverters to change from direct current to alternative current (AC/DC, and we are not on about ‘Rock or bust‘ here)

Off-grid system on paper

Off-grid system on paper

Such system is bulky, takes a fair bit of space and demands extreme safety measures. Standards require the place where batteries are stored to be properly ventilated. As battery emits hydrogen, every schoolboy knows, it behaves funny when it meets with oxygen (yes, b-o-o-m!) This makes the off-grid solar installation costs go up and lead to longer return on invenstment (ROI) period.

However the costs even for the off-grid system is now shrinking. A decade ago, a user would pay about ten USD per kW, and now — only around five. Yet, on-grid installation offers even higher savings (2.4 USD/kW) and estimated 3-5 years ROI.

An example of a grid-tie system

An example of a grid-tie system

Recent changes in the energy policies in Dubai, allowed investors to look at the on-grid solutions. It is a leaner installation that needs no batteries, and its core advantage is in the ability of a user to sell the unused energy back to the grid. Say, your warehouse consumes a smaller amount of energy during the night, and therefore gives unused electricity back to the network.

A growing number of clients are expressing interest in locating the panels on the roofs of their buildings, both new and retrofit. Why not? We have probably 350 days of uninterrupted sunlight each year. New regulations allowed investors to look differently at this renewable source of energy. Other sources are limited by the climate: moderate winds and waves along the UAE coast would not allow to harvest sufficient amounts of energy. Off-shore wind turbines are possible, but then again you need to transport energy from far away in the sea.

This country is looking forward the having so called solar farms.

Shams means Sun

Shams means Sun

Concentrated solar plants would allow to collect and transform to electricity enormous amounts of sunlight. Thus, Abu Dhabi based Shams 1 launched in 2013 is the largest solar thermal power plant in the Middle East. It is built to generate 100MW of energy. Unlike photovoltaic principle (energy is created due to chemical reaction), solar thermal stations heat water and then convert it to electricity.

Engineers in the Middle East are working on the challenge of dust. It too is in abundance in our desert land. Where a manual labour could be used to rid of the dust on a parking ticket machine, you’d need a more serious machinery on the farm.

We will continue to monitor the Sun power situation. The weather is good for both us, the users, and investors (heard of Google spending 300 M USD on it? The search-masters bough a share in the US SolarCity plant, 377MW).

* State of Energy Report in the UAE 2015

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Design Days Dubai, dubai, lighting

Light days. #DesignDaysDubai says: heads up!

DUBAI Design Days took place for the fourth time in the region. The event opens door to local talents as well as to world renowned galleries. It exposes equally an ambitious young genius and an iconic masterpiece. We have wandered around the event’s grounds, our heads up.

This year brought a fair number of objects emitting light and fixed to the ceiling. Some complained it was not high enough! Indeed, a twenty eight pendant transparent globes with — what seemed from the distance — as a low output light source. As one’s drawn closer full of curiosity: why those people are squatting under the installation, — it becomes apparent that each globe hosts something more than an LED. It is full of clouds, thunder and lightning!

DDD The Lumiere large

Thor is proud!

Commonplace Studio from the Netherlands brought to Dubai its Lumiere Cloud Installation. Jon Stam and Simon de Bakker have equipped sandblasted glass globes with miniature digital projectors that in sync show nature inspired videos. We clearly see those globes installed in a cloud hosting firm’s charismatic waiting room.

Aljoud Lootah, an Emirati industrial designer showed her collection of the Oru Series. Just a few pieces of furniture, tastefully accompanied by a table lamp, are interpretation of Japanese origami art. The lamp is a warmest of all. It has a soul of its own (and of course its creator, Aljoud!).

Wait, it screeches!

Wait, it screeches!

A European lighting powerhouse, Zumtobel, brought true masterpieces (and they call their collection just that!). A rare chance to see Hani Rashid, Olafur Eliasson and Zaha Hadid unique luminaires under one roof.

DDD Hani Rashid

LQ Chandelier by Hani Rashid

Acquaintance with Fadi Sarieddine’s Mainframe plug in modular concept started with a floating cube pierced with T8 fluorescent tubes. A cube, a center point of the concept, is used in so many ways, a user can breathe in it. Fadi is a Lebanese architect and designer practicing in the UAE. The Master has given us a tour around his creations himself: Sit, store, draw, read, charge!

DDD Fadi

By accident (or design?) — all three light fittings by Fadi Sarieddine got into frame

As usual, such fairs make one fall in love with an object. Then fall again, and yet again, and finally, exhausted visitor exhales ‘wow!’ and marches off to have a smoke or something to eat. Head spinning of a kaleidoscope of sensations, he or she classifieds memories and eventually sets aside something special. We enjoyed the luminaires shown at the stand of Carwan Gallery. Vincenzo de Cotiis’ rough forms exhibit raw power in a precious materials form. Suspended light fittings made by Hungarian atelier Position Collective radiate with a cosiness of practical realism reigning in Eastern Europe and Soviet Union of the sixties.

There was one piece that left us almost breathless. A fixture designed and made by a Japanese architect and designer Keiji Ashizawa for Broached Commissions. Lou Weis of this Melbourne based gallery shared with us some insights of Ashizawa’s East Eclipse.

Isn't it inspired by Kalder?

Isn’t it inspired by Kalder?

Fixture is made of two parts: a balance rod crowned by an LED board and an aluminium sheet that bends under its own weight. A thin wire holds the whole structure in the air with only one fixing point. Craftsmanship indeed! Eclipse tells a story of a trade between Australia and Japan: the former exporting its raw materials (mainly aluminium and metals), and the latter — bringing in sophisticated goods.

DDD Eclipse in making

Making the Eclipse

Keiji scales the fixture

Keiji scales the fixture

Dubai Design Days give another perspective to lighting. The fair’s eye for aesthetics sets a luminaire on a pedestal of art. Commodity it is no longer, vive la forme! We agree. Respect!

DDD is an annual arts and design fair held in Dubai each year since 2012. www.designdaysdubai.ae

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