Best practice: Masdar
The energy systems of the showcase desert ‘eco-city’ of Masdar in the United Arab Emirates are probably the best demonstration of just how far off humanity is from being able to install large scale renewable energy generation inside an urban centre. Originally launched in 2006 with the vision of becoming a fully self-sufficient city that would meet all its own energy needs and produce no waste, the dream has been scaled down somewhat to the point where although it is currently powered entirely from its own sources, only a model block of six buildings housing 60 staff and 240 students has been built. Masdar’s developers now hope to source at least 20% of energy renewably on site as the city grows, with the rest coming in from outside.
That said, city backer Sheik Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, has bankrolled some very interesting experiments, which may provide just a glimpse of how something like this might work in the future. A 22-hectare, 10MW solar photovoltaic plant is already operational within Masdar City, the largest such solar plant in the Middle East. The sun’s energy is also being tapped via evacuated tube solar collectors to provide domestic hot water on a grand scale, and new research into possible air-conditioning solutions are under way.