In­no­va­tive ‘so­lar farm con­cept could help in en­sur­ing clean en­ergy and food se­cu­rity’

Gulf Times - - QATAR - By Peter Ala­gos Busi­ness Re­porter

An award-win­ning sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment con­cept could help Qatar di­ver­sify its en­ergy mix, while ad­dress­ing pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor ini­tia­tives like en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, agro-tech­nol­ogy, and food se­cu­rity.

The ‘So­larTerra Farm’ project is based on Ter­raSave, an in­no­va­tive con­cept de­vel­oped by Ger­man civil engi­neer, Peter Neuschae­fer. The idea com­bines a so­lar and agri­cul­tural farm to­gether to pro­duce both en­ergy and food.

“The idea is to re­duce CO2 emis­sions to help save the en­vi­ron­ment based on the fol­low­ing con­cepts: waste­water treat­ment, wet­land and land­scape cre­ation, biomass pro­duc­tion, so­lar and wind en­ergy, en­ergy stor­age, so­lar de­sali­na­tion, and air-con­di­tion­ing cool­ing by heat ex­change,” Neuschae­fer told Gulf Times in an in­ter­view.

Neuschae­fer, who is op­er­a­tions direc­tor at Dorsch Hold­ing Qatar and board mem­ber of the Ger­man Busi­ness Coun­cil Qatar (GBCQ), said green en­ergy leads to “more prof­its and sav­ings,” adding that the Ter­raSave con­cept of­fers “70% to 80% sav­ings” in main­te­nance com­pared to other tech­ni­cal treat­ment plants.

Ac­cord­ing to Neuschae­fer, plans are be­ing stud­ied for a 100MW to 500MW so­lar farm project in Qatar. He said util­is­ing the ‘So­larTerra Farm’ con­cept in the pro­posed project will not only be cost-ef­fi­cient but an added value to Qatar’s pro­grammes in re­new­able en­ergy, agri­cul­ture, and food se­cu­rity.

In­stead of build­ing sep­a­rate so­lar and agri­cul­tural farms, the ‘So­larTerra Farm’ con­cept is a so­lar farm with crops planted be­neath it. Un­like the con­ven­tional mount­ing sys­tem, the ‘So­larTerra Farm’ has photo voltaic (PV) tech­nolo­gies el­e­vated to about 3 me­tres and a space be­tween the steel struc­ture for trac­tors or other ma­chines to cul­ti­vate crops.

The con­cept also in­volves tech­nol­ogy that re­cy­cles the wa­ter used to clean and cool PV pan­els. Neuschae­fer said cool­ing and clean­ing the so­lar cells with ex­ist­ing treated waste wa­ter or plain wa­ter min­imises main­te­nance costs and in­crease en­ergy ef­fi­ciency up to 30% higher en­ergy yield.

“The use of a 10sq km area so­lar farm be­comes ef­fi­cient by us­ing the same land for agri­cul­ture. Since the crops are un­der the so­lar farm, they are ir­ri­gated reg­u­larly and are pro­tected from di­rect sun­light, which re­duces evap­o­ra­tion,” Neuschae­fer ex­plained.

Neuschae­fer also said a study pub­lished in the Ain Shams En­gi­neer­ing Jour­nal ti­tled ‘En­hanc­ing the Per­for­mance of Pho­to­voltaic Pan­els by Wa­ter Cool­ing’ sci­en­tif­i­cally backs the con­cept of in­creas­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency by cool­ing so­lar pan­els.

Ac­cord­ing to the study, “One of the main ob­sta­cles that face the op­er­a­tion of pho­to­voltaic pan­els (PV) is over­heat­ing due to ex­ces­sive so­lar ra­di­a­tion and high am­bi­ent tem­per­a­tures. Over­heat­ing re­duces the ef­fi­ciency of the pan­els dra­mat­i­ was found that the so­lar panel with wa­ter cool­ing gen­er­ates more en­ergy than the one with­out cool­ing.”

Neuschae­fer added: “Not only would this project pro­mote clean en­ergy but it would also enrich and sup­port the food se­cu­rity strat­egy of Qatar. It is a pi­o­neer­ing con­cept world­wide, which Qatar can use as a mar­ket­ing tool, as well.

“It may also help en­hance re­search in aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions like Qatar Foun­da­tion and raise aware­ness on sus­tain­able and en­vi­ron­ment-friendly project so­lu­tions in Qatar, or serve as real life projects for stu­dents in schools and uni­ver­si­ties.”

The Ter­raSave con­cept re­ceived sev­eral recog­ni­tions like the ‘2009 Qatar To­day Green Award’, ‘2010 The Mid­dle East’s Top 5 Green Build­ings Re­vealed’, and ‘2011 Meed Award for the Sus­tain­able Project of the Year’.

PIC­TURE: Peter Ala­gos

Peter Neuschae­fer, board mem­ber, GBCQ.

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