Despite the mainstream news depicting nothing but political drama and violence, there are all kinds of great green projects ongoing in the Middle East. Take a look at 7 that might surprise you.
Most people who think about clean tech developments in the Arab World immediately think of Masdar City, since it is probably one of the most publicized projects in this region. But we have compiled a short list of 7 other noteworthy initiatives that are either being developed in or benefit the Arab World.
Step in for a look at everything from a small wind energy project started by a group of Turkish villagers disillusioned with their utilities provider, a 3D printer that makes objects out of Sahara Sands, to Egypt’s groundbreaking 150 MW solar-thermal Kuraymat plant 90km south of Cairo. You may be surprised to learn just how much green goodness we have to show off!
Even though Saudi Arabia is currently protecting its oil wealth at the COP 17 meetings in Durban, that isn’t to say that the Kingdom isn’t looking to maintain its energy hegemony in a solarized world. In addition to a 500 kilowatt plant on Farasan Island and other alternative energy projects, they have committed to helping this Canadian postage stamp-sized solar technology get off the ground. How does it work? For much less than it costs to produce photovoltaic panels or other solar technology, these sheets are painted with quantum dots that harvest energy from both regular sunlight and infrared light. Expecting it to become a game-changer in the solar world, Saudi has given it a $10 million confidence vote.
Just before the Tahrir protests flared up again, we recently traveled to Egypt to attend the Desertec conference and visit the 150 MW Kuraymat plant south of Cairo. This impressive plant operates at night as a combined cycle gas power plant producing roughly 110 MW of natural gas-fueled energy. During the day a 1,900 square meter solar thermal field filled with parabolic trough technology converts energy captured from the sun into steam-powered electricity. It has been feeding energy into the grid since July, 2011.
We never thought we’d see the day that oil-producing countries shame the United States, but that day came when HH Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan from Abu Dhabi crowned his court with active photovoltaic panels. The White House had an opportunity to return Jimmy Carter’s solar panels to its roof, but spurned it. This is just one of the ways in which the Gulf countries are outpacing America’s renewable energy promises. While the west complains about new regulations designed to reduce airline-produced carbon emissions, the Gulf has been piling up orders for fuel-efficient 787 dream liners.
We may have a lot of political problems and water shortages, but one of the Middle East’s greatest assets is its ubiquitous sun. Markus Kayser took advantage of the infinite Sahara sun to test the Solar Sinter – a solar-powered system comprised of little more than a fresnel lens and a bit of computing that makes objects from silica sand. Reaching temperatures of up to 1600 degrees Celsius ( 2912 Fahrenheit), focused sunlight melts the sand to create 3D glass bowls and other objects.
There’s more than one way to use the sun, and nothing proves this better than Ap Verheggen’s incredible SunGlacier Leaf. This solar-powered leaf has the potential to create a lot of ice and water – way out in the middle of the Sahara. How so, you ask? It’s actually not as complicated as you might think. The 200m2 elm-leaf shaped structure has a PV cell coated underbelly, which powers cooling condensers that in turn convert humidity from the desert air into ice. This technology is currently being tested in a shipping container that simulates desert conditions, and researchers have already created a 10 cm slab of ice.
Maybe it’s starting to seem like the Middle East has got nothing but the sun to offer, but this isn’t true at all. Case in point: the Akbıyık village in Turkey went completely off the grid after the Turkish Electricity Distribution Company cut off the village’s electricity. Because the utility company wanted to charge the villagers an unreasonable pile of money for outstanding bills, they raised funds to install a wind turbine with 50 KW capacity. To date, the new turbine has enabled Akbıyık to pay off its electric debts and power a water pump that allows the village to stay completely energy independent.
Nothing makes our green hearts sing more than seeing our youth pick up the green baton, especially those from somewhat obscure parts of the world. These four young men from Sharjah, which is an Emirate located just north of Dubai, won a prestigious award for developing technology that harvests energy from noise! That’s right. Noise. Their device converts otherwise wasted mechanical energy, acoustic noise, and ultrasonic waves into electricity by using piezoelectric technology. Even though it won’t generate staggering quantities of energy, their device has an extraordinary range of potential applications, including tapping ultrasonic waves produced at aquariums.