The German electronics and engineering company Siemens and officials from Abu Dhabi's zero-carbon Masdar City are putting the finishing touches on an agreement to develop and test new smart grid technologies.
Siemens is planning to provide the medium-voltage network and distribution management system for the electric grid of phase one of Masdar City.
The company will also supply smart building management systems for a number of buildings in the development. Phase one will feature 1 million square metres of built-up space and is projected for completion by 2016.
"The contract is not finalised yet but we have had a number of technical workshops on what should be done," said Dr Afshin Afshari, manager at Masdar's energy management department. "This partnership is not just about us procuring equipment from them, it is also about doing common research."
Dr Afshari was speaking on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit, a clean-energy conference organised by Masdar. The four-day event concludes today.
Although the companies have not revealed how much the new technology will cost, at an expert panel yesterday, Alan Frost, the director of Masdar City, said a smart grid usually adds as much as 10 per cent to the cost of a development.
While a traditional grid allows for power to flow only in one direction - from the supplier to consumers - a smart grid enables what Dr Afshari called the "two-dimensional flow". This is essential to accommodate renewable energy, which is often generated at a small scale in a number of decentralised locations. In Masdar City, for example, buildings are not only users of power, but also generators of energy.
A smart grid, said Dr Afshari, also features "an advanced bi-directional information system", which enables the grid to be monitored and controlled in real time. This helps improve the power quality, increases the grid's reliability and efficiency and, through features such as smart metering, allows for variable tariffs to be levied to consumers.
Some of the work on the project, such as the design of the medium-voltage network, is already under way, said Tom Ruyten, the sales director at Siemens.
"We are going to develop new applications with Masdar City and the institute," he said.
Once they are tested and proved to be working, they can be marketed globally. Siemens will be collaborating with both the Masdar City development team and researchers at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.
Masdar will be unlike most other smart-grid pilot projects, which have to consider existing infrastructure.
"Masdar is the first instance of a smart-grid project where we are putting everything new and with the idea of integrating it," said Dr Afshari. And while other pilot projects look at either the supply or demand side, the Masdar project will be all-encompassing, with one key area of research being consumer behaviour, said Dr Afshari.
While smart-grid technology comes at a cost, it is a key tool in helping Masdar achieve its carbon-neutral vision.
"Our ultimate objective is to achieve energy-efficiency and reduce our energy demand as much as technology and commercial feasibility permit," he said.