Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

UAE greenhouse that grows its own power supply

Food security - a nation's ability to provide enough food for its population without being overly reliant on outside nations - is becoming an important issue for many countries around the world.

Food security - a nation's ability to provide enough food for its population without being overly reliant on outside nations - is becoming an important issue for many countries around the world.

It is a particular concern in the UAE, where the hot, dry climate and the shortage of water make growing any crops an expensive, difficult and resource-intensive endeavour.

A research project at the Masdar Institute hopes to help address that by developing a unique greenhouse that is self-sufficient for energy and irrigation water.

In cold climates, greenhouses are used to keep plants warm. But in hot climates, they can cause the plants to die. Air-conditioned greenhouses are extremely expensive to run and environmentally unfriendly.

This project aims to integrate the latest in solar energy, desalination, and engineering systems and management to design a greenhouse that does not take electricity or water from the UAE's utilities.

Instead, using transparent photovoltaic panels on the roof, the wholly self-sufficient stand-alone greenhouse would be able to use solar-generated electricity to produce irrigating water and to regulate the temperature, humidity and air velocity, while allowing in sunlight for photosynthesis. The recovered thermal and electrical energy would be used to desalinate seawater or brackish groundwater using membrane technology, as well as collecting water from the air through a humidification/dehumidification system.

The system we are designing can easily produce enough water to irrigate a greenhouse.

Excess water can be stored on site for days when the sky is cloudy (and so less water is produced) or the temperature is hotter than usual (and so more irrigation water is used).

Through this system the greenhouse can sustainably cool, shelter and hydrate plants. It can be set up anywhere reasonably close to ground or seawater, without requiring any other infrastructure.

Such greenhouses are ideal for high-quality plants that require precisely controlled conditions.

This could be organic foods for the UAE's domestic market, or pharmaceutical plants for export.

The greenhouse can also be modified for livestock, providing cattle or poultry with a comfortable climate while not draining natural resources.

It could even be used as self-sufficient housing for people, providing air conditioning and water from renewable resources.

Discussions are currently on with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority for the construction and testing of a prototype of this sustainable greenhouse. It is hoped that with the completion of this research project in two years' time, we will be able to show a new source of food, security, wealth and development for the UAE.

 

Prof Dr Hassan El-Banna Fath is a professor of water and environmental engineering practice at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Ali Benflis, opposition leader and main rival to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika speaks to the press after casting his vote in the presidential elections at a polling station in Algiers on. Former prime minister Benflis ran against Bouteflika in 2004 but lost heavily, charging the vote was rigged 10 years ago and has said fraud will be his ‘main adversary’ during the election. Patrick Baz / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world, April 17

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr is pictured before the Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England, on March 1, 2014. Glyn Kirk / AFP

New Southampton owner leading club’s resurgence from the shadows

Katharina Liebherr keeping with family tradition and letting others dominate the spotlight

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National