x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Qatar is fighting fit to host the World Cup despite the heat

The country plans to use the blistering sun to its advantage by transforming its rays into solar energy through thermal collectors which it will then use to power the cooling in the stadiums, fan zones and players facilities.

Qatar was considered a long shot in the bid for World Cup in 2022. When it won the rights to host the prestigious event, it made headlines around the world.

Not all of the coverage has been positive. Newspapers and blogs have criticised the judgement of Fifa in entrusting such a huge global event to such a small country. They point to the fact that the country's population is the size of Las Vegas, with very little football infrastructure or indeed football heritage, having never qualified for the World Cup and currently ranked 113th in the world.

The most common criticism is centred on the fact that Qatar is not naturally suited to host an outdoor summer event. As those who are familiar with the Gulf will attest, July is one of the unbearable months of the year, with day time temperatures soaring to 50°C and humidity in the evening climbing to 80 per cent. And with global patterns continuing as they are, these extremes could be even more acute in 12 years time.

Environmentalists argue that hosting such a massive tournament in sweltering heat, spread across 12 stadiums, would involve a lot of air conditioning capacity. This in turn would inject tonnes of CO2 emissions into an already fragile eco-system. When it initially submitted its bid, Fifa expressed concerns over the country's climate, which it said should be considered "a potential health risk for players, officials, the Fifa family and spectators".

Luckily, Qatar is prepared, as usual.

The emirate plans to use the blistering sun to its advantage by transforming its rays into solar energy which it will then use to power the cooling technology in the stadiums.

Solar thermal collectors on the outside of the stadiums and photovoltaic panels on their roofs will harness energy from the sun and use it to chill water, which in turn will cool air before it is blown through the stadium, keeping pitch temperatures below 27°C.

Although this technology is not new, it will be the first time it will be combined to keep a stadium cool. The same system would be used to cool the competing teams' training facilities and the Fan Zones. As well as using solar power to cool the stadiums, designs include retractable roofs to keep out the blazing sun.

The World Cup stadiums will also be energy neutral. The energy produced by the solar systems during the days when there are no matches will be exported to the Qatari national grid. When games are being played, the grid will be tapped to fire energy back into the stadiums to cool the players and fans in time for kickoff.

Qatar hopes to be a prototype for other hot nations looking to host a World Cup, or other large outdoor event, and will make its cooling technology available to those looking to follow suit.

This is based on today's innovations. I am confident that the years ahead will introduce transformational change in the way people look at energy.

Already in Europe and Asia we are starting to see the application of electric cars. These cars are able to drive over 200 kilometres with just one charge. Much like we charge our cell phones today we will be able to power up our cars. And just as we see solar chargers appearing on the market today for cell phones, we will soon see electric cars being charged in part by solar systems installed on people's home.

If we were to take this one step further, the charged cars can be used as mobile power generators. If you have 50,000 of such cars, let's say at a football stadium, you would be able to power a lot of things, like the lighting used in a football stadium. These innovations are already being developed and will be commercially viable within the next 10 years.

By 2022, innovators might have even found a way to harness the energy released by cheering fans and use it to power the building.

In adopting these sustainable technologies, Qatar will demonstrate that they can work and set an example for regions with similar climate conditions across the world, from Abu Dhabi to Arizona.

This might seem like a long shot. But then again, Qatar is becoming a specialist in long shots.


Vahid Fotuhi is a founding member of the Emirates Solar Industry Association