x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Energy savings to go through the roof

A new court building that will be constructed in Abu Dhabi will include solar panels that will generate electricity from the sun.

A worker waterproofs the roof of a new Abu Dhabi Judicial Department building last week, in preparation for the installation of 375 solar panels. Silvia Razgova / The National
A worker waterproofs the roof of a new Abu Dhabi Judicial Department building last week, in preparation for the installation of 375 solar panels. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // A new building for the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department will use the sun's power to save energy.

The project involves placing a 105-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system, which turns sunlight into electricity, on the building's roof.

"Our thinking is now different than before," said the engineer Ahmed Al Hashemi, the head of the projects section at the Judiciary Department. "We are considering sustainability requirements even when they are not a must."

With 375 solar panels, each two square metres, the installation is expected to cut down significantly on the energy consumption of the new building.

The building, being constructed next to the department's new complex off Khaleej Al Arabi Street, will accommodate officials responsible for executing court orders.

Energy savings in the 4,000 sq metre building are expected to reach between 15 and 20 per cent, said the engineer Ezzat Hassan, the director of construction at the judiciary.

The plan, Mr Hassan said, is in line with government efforts to reduce Abu Dhabi's carbon footprint - one of the highest in the world when measured per capita.

The project is expected to prevent 92,144 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions from being released into the environment.

"We made the decision in 2010 as part of our efforts to be environmentally friendly," Mr Hassan said. "The initial cost was high but if we consider the long term, we will have savings in our electricity bills and savings for the environment."

Supplied by a local company, Sustainable Solutions, the PV system represents about 5 per cent of the cost of the entire building. The total cost of the project was not disclosed.

The new building will also feature insulation that limits the transfer of heat, thus reducing the demand for cooling.

Within its existing complex, the Judicial Department is also using light-emitting diode (Led) lights, which save energy and last longer than conventional incandescents.

The solar-roof system was conceived when there were no "green" design requirements for buildings in Abu Dhabi.

Since September last year, developers have been required to conserve energy and water in new buildings under the Estidama green building programme, unveiled by the Urban Planning Council.

But generating clean power from the sun requires significant investment and can be a tough sell in a country where conventional power is heavily subsidised, said Gipin Mani, the chief executive of Sustainable Solutions.

"We are very grateful to be given this opportunity to show what we can do," said Mr Mani, whose company represents XL Energy, an Indian maker of solar PV panels.

Although the prices of solar panels have been falling in the past few years, solar installations will require government support to really take off in the UAE, he said.

"We are competing with gas-based energy, which is subsidised," Mr Mani said.

The new building is expected to be completed next March.

vtodorova@thenational.ae