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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Abu Dhabi brothers produce home-grown solar water heaters

Falcon For Solar Sun is a local start-up about to begin production of solar water heaters from its custom-built premises in the Mafraq Industrial Area

Waleed Al Shamsi, co-founder of Falcon For Solar Sun - a local-start up that produces solar water heaters from its premises in Mafraq Industrial Area. Antonie Robertson / The National
Waleed Al Shamsi, co-founder of Falcon For Solar Sun - a local-start up that produces solar water heaters from its premises in Mafraq Industrial Area. Antonie Robertson / The National

When it comes to environmentally friendly products, the UAE is better known as a consumer rather than producer. However, a young Abu Dhabi company is hoping to change this.

Falcon For Solar Sun is a local start-up about to begin production of solar water heaters from its custom-built premises in the Mafraq Industrial Area. The company was set up by two brothers, Mohammed and Waleed Al Shamsi, with the support of the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development.

Solar water heaters rely on the power of the sun, rather than conventional electricity, to warm up water. The technology has been around for decades and makes both environmental and commercial sense for the UAE. Authorities in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have mandated the use of solar water heaters in new developments.

The Al Shamsi brothers hope that their product could satisfy a good chunk of this demand with a high-quality, local product.

“This is a German technology, made fully in the UAE with high quality and full warranty,” said Waleed Al Shamsi.

The German link is Sven Steinbach, a German engineer, who is the designer of the solar hot water system.

“This country really wants to go green and we are part of this,” said Mr Steinbach, who is also the company’s general manager.

Mr Steinbach met Waleed Al Shamsi in 2015. The same year, the Al Shamsi brothers approached the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development for assistance. The project was approved and Falcon For Solar Sun received a loan of almost Dh2 million. Besides the loan, extended at very favourable terms, the company also received consultancy advice from the fund.

“The budget was very high, without the Government support we could not have done it,” said Mr Al Shamsi.

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As the project promoted sustainability and energy conservation, the decision to support Falcon For Solar Sun “came easy”, said a fund representative.

“We are optimistic about the company’s future and the potential of its solar water heater product, given the existing robust market demand, fuelled in part by the government’s sustainability and green policies,” said the representative.

In Abu Dhabi, the Estidama building programme has requirements for solar hot water systems, while in Dubai, such systems are mentioned in the emirate’s Green Building Code, the representative said.

“These building codes are mandating property developers to set a provision in their newly-built villas and accommodations that will allow the inclusion of solar water heaters,” the representative said. “They also promote the use of solar power and other renewable resources in structures.”

“Studies have shown that around 750,000 solar water heaters will be required in the UAE alone in the next five years to help meet its sustainable development targets.”

Already, there are many solar water heating systems available on the market. Mr Al Shamsi believes that what makes his company’s product special is the high quality. The heater has very high solar fraction, (the amount of solar energy versus conventional energy used to heat water) – 75 per cent. In addition, it is the only product on the UAE market, manufactured with stainless steel. This decision was made to ensure the product withstands the UAE’s harsh weather conditions and the fact that the country relies on desalinated water, which has a high amount of dissolved minerals.

The product will retail for about Dh4,500 and is more expensive than some on the market. However, the company offers a 10-year warranty, as opposed to only two, which is the norm for lower-quality heaters. Finally, as this is a local product the company offers the opportunity to provide maintenance, which could be a draw for developers who need to install hundreds of the devices.

The company’s next step is to convince consultants and large-scale developers to consider the product, said Mr Al Shamsi.