x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai looks to solar powered buildings

New regulation requires Some buildings to use solar thermal power to heat water or even produce energy.

DUBAI // Some buildings in Dubai could in future be required to use solar thermal power to heat water or even produce energy under a green building legislation that is being drafted, a government official said yesterday. However, the transition is expected to be slow as the new green building regulations will be applied gradually with easier and cheaper quick-gain solutions coming into effect first. The statement was made at the Middle East Green Building 2008 conference organised by MEED, a regional business intelligence company.

The green building rules, now 80 per cent ready, are being prepared by Dubai Municipality and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) in an attempt to tackle the emirate's carbon footprint which, along with the rest of the country, is among the highest in the world. The document is scheduled for completion in the beginning of next year when it will be reviewed by the Executive Council. While the regulations and the plan for their implementation is still under discussion and subject to many changes, it emerged that solar thermal power will be one tool in the effort to make Dubai's buildings more sustainable.

"It is under investigation to make it [solar thermal] a regulation," said Kamal Mohammed Azayem, a mechanical engineer in Dubai Municipality's building permit section. "In some buildings it will even be mandatory." Solar thermal applications use the sun's heat to produce hot water or steam that is used to produce electricity. The sun's power can also be utilised via photovoltaic (PV) panels that transform light into energy. But unlike solar thermal, the future in Dubai does not look so bright for PV applications.

"Photovoltaics is still very costly to apply," said Mr Afaneh. "We carried out an economic study looking at the feasibility of these regulations," he said, explaining that the team had to look into matters such as the availability of materials and services and other issues "in order not to stop Dubai's building boom and development". However, experts yesterday argued that it is DEWA regulations which are making PV difficult and expensive to adopt.

"If you produce power by PV it has to be stand-alone and not synchronised with the grid," said George Berbari, the chief executive of DC Pro Engineering, an electromechanical engineering firm. This, said Mr Berbari, means that the electrical appliances being fed electricity from PV panels cannot be fed by the electrical grid at times when there is no sunlight - a major drawback that makes installing solar panels unattractive to investors.