x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Solar energy may be used in UAE to keep food safe as it is transported

Cool containers, chillers, freezers and lorries could soon be powered by the sun to ensure food products carried into and across the country remain fresh.

DUBAI // Solar energy could soon be used to keep food safe while it is transported around the UAE.

Cool containers, chillers, freezers and lorries could soon be powered by the sun to ensure food products carried into and across the country remain fresh.

"It's still a theory but we are very serious about using it because it's a green energy," said Prathapachandra Shetty, the director of Emirates Star Fisheries in Dubai. "There's a lot of research going on and the UAE needs to invest in this."

The company owns a number of shrimp farms in remote areas of coastal Arabia, including Yemen and Oman. The farms need energy to pump and aerate water in fish tanks.

"So whatever power we require, we allocate diesel generators and sometimes we get municipal supplies," said Mr Shetty, speaking on the opening day of the Cold Chain conference in Dubai yesterday.

"But we are definitely thinking of partly moving to solar energy within one year."

Solar energy can serve many other purposes in the cold chain, which is the process of keeping food chilled from production to supermarket.

"Transportation in the cold chain uses a lot of energy because some products need to be maintained at 0°C," said Mr Shetty.

"Most products need to be kept at 5°C and you have to maintain frozen food at minus 20°C or minus 30°C.

"When it's 50°C outside the kind of energy used is huge, so it's really necessary to use renewable energy like solar, wind or hybrid."

Such energy also means no carbon-dioxide emissions. Carbon emissions in the Middle East and North Africa have doubled in the past 30 years.

And emissions from the transport sector in the Arabian Gulf are some of the highest per capita in the world, the International Energy Agency says.

Abu Dhabi was the first government in the region to establish a renewable energy target for 2020.

One of the world's largest solar power stations, Shams 1 at Madinat Zayed in the Western Region, will be operational by the end of the year.

Last year, the Farmers' Services Centre launched a green-technology programme using solar energy for electricity.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority this year also encouraged farmers to switch to wind and solar to save money and resources.

"Oil and gas are depleting," said Shashi Shekhar, founder and group president at the Supply Chain and Logistics Group in Dubai, which commissions logistical technology to companies worldwide.

"Oil is not getting replenished at the rate at which it is being pulled out, so why not move in the direction of solar energy?"

And with the abundance of sun in the region, experts believe the sector of renewable energy will boom.

"GCC countries have an opportunity to build big solar plants and supply [solar energy] to the world," said Mr Shekhar.

"Globally, less than 10 per cent of energy is powered by solar and I'm convinced that it will reach at least 30 per cent of the total energy supply by 2030."

cmalek@thenational.ae