New effort begins today to promote the largest solar illumination scheme in the Middle East.
Solar power project fails to catch on
Powered solely by the sun, the 1,380 lights have been illuminating driveways and walkways at an upscale low-rise development in Motor City in Dubai called the Green Community.
The solar lighting project is the largest in the Middle East and North Africa.
Despite its success, it has yet to be replicated across the UAE.
The people behind the project hope to boost interest in it by addressing lighting experts and government officials today.
"We really want to convey that solar does not have to be expensive and, yes, it works in the UAE," said Khalid Ahmed, director at Green Solar International, the company that installed the lighting system on behalf of the developer, Union Properties.
Mr Ahmed is sharing his experiences at Green Middle East, which is running as part of the Light Middle East exhibition that opened yesterday at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The event ends tomorrow.
Green Solar International belongs to the Al Bayan Group, which has interests in real estate and security.
The decision to bring the technology to the UAE was that of Sheikh Ahmed, managing director, who first came across it on the sidelines of a security solutions exhibition in Holland in 2004.
"I thought that the UAE has so much sun, why not try it here?" Mr Ahmed said.
Four years later, the installation of the solar lights started at the Dubai development.
The project was given the go-ahead after Union Properties tested the solar lights for 11 months.
The main challenge was integrating the new technology into the design, Mr Ahmed said.
"The project was designed and ready to go with conventional lighting," he said.
The original plan used 100-watt lights, which require a lot of power and would need large solar panels.
But using more efficient light-emitting diodes, the team reduced each light's energy requirement to 15 watts. This made it possible to integrate the solar panels, which are about 0.25 square metres, roughly twice the size of the panels that power Dubai parking meters.
"If you see it at night, you will be shocked - it is all solar," Mr Ahmed said.
The project cost Dh8.9 million. Every year, the lights save electricity that, if generated, would have created 351 tonnes of carbon dioxide pollution. They did not have specific cost-saving projections.
"It might seem expensive but this is the initial cost," said Mr Ahmed, adding that maintenance and operation are cheaper than that of a conventional system. Because each light works on its own, the system does not require connections among the lights or to a substation.
Besides maintaining the electronic parts, the system requires the solar panels to be cleaned by hand every three months as they become coated with dust.
As the solar panel generates electricity, it charges a battery, which powers the light at night.
The lights turn on at about 6.30pm, depending on the sunset. The process is automatic.
"It is completely based on sunlight, using the controller," Mr Ahmed said. The controller also safeguards the battery. In the summer, batteries only need about five hours to charge.
The project is the biggest yet for the company. Because most developers cannot afford to invest in new technology, Mr Ahmed said the Government should step forward to encourage "green" solutions.
Street lighting is an obvious area that other countries are already exploring, he said.
"In China, I saw kilometres of solar street lighting," he added. "A single street light bulb requires about 550 watts of energy. Just imagine how much electricity is being used ... The savings are unimaginable."