x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 September 2017

Solar-power proposal for Dubai's public toilets

The municipality said the project is an effort to save money and increase environmental awareness across the emirate.

DUBAI // The municipality is aiming to make its public toilets solar-powered.

The idea is to save money and increase environmental awareness, said Juma Khalifa Al Fuqae, who as director of the general maintenance department is in charge of the project.

About 80 public toilets across Dubai run on electricity, including the fluorescent lights, exhaust fans and small water pumps. This power source will be replaced by solar power in the experimental toilets, Mr Al Fuqae said.

He said solar panels installed on the roofs of the test toilets "will match the architecture of the neighbourhood and will save electricity."

If the project is approved, Mr Al Fuqae estimated the amount spent on each toilet would be Dh60,000 to Dh80,000.

Solar-powered toilets could be a model for similar projects, said Vahid Fotuhi, the chairman of the Emirates Solar Industry Association.

"It's a great initiative and a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this will give roots to other applications that are driven by solar," Mr Fotuhi said.

He said the municipality should be "commended for thinking outside of the box and for looking at the sustainable solution to meeting daily requirements in office buildings".

The first step will be to build a solar toilet near the Clock Tower roundabout in Deira as a pilot project, Mr Al Fuqae said.

"Within a maximum of one and a half months this toilet will be completed," he said. "After immediate completion we will see … the reading of the electrical consumption."

If the pilot programme is successful, older toilets will be upgraded.

"We are just experimenting with one and hopefully this will be spread over the emirate," Mr Al Fuqae said. "We are only authorised to work in the emirate of Dubai … but we can share this idea with the other emirate municipalities."

The maintenance department is in the process of choosing a contractor, he said.

The toilets will be free for public use.

"It is our role to provide those for the people," Mr Al Fuqae said.

The initiative comes after plans by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority to investigate paying homes and businesses with solar panels to contribute to the power grid.

The solar-powered toilets are part of a bigger plan, Mr Al Fuqae said. Other possible initiatives include solar-powered swimming pools and solar panels for abattoirs.

"In the abattoir we use hot water for slaughtering the cattle," he said. "We have ideas for conducting this using the solar system.

"In Al Mamzar park swimming pool we are paying about Dh500,000 annually for the consumption of the electricity.

"We have come up with this idea of going into a solar system. The solar system is also panels. Those panels will be installed… and will heat those swimming pools.

"Our initial investment hopefully will be returned within two years."

zalhassani@thenational.ae