As the UAE marks Innovation Month in February, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company Masdar is accelerating the commercialisation of clean technologies at home and abroad.
SUPPORTING THE NATIONAL INNOVATION STRATEGY
Established in 2006 to help maintain Abu Dhabi’s leadership in the global energy sector, while supporting the diversification of both its economy and energy sources for the benefit of future generations, Masdar has more than a decade of innovation to its name.
This has inspired others to embrace clean technology, a fact highlighted at the recent World Government Summit in Dubai by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, who described Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s flagship sustainable urban community, as “an example of innovative technologies brought to life”.
Masdar’s commitment to advance clean technology complements the National Innovation Strategy (NIS) launched in 2014 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The strategy prioritises the seven sectors of water, technology, renewable energy, health, space, education and transport, with the aim of making the UAE one of the world’s most innovative nations by 2021.
“Innovation is at the heart of our mission to bridge the gap between our present-day economy dependent on fossil fuels and the future energy economy,” said Bader Al Lamki, Executive Director of Clean Energy at Masdar. “We take techniques proven in the laboratory into the field to help attract investment, and we deploy advanced technologies at scale to help further optimize their cost and operational efficiency.”
AT THE FOREFRONT OF SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY
In keeping with the aims of the National Innovation Strategy, Masdar is positioning itself at the forefront of sustainable mobility.
According to a white paper published by Masdar in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) 2018, global sales of electric vehicles could overtake those of combustion engine cars by 2040.
“Electric and autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, data analytics, blockchain and ‘smart roads’ will transform urban transport over the next two decades,” said Yousef Baselaib, Executive Director of Sustainable Real Estate at Masdar. “Developments such as Masdar City are bringing about the public-private collaboration needed to help deploy such innovations.”
The arrival of the first 10-passenger autonomous vehicle at Masdar City this summer will be followed by a fleet of up to seven more in 2019, providing emissions-free transport to visitors, workers and residents around the six-square-kilometre site. Masdar City will also soon trial its own Eco-Bus prototype, an electric bus designed and built locally.
Just as exciting is the planned opening of a hydrogen fuelling station at Masdar City in the first half of next year, only the second such facility in the UAE and the first in a community location.
Capable of topping up multiple fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in minutes, the new station will manage fuel production on site, with hydrogen extracted from water using electricity.
NEXT GENERATION RENEWABLE ENERGY
Over the last decade, Masdar has built a portfolio of renewable energy world firsts. These include Shams 1 in Abu Dhabi, the largest concentrated solar power plant at the time of its inauguration in 2013; Gemasolar in southern Spain, the first utility-scale solar energy project to generate power 24 hours a day; and more recently, Hywind Scotland, the world’s first commercial-scale floating wind farm. The battery storage project Batwind is also being developed to store electricity produced by the offshore wind farm.
“Hywind Scotland uses the largest wind turbines ever designed to harness the strong winds more commonly found in deep water,” said Masdar’s Bader Al Lamki. “It’s capable of withstanding up to 160km/h winds and 8.2-metre-high-waves, and so far the project is performing well above target.”
Closer to home, a Masdar-led consortium is developing the 800 megawatt (MW) third phase of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai in partnership with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and Electricité de France (EDF).
The first 200MW section of the solar PV power plant is due to come on stream in April, complete with solar panels that track the sun and custom-made robots designed to clean them without water.
“Innovation is at the core of our commitment to deliver cost-efficient, reliable clean energy,” added Al Lamki.
Achieving genuine sustainable development requires innovation both in the supply of energy and in regulating energy demand. Water production in the Gulf States, a priority under the National Innovation Strategy, is extremely energy intensive, motivating Masdar and its partners to research more sustainable alternatives to seawater desalination technologies reliant on natural gas.
Near the port of Ghantoot, around 70 kilometres up the Abu Dhabi coast from Masdar City, five international companies have been testing various solutions as part of the Masdar Renewable Energy Desalination Programme.
These include solar-powered reverse osmosis, a technique where salt water is purified through membranes. A Masdar report published at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week on the results of the programmefound that the solutions are up to 75 per cent more energy efficient than the thermal desalination technologies currently used in the UAE, delivering annual energy savings of as much as US$550 million.
INCUBATING INNOVATIVE BUSINESSES
Masdar City is a hub for around a dozen demonstration projects aimed at the long-term commercialization of advanced clean technologies. Helping to convert bold ideas into viable businesses today, while encouraging them to set up shop at the city’s burgeoning free zone, is the Catalyst, the region’s first sustainability-focused “start-up accelerator”.
The joint venture with BP provides selected applicants with capital that can be converted into equity should their business bear fruit over the long term.
According to the Catalyst’s CEO Cinar Kurra, board approval has already been granted for two projects, while three others are expected to receive the green light soon. The startups under evaluation include a sustainable logistics firm and a UAE-based green farming venture.
“Our vision is to help build a robust start-up ecosystem focused on sustainability in Abu Dhabi that is aligned with the UAE’s overall innovation mandate,” said Kurra. “The track record of Masdar as a global renewable energy leader, the experience of BP, the access to clean-tech partnerships provided by the Masdar Institute, and the support of the free zone at Masdar City are distinct advantages of the Catalyst’s business model.”
The Catalyst is further evidence that the results of Masdar’s investment in innovation are being brought back to the UAE, stimulating the homegrown business community taking shape at Masdar City, now numbering well over 530 tenants. It is little wonder that Masdar’s innovation strategy has caught the attention of visiting policy makers and heads of state.
TEN WAYS MASDAR IS INNOVATING FOR THE UAE
Masdar has built a portfolio of world-first renewable energy projects over the last decade, including most recently the world’s first commercial-scale floating wind farm, Hywind Scotland; floating wind technology has the potential to be deployed in many deep-sea locations around the world.
In April, the first 200MW section of the 800MW Shua’a Energy 2 solar power plant will go on stream, complete with panels that track the sun and panel-cleaning robots that don’t need water
With a world-class research institute at its core, Masdar City is a hub for innovation, home to around a dozen sustainability-related demonstration projects
Masdar is a partner in energy storage, working with Statoil of Norway to develop Batwind, a lithium-ion battery storing power produced by the floating wind farm Hywind Scotland
The Masdar Renewable Energy Desalination Programme is helping to commercialize more energy-efficient alternatives to seawater desalination reliant on natural gas
A report published at ADSW 2018 showed that solar-powered reverse osmosis is a commercially competitive alternative to seawater desalination dependent on technologies currently used in the UAE.
Masdar is positioning itself at the forefront of sustainable mobility, recently announcing the winner of a competition to deploy autonomous vehicles at Masdar City (Navya Group)
Masdar is supporting homegrown businesses, including the design team behind an Eco-Bus prototype due to begin trials at Masdar City
Masdar is helping innovative businesses establish themselves at Masdar City through the Catalyst, the region’s first sustainability-focused “startup accelerator”
Masdar is the principal funder behind The University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre; the centre is dedicated to promoting the commercial application of the nanomaterial graphene, which has numerous potential uses in the UAE and elsewhere.