Concentrated solar thermal power for cooling systems in Jordan

With air conditioning accounting for 8 per cent of the growth in energy demand in Jordan, experts in sustainable development on Wednesday underlined the need to shift to solar cooling systems.

While the country is witnessing a rapid increase in demand for air conditioners, current technologies in the Kingdom and the Middle East are low efficient, use ozone-damaging substances and have high leakage rates of up to 35 per cent per annum, experts said.

They made the remarks during the inaugural workshop for a pilot project that seeks to deploy solar energy for cooling purposes in industrial and commercial buildings

Last week, the Ministry of Environment announced that construction of the project, the first of its kind in Jordan and the region to use concentrated solar-thermal power for cooling systems, is scheduled to begin next month.

The pilot project will be funded by Germany’s federal environment ministry at a cost of 3.295 million euros.

During Wednesday’s event, Minister of Environment Yaseen Khayyat said the pilot project seeks to create sustainable systems that operate on solar power, highlighting that it will be implemented in cooperation with experienced German institutions.

"If the pilot project proves to be economically, environmentally and technically feasible, it will constitute the foundation for spreading this technology across Jordan," Khayyat added.

The minister noted that around 1,600 central cooling systems in public and private sector institutions stand to benefit from the outcomes of the pilot project.

During the workshop, experts underscored that using solar power for cooling purposes can protect the environment, cut down energy consumption and promote the use of renewable energy resources.

Solar air conditioning can slash air conditioning costs by up to 60 per cent, according to officials, who said the pilot project seeks to reduce the amount of energy used for cooling purposes.

The project is expected to be operational in 2015.

The Kingdom, which has 330 days of sunshine per year, has one of the highest annual daily averages of solar irradiance in the world, according to environmentalists, who have repeatedly called for using Jordan’s abundant solar power for energy generation.

Renewable energy currently contributes less than 1 per cent of Jordan’s energy mix, according to experts, who indicate that the Kingdom has significant amounts of untapped wind power and solar energy, with wind speeds as high as 7.5 metres per second, up to 11.5 metres per second in hilly areas, and direct solar radiation equalling 5.5 kilowatt hours per square metre per day.

Jordan imports 98 per cent of its energy needs, at a cost of 25 per cent of its gross domestic product annually, according to officials. The national energy bill is expected to reach a record high of over JD4 billion this year.