Masdar to present solar energy atlas at Rio +20

A solar power atlas for the world’s hot and sunny regions will be presented by Masdar at the Rio + 20, the United Nations conference on sustainable development starting in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday.

During the ongoing preparatory meetings taking place just before the conference, Dr Taha Ouarda, Deputy Director of the UAE Research Centre for Renewable Energy Mapping and Assessment at Masdar Institute, talked about one of the centre’s latest projects, the Global Atlas for Solar and Wind Energy.

“Innovation in the field of renewable energy lies in developing state-of-the-art techniques that are adapted to the local climate and environment. Of-the-shelf tools are not necessarily adapted to produce adequate results in the UAE and the GCC countries,” he said. “Such developed tools can then be used and adapted in other countries with similar conditions, like the Gulf region as well as the Sahel region in Africa. The centre in Abu Dhabi will share its knowledge and empower others to draw from its ideas and actions for a sustainable future.”

The Global Atlas for Solar Power and Wind Energy, an initiative of the Department for Energy and Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on behalf of Irena, is supported by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD), the Dubai Supreme Council for Energy and Masdar Institute’s Research Centre for Renewable Energy Mapping and Assessment.

Previously, Dr Hosni Ghedira, Director of the centre explained that a hot and sunny country like the UAE doesn’t necessarily have much solar energy capturing possibilities.

“Initial assessments for solar energy projects were made using data and models borrowed from Europe and North America. But that failed to take into account the Gulf’s unique climate,” mentioned Dr Ghedira.

“While in theory, the UAE receives the same if not far more solar energy than Europe or North America, in reality the dusty atmosphere cuts out as much as 90 per cent of the sun’s energy during a heavy dust storm. Even on cloud-free days, there is often far less solar energy than might be expected for such a hot and sunny country.”

To ensure future projects are more realistic, Masdar’s Research Centre began collecting local data, eventually compiled in the Global Atlas for Solar and Wind Energy.

The atlas will allow Masdar to create models based on the specific conditions in the UAE and other regions with similar climates, like Africa’s Sahel.

Dr Ghedira also hopes the Atlas will help attract inward investment into the renewable energy sector and underpin policy decisions on legal and financing frameworks.

The project will combine existing databases into one open website from which solar energy maps can be accessed.