Why Solar: Canada, especially Alberta, needs to keep an eye on the competition

The United Arab Emirates is a federal absolute monarchy on the Arabian Peninsula that borders Oman to the East, Saudi Arabia on the South, Qatar to the West, and Iran on the North. Oil has flowed from the country since 1962, and its rise from the nomadic tribesman of history, to the modern technologically advanced state it has become, is significant. It holds the world’s seventh largest oil reserves and is the seventeenth largest natural gas producer.

With its sun drenched location, the UAE has resolved to be the world leader in renewable energy production. It has one of the most adoptive strategies of any nation on this planet. Funded by oil, this kingdom, is taking the initiative to find innovative methods of producing energy, eco-friendly fuels, and advanced transportation concepts.

2013 witnessed the commissioning of the world’s largest concentrated solar power facility, CSP, to that time. One square mile (2.5 km2) in area, the Shams 1 facility produces 100 Mw of electric power. In Sept 2017 they announced the construction of the fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park; this will bring this installations electrical capacity to 700 megawatts, and regain the title of “worlds largest.”

In biofuels, the Emirates Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC) is investigating the use of saltwater tolerant plants known as halophytes as a source of sustainable fuel that will emit 50 to 80% less carbon that current fossil fuels. The empty sands of the desert and the saltwater of the Persian Gulf are being employed to produce this source of green fuel, and fish. The stratagem being developed would see fish ponds supplied by pumped ocean water, which in turn irrigates halophyte fields, to then drain into mangrove wetlands.

Home to the world’s tallest man-made structure, the Burj Khalifa, the UAE also has the world’s largest mall, and now they are building the world’s largest space simulation city. Known as Science City, this 176,516 m2 multi domed research and development facility is being engineered to produce its own food, energy, and water in preparation to solve some of the technological issues associated with life on our neighboring red planet, Mars.

Dubai is the first city in the world to start trials of automated drone taxi services using the all-electric Volocopter and the Ehang 184 passenger drone. Additionally they have adopted the REEM “Robocop” for public assistants as automated receptionists, in airports, hospitals and museums. Currently there are plans for their own Hyperloop, ultra-fast transportation system, which they are developing in collaboration with Russia, Finland and the American company Hyperloop One.

In less than a hundred years this destitute region of the world has evolved from a country of small tribal societies, into a technologically advanced civilization that is embracing the future. A future in which they will provide for themselves, with advanced forms of energy production and scientific innovations.

Canada and Alberta in particular, with its forward thinking business community, will do well to pay attention to the competition.

Lorne Oja can be reached at lorne@solartechnical.ca

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