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Middle East  
 
 

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT: WILL OUR BUILDINGS BECOME THE POWER AND PETROL STATIONS OF THE FUTURE?

With the recent introduction of SMART grid initiatives from DEWA and the trends in the industry pushing towards sustainable living, the way we generate and use energy is going to shape our buildings of the future. Tom Sweeney, Head of Mechanical Engineering says the buildings of the future will become the power stations.

 

With fossil fuel energy subsidies in the UAE being phased out and the introduction of DEWA’s 3 SMART grid initiatives our holistic dependency on traditional fossil fuel energy sources will soon be replaced by a sustainable, renewable energy source which is in abundance in the Middle East….the sun.   

Governments are exploring all possible ways to generate energy and become more future ready and less fossil fuel dependant. This move makes a lot of sense for the future.

So what is important to understand for us – the people who are designing the buildings and also the people who are living in these buildings?

Although still relatively expensive, advances in solar energy technology should result in costs dropping by over 50% by 2020, which coupled with increasing fossil fuels costs will drive payback periods down to advantageous levels.

As consulting engineers, it is our role to look into the design of the buildings and make sure that we enhance it year-on-year. It means incorporating industry trends and market conditions into the most optimal designs.

Historically the issue has always been that buildings with PV produce excess energy in the middle of the day and when DEWA’s initiatives become widely adopted they may be unwilling to pay the retail rate for the energy supplied back to the grid or even worse the ill–timed contribution from such buildings could be turned away, and any self-generated excess would have no value. 

If DEWA’s initiatives and PV technology advances are changing the energy industry then energy storage technology will change the way we use it as we must find a way of harnessing this surplus energy and utilising it in a cost effective manner.

One of the great example of moving towards sustainable use of energy in the buildings is the domestic energy storage system developed by company such as Tesla, famous for their electric cars. These cost effective systems, Tesla’s is called Powerwall, will store the excess energy generated for use at peak demand times in a unit no bigger than a kitchen cupboard.

Therefore in the not so distant future, imagine solar panels not only providing domestic power but also charging a storage device during the day which could be used to recharge your electric car at night. Your building could become not only your power station but also your personal petrol station.

As responsible engineers our designs today must be cognisant of the future; although only clients willing to make additional investment will pioneer these changes we must first endeavour to increase the efficiency of our buildings, reducing the our energy consumption be it from fossil or renewable energy sources.

From there, early adopters of PV, energy storage systems and new technologies such as electric cars will help pave the way to a future where our buildings we are no longer solely dependent on fossil fuels and expensive public infrastructure, our buildings will be the power stations of the future.

Are you ready?

WSP l Parsons Brinkerhoff was involved in the recently opened Me’aisem City Centre Mall, Dubai, where a first of its kind grid connected PV installation was successfully implemented and is now operational. The photovoltaic panels on this project are not only generating electricity but they also provide shading to the car parking areas in place of traditional shading systems.