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Harnessing the sun to cool the Cup

Innovatively exploiting solar power to control the climate of the stadia in Qatar will not only make the World Cup carbon-neutral, but also pay dividends beyond

| | Apr 20, 2011 | 5:20 pm
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Innovatively exploiting solar power to control the climate of the stadia in Qatar will not only make the World Cup carbon-neutral, but also pay dividends beyond the event and across the region, argues Martin à Porta.

The announcement of Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 Soccer World Cup has taken, if not all, at least most of the world by surprise and has thrilled Qatari nationals and residents. A controversial decision, which saw the public opinion divided, created a wonderful opportunity to boost Qatar’s economy, increase investment into renewable energy harnessing technology and put the Middle East on the sporting map.

Much of the talk has revolved around the extreme weather Qatar faces during the summer months. Consequently, a great deal of interest has been placed on where the games will be played and what measures will be taken to ensure that players and fans are kept comfortable during the sweltering summer heat.

Temperatures in Qatar in June, when the tournament will take place, can reach heights of 40°C and more – conditions that will have an impact, not only on the physical exertion of the players involved in games but also on the thousands of fans who will descend on the country to cheer for their teams.

It was proposed at one point that the tournament should be moved to the cooler winter months. But this was roundly dismissed by Qatar’s Sports Minister and dignitaries from the international soccer fraternity as being disruptive to major domestic leagues.

A point of contention has been the need to keep stadia and spectator-stands cool – a tall order when energy consumption is already at its seasonal peak. Qatar’s commitment to tackling this challenge will have global implications for advancing the products and solutions which utilise renewable energy resources and reduce carbon footprints, not only in the sporting world but also in a variety of other sectors.

New world-class stadia are expected to be built in Lusail, Al Khor, Al Shamal and Al Wakrah, while the existing infrastructure of the stadia in Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa will be upgraded to meet capacity and cooling requirements. The stadia could be cooled by solar energy, which can be used to power a defined area like a stadium’s cooling system, as well as all other auxiliary systems, with the resulting cool air pumped throughout the stadium, particularly on the pitch and spectator areas. Alternatively, solar heated/super heated water/steam, which transfers its energy to the cooling system in the stadium, can efficiently produce cool air.

Eventually, at a later stage, other buildings could be connected to this network, increasing the longevity of the solar plant beyond the time when the World Cup is over and the cooling demand of the stadia has fallen.

Utilising solar power to control the climate of all stadia will result in neutral carbon balance. The stadia could utilise photovoltaic solar panels, which generate electric power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun into electricity. During matches, power will be drawn from the electricity grid, which would be offset by the energy generated by the solar panels during the day. This translates into net gains, as less power being used than generated.

Alternatively, regionalised Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants can be installed to provide clean energy to the grid, used in turn for the power requirements of the stadium and surrounding infrastructure. In addition, these CSP plants can be used for water production, either as a clean energy source or for steam production in desalination plants.

Major sports events, such as soccer matches, usually require a huge power supply for a short, defined period, which can easily reach the range of hundreds of megawatts. With the help of intelligent grid and building systems, this consumption can be reduced by up to 20%. If the remaining energy requirement is supplied through renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, it would be possible to achieve carbon-neutral operation for the sports facilities. In combination with eco-friendly transportation and lighting systems, this is an important contribution towards achieving the international climate protection goals.

Combining intelligent building systems with a smart power grid supplied with renewable energy sources make large-scale events more environmentally friendly. It also enables the general growing demand for energy in the Middle East region to be met in an efficient and carbon-neutral way.

The solar energy available in the Middle East, which according to a report by the Electrical Engineering Department at King Saud University, equates to 3,000 to 3,500 hours of sunshine per year, with more than 5.0 kW/m2 of solar energy per day, which can be used effectively to generate power for large-scale events. Concentrated solar power plants can feed electricity to the general grid and produce steam for air conditioning and drinking water supply in nearby cities or event venues. This technology can be supplemented with photovoltaic systems installed on the roofs of parking shades and other buildings connected with the stadia.

Once installed, the technology for supplying power to sports venues can be used to develop further eco-friendly urban infrastructure – a huge advantage for any fast-growing city with a strong commitment to environmentally friendly energy solutions.

Today, more than 40% of the world’s energy consumption stems from buildings. Of the amount, 85% is used for cooling and heating systems, and 15% for lighting and other electrical applications. The technology to reduce emissions and increase efficiencies with the use of renewable energy sources is available.

Qatar, as well as the rest of the GCC, is committed to reducing the use of natural fossil fuels by using such renewable energy sources. Photovoltaic- and Concentrated Solar Power-based solutions can significantly support this commitment.

The next 10 years will be hugely significant in terms of the global energy debate, as we expect renewable energy sources to reach wholesale parity with traditional resources in this time period. With the amount of investment and development reported in Qatar, and indeed, across the whole of MENA over the next decade, the region will have a crucial part to play in enhancing and developing current and future ways in which we generate and consume energy.

The writer is CEO at Siemens WLL Qatar. He can be contacted at martin.aporta@siemens.com.


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