Creating a sustainable infrastructure

ABB plays a key role in developing Dubai’s vision of a smart city

Once a rustic pearl-fishing trading post on the south end of the Arabian Gulf, the Dubai of today is known for its ultramodern buildings, luxury shopping malls, a string of man-made islands and the world’s tallest building, the iconic Burj Khalifa.

Over the past century, Dubai has experienced a dramatic transformation. In 1900 an estimated 10,000 people lived in the city situated on the desert edge. Now regarded as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Dubai has a population of over 2.1 million people and receives between 8 to 10 million visitors per year. The incredible speed of this development and the ambition of Dubai’s vision have amazed the world.

Such rapid growth, however, has also brought sustainability concerns. The arid desert setting brings a heavy dependence on desalinated water and air-conditioning to deal with temperatures reaching well over 40 degrees Celsius in summer. The endless urbanization increased its dependence on power. Dubai became one of the highly polluted cities in the world in 2010 reaching a critical level of air pollution, as high as the capital cities of India and China. Recognizing these challenges, sustainable architecture and engineering are part of Dubai’s initiative to become cleaner and greener.

The government of Dubai has adopted a holistic vision for the energy sector, covering issues such as energy security, energy efficiency, sustainability and its rational use. For more than two decades ABB has been helping Dubai develop a sustainable infrastructure especially in the delivery of solar power.

Dubai has set the goal for itself to become one of the most sustainable cities by 2020 with the vision of becoming the city with the smallest carbon footprint in the world by 2050. The local government is implementing green building rules in its new projects, and taking the necessary steps to change the old systems to energy saving systems.

Powering Dubai with clean energy

Supporting Dubai’s vision of building a world-class smart city, the Sustainable City development in the area is becoming the first fully integrated sustainable community fully powered by solar energy. To help achieve this milestone, the city will rely on 400 ABB string inverters to harness the power of the sun for the development’s residents. These essential components convert the direct current produced in solar panels into alternating current for use in electrical grids.

Conceived and built by Dubai-based Diamond Developers, the Sustainable City is the new home to some 2,000 people in an area of nearly 500,000 square meters. When at full capacity, it will eventually generate 10 megawatt-peak (MWp) of power from solar panels on private and public buildings within the city. As well as solar powered homes, the Sustainable City features solar powered chargers for electric cars; a hotel powered 100 percent by solar energy and the Diamond Innovation Centre, the first educational institute to use net zero energy over its lifetime.

Working closely with the developers to design the solar power system for the villas, ABB supplied a string inverter demonstration unit at the start of the project to prove it could cope with the high outdoor temperatures experienced in Dubai. Models supplied under the contract were the PVI 5000, PVI 12.5, TRIO 7.5 and TRIO 8.5. ABB also supplied solar inverters for the dual car parking for each of the 500 villas within the city. The 1.4 megawatt (MW) of energy derived from the solar parking lots will be enough to power street lighting, the urban farm and also charge the electric vehicles to be used within the city limits.

Rooftops with solar panels in Dubai
Rooftops with solar panels in Dubai

Another successful initiative for sustainability in Dubai is the ongoing expansion of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to a capacity of 5,000 MW, that draws a significant amount of power from  an ABB 400/132 kV grid substation. This project is a key element of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 vision to generate seven percent of Dubai’s power from clean energy sources by 2020; 25 percent by 2030, and 75 percent by 2050.

The 400/132 kilovolt (kV) gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) substation has been built for Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), the UAE’s leading power utility, to connect the second phase of the MBR Solar Park and integrate 200 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the transmission grid. The utility-scale solar photovoltaic plant, which covers 4.5 square kilometers, will produce enough electricity to serve more than 130,000 people. Its addition to the UAE network displaces the need for power from fossil fuels that would have produced about 250,000 tons of carbon emissions annually.

Largest solar project in the world

Further expansions are planned and the Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park, when completed by 2030, will be spread across a 70 square kilometer area, making it the largest single-site solar project in the world with a capacity of 5,000 MW - enough to serve 800,000 homes and help mitigate the impact of around 6.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. This development supports the UAE’s goal to be a global center of clean energy and a green economy by 2050.

On a smaller scale, ABB recently inaugurated a 315 kilowatt (kW) solar rooftop power plant, one of the largest of its kind in the region. The facility is located at the ABB offices in the Al Quoz industrial area and will produce electricity using solar energy. The energy produced at the plant will supply ABB offices with electricity and transfer surplus energy into DEWA’s network. This supports the Shams Dubai initiative, which was launched by DEWA and allows customers to install photovoltaic panels on their rooftops to generate electricity from solar power, and connect the systems to DEWA’s grid.

Sustainable development comes from action, not just words. With ABB’s support, Dubai is acting on it pledge of a sustainable future.

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