Category Archives: Envionment

UAE consider to build man-made mountain to increase rain fall

After the extraordinary success of the cloud seeding operations that saw a significant increment of the quantity of rain fell over the United Arab Emirates, it seems that the government is seriously considering the opportunity to build a man made mountain in a bit to improve rainfall.

The United Arab Emirates invested a significant amount of 558,000 USD in the 2015 alone within the Rain Enhancement Program initiative activated by the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs (MOPA) and run by the National Center of Meteorology & Seismology (NCMS). As reported by a local newspaper, the  Program provides grants to up to five innovative research and technology proposal over a three year period that are trying to find new ways to enhance rainfall in the Country.

“What we are looking at is basically evaluating the effects on weather through the type of mountain, how high it should be and how the slopes should be. We will have a report of the first phase this summer as an initial step”

Said  National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist and lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes to ArabianBusiness.

He further clarified that the NCAR received funds to provide a detailed modelling study evaluating the effects of building a mountain on the weather.

For those not really specialized in climatology and how the rain process works, humid and warm air moving towards the mountains will be forced by them to raise. While raising the air temperature drops (almost 6.5 Celsius per km for humid air) causing the condensation of the humidity and the creation of rain drops.

In order to do so, the mountain shall intercept the predominant air currents forcing them to release their water content before passing through.

“Building a mountain is not a simple thing. We are still busy finalizing assimilation, so we are doing a spread of all kinds of heights, widths and locations as we simultaneously look at the local climatology. If the project is too expensive, logically the project won’t go through, but this gives them (the Government) an idea of what kind of alternatives there are for the long-term future” Bruintjes said.

“If it goes through, the second phase would be to go to an engineering company and decide whether it is possible or not.”

 We have no other option but to wait the preliminary results.

Dubai EXPO2020 theme pavilion design competition winners revealed

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Expo Higher Committee, in partnership with leading property developer Emaar Properties, have revealed the winners of one of the world’s most prestigious architectural competitions, to design the theme pavilions for Expo 2020.

The committee sought ideas for the three theme pavilions titled Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, which form a central part of EXPO 2020’s theme that is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.

The winning design for the Opportunity Pavilion was submitted by Bjarke Ingels Group, a group of architects, designers, builders and thinkers based in Copenhagen and New York. Their design philosophy reflects a belief that contemporary urban life is a result of the confluence of cultural exchange, global economic trends and communication technologies as it could be read on the Expo 2020 official website.

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Bjarke Ingels Group winning design for Opportunity Pavilion. Photo from Emirates24/7

Expo-2020-Opportunity-Theme-Winner-is-BIG

Bjarke Ingels Group winning design for Opportunity Pavilion. Photo from Emirates24/7

 

The press release issued by Expo 2020 official website and reported by the major local newspapers, continues saying that Foster + Partners, the internationally renowned practice, based in London, submitted the winning proposal for the Mobility Pavilion. Their design drew on nearly four decades of pioneering designs including Dubai’s The Index building, and the master plan for Masdar City.

Expo-2020-theme-pavilion mobility - foster + partners

Foster + Partners winning design for Dubai Expo2020 Mobility Pavillion. Photo from ArabianBusiness.com

The winning design for the Sustainability Pavilion, which will become a long term ‘cluster’ centre promoting innovative technologies, was submitted by Grimshaw Architects. The firm designed the Eden project in Cornwall, UK, and is a leader in the field of sustainable architecture.

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Grimshaw Architects winning design for Sustainability Pavillion at Dubai Expo2020. Photo from Emirates24/7

Expo-2020-theme-pavilion sustainability - Grimshaw

Grimshaw Architects winning design for Sustainability Pavillion at Dubai Expo2020. Photo from ArabianBusiness

“Expo 2020 will be a festival of human ingenuity. We hope that the nations and organisations that take part in Expo, and the millions who visit, will explore the power of connections across the spheres of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability”

“Our theme pavilions will play a central role in bringing this to life.”

said HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

Keep updated by visiting the official DUBAI EXPO2020 website.

UAE to be Solar Thermodynamic Energy’s World Leader by using sand to generate electricity

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) uses mirrors to reflect heat from the sun to one point, most typically the tow of a tower filler with a fluid (usually molten salt) capable of storing heat for prolonged periods then used to produce electricity.

Thermodynamic Solar Plant with Central Tower

Traditional Thermodynamic Solar Plant that concentrates sun light in the tow of the tower – photo from http://www.fotovoltaicosulweb.it

An alternative to the central tower is represented by curved mirrors concentrating the sun light in a suitable pipe that runs all the way from/to the storage accumulating heat while running in the plant.

Thermodynamic Solar Plant

An alternative to the central concentration tower – photo from http://www.strettoweb.com

In both cases, the molted salts are heated up to 600 degree Celsius and transferred in a hot storage.

The fluid so heated is used to produce high temperature/high pressure steam that is used to generate electricity by evolving in a steam turbine.

The main benefit of this technology is that energy is easily stored and can be used at night when the source of heat (the sun) is absent. However, the popular photovoltaic modules are currently more cost effective and therefore preferred over the concentrated solar power plants.

But now the situation can drastically change.

Masdar Institute of Science and Technology’s scientists, indeed, have published a breakthrough research into more efficient solar power plants by using sand as vector fluid to transport and store energy.

Named “Sandstock”, the research published at the Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems Conference in South Africa in December 2015, showed sand can withstand temperatures of up to 1,000°C and the higher you can push the temperature, the more efficient the plant will be in generating electricity.

The approach chosen by the researchers at Masdar Institute completely eliminates the most expensive components of the traditional CSP, the molten fluid and the pump system, by substituting it with sand and gravity. The design concept, which is inspired by a traditional sand hourglass, features a ‘cold tank,’ where sand is initially stored – before flowing into a ‘hot tank,’ located directly underneath. The cold tank will take the form of a hollow cylinder, designed to allow the concentrated solar flux to penetrate an empty central cylinder part.

Sandstock diagram

Schematic concept of the Sandstock  design – photo from social.csptoday

 

“Sand is really always a drawback in this country but in this project we wanted to use it as an advantage because it can withstand very high temperature, and of course it is very cheap here,” said Dr Nicolas Calvet, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, and guide for the research project, as also reported by The National.

“Photovoltaic is more popular because of more than 40 years of research, and the Chinese entering the market and driving prices down,” Dr Calvet said.

“If you want to make CSP more competitive you must significantly reduce the cost.”

The main costs for CSP are the reflective material, and whatever is used for heat transfer and storage. Dr Calvet and his students are using sand for the last two steps at almost no cost.

“When you build a CSP plant you need to import usually several thousand tonnes of molten salts from Chile,” he said.

“With this concept you can just build your plant in the desert and you don’t have to bring any other material, you have it on site.”

Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, interim provost at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, said: “The research success of the Sandstock project illustrates the strength of our research and its local relevance.

Dubai Tram: is it really going to ease Dubai Marina traffic issues?

The Dubai Tram was planned to be completed during 2010/2011 and its target was to ease the vehicle circulation in Marina, a neighborhood characterized by frequent traffic jams. Unfortunately, the property market’s bubble first and then the world financial crisis, have forced the ruler of Dubai to postpone the completion of the ambitious project and have it delivered few years later.

Dubai Tram Logo

Dubai Tram Logo

The idea behind the realization of the Tram was very simple: give to people a different option to move in Marina and adjacent neighborhood using the tram instead of the car, easing the traffic and the persistent parking problems.

Dubai Tram Station

JLT Tram Station – Super Clean

After several postponements, the consortium of companies working on the Tram Project, eventually managed to inaugurate Phase 1 on November 2014. It was a celebration, for many reasons. The residents hoped to have a better traffic situation since the road works were completed and the number of cars circulating were supposed to decrease significantly. RTA finally launched a project that was since long awaited and that costed around 3.2 billion AED (800 million USD) for just 11 km of railways and 11 stations forming the Phase 1.

The Project was indeed divided in two separate phases: Phase 1 to link Jumeirah Lake Tower and Dubai Marina Metro Station to Palm Monorail passing by Al Sofouh and Phase 2 to link Phase 1 to Mall of Emirates. The construction operations weren’t easy because the Tram passes in a very densely populated area and crossed bridges, crossroads and sidewalks, hence requesting a very extensive activity.

The reactions to the opening of the tram were wide and very different. Someone named the Dubai Tram the biggest technological achievement of the last decades, someone else was really disappointed about it instead.

I used the Tram and drove in Marina many times after the inauguration held on November 2014. What I experienced is a blend of emotions.

I firstly used the Tram to reach a restaurant in Westin Hotel in Al Sofouh. Instead of calling a taxi I used the Tram to give it a try. It is very cheap (3 AED instead of the 20 I would have paid the taxi driver for the ride) and convenient, since the stations are close to my building and the restaurant. The only thing is that it is really slow. In certain moment we were speeding less than 20 km/h and the average speed was calculated to be around 40 km/h. Not really fast enough if you want to use it to commute daily.

Inside Dubai Tram

Inside Dubai Tram – The cars are perfectly clean

That night, it took me 15 minutes to cover 3 km and 25 minutes to come back from the restaurant. Yes, on the way back the Tram follows another path that add three stations to the journey.  It is quite strange and complicated to understand at first, since to go from JLT Metro station to Marina Mall is one station but the vice versa takes you through 4 because of the one way Marina Loop.

Phase 1 Dubai Tram Map

Dubai Tram Map – It is easy to see the one way loop in Marina

The Tram is currently used by a crescent number of people but I think that the slow speed is limiting the effective use of it to daily commute to work.

I have asked once to an RTA inspector, why the tram is so slow. And he replied that we are still in the learning curve, hence drivers, passengers and inhabitants have to get used to the tram presence. Once the preliminary phase will be completed, the speed will be raised and the service will become more efficient and convenient for commuters.

In any case, there is surely a very positive effect of the presence of the Tram. Each and every person using the Tram is equivalent to a car less on the roads with benefits for our environment, the traffic and the accidents rate.

Saudi Arabia Adventures: a day at Rabigh dam

If you had read Lawrence of Arabia chronicles, you should be acquainted with the hardship of living in the desert and most probably you might remember villages names like Rabigh (or Rabegh) and Masturah. I lived in Rabigh – Saudi Arabia for almost 15 months and explored the surrounding areas during the week ends.

The water reservoir created by the dam

The water reservoir created by the dam from Google Maps

I think that we all know that the Middle East in general and the Arabian Peninsula in particular, is characterized by a desert climate that originated the sandy desert we are used to see in many movies and cartoons. It is true even though we should keep in mind that most of the peninsula is constituted by mountains and rocky hills that make the visitors feeling to be on Mars instead of in Arabia. These rocky and sandy places get quickly colder than the surrounding air soon after the sunset, allowing the humidity present in the air to condensate and hence granting the little wildlife possibly present the chance to survive. These rocky areas have also a very limited capacity to absorb the rain that therefore flows towards the sea, creating the so called ‘wadi’, an Arabic term to indicate a riverbed or intermittent stream.

Rabigh Wadi full of water by AndreaDetto

Rabigh Wadi full of water

For this reason, during the rainy season when it could happen to see the rain 2 or 3 times, the water canalized in the ‘wadi’ flows from the mountains to the sea almost undisturbed. Such a big amount of water, indispensable to allow the wildlife to survive, has been recently trapped in appositely built dams to satisfy the population needs.

One of these dams is located close to Rabigh and I assure you that it is a strange feeling to see this artificial lake laying in the middle of the rocky desert. The dam is a multi-purpose construction that collects rain water assuring: i) flood control; ii) municipal water supply and iii) groundwater recharge, helping the overall system to have significant benefits.

I firstly visited a ‘wadi’ in 2010 during a camping organized in November by some friends, close to the Oman border. I was surprised in noticing that after the several months of summer with hot temperature and no rain at all, the ‘wadi’ still had spots of water here and there and that that water was icily cold!!!

Rabigh Dam by AndreaDetto

Rabigh Dam, a very simple construction

The water control systems now in place in many GCC countries aims to prevent very dangerous flooding (in Jeddah died many people few years ago) and grant water availability during the summer. How this is going to impact the environment and the local ecosystem is quite obvious even though I personally think that it is a less invasive solution if compared to the massive presence of desalinated water being used for multiple purposes.