Masdar City is a testbed for research and development of clean technologies through partnerships in demonstration projects. These include projects in solar photovoltaics, battery storage, sustainable mobility, sustainable agriculture, recycling and materials science.
Ghantoot Desalination Programme
In 2013, Masdar launched a renewable energy desalination pilot programme to research and develop energy-efficient, cost-competitive desalination technologies that may be powered by renewable energy. The project was officially inaugurated during UAE Innovation Week in November 2015.
Through a competitive tender, commercial partners – Abengoa, Suez, Veolia and Trevi Systems – were selected. They each developed and operated a next-generation pilot seawater desalination plant in Ghantoot, Abu Dhabi. A fifth pilot was installed in October 2016 by Mascara Renewable Water, an off-grid solar powered solution without batteries suitable for remote locations.
The partners built and operated small-scale pilot plants for around 15 months. The performance of the plants was rigorously monitored. The Masdar Institute, now part of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology, conducted five research projects alongside the pilot programme. Three solar collector systems were also installed in 2017 to evaluate their suitability for providing low temperature process heat for desalination. The solar thermal collector systems were installed by Empereal, Emsol, and GREENoneTEC.
The Masdar-led desalination project was sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Government, with co-funding provided by the industry partners. A Masdar report published at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2018 on the results of the programme found that one of the most promising solutions was solar-powered reverse osmosis, a technique where salt water is purified through membranes. This method proved to be up to 75 per cent more energy efficient than the thermal desalination technologies currently used in the UAE.
Masdar Solar Hub
The Masdar Solar Hub at Masdar City is a solar testing and R&D hub for photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies jointly managed by Masdar and the Khalifa University of Science and Technology.
Launched in 2015, the Masdar Solar Hub conducts solar energy and thermal storage equipment testing, prototype evaluation and solar irradiance monitoring. It comprises two main features:
1. Photovoltaic Test Centre
Masdar conducts ongoing tests of different photovoltaic (PV) technologies at the PV test centre. These include complete PV module testing, comparative tests to characterise field performance of different components within PV modules, and the evaluation of cleaning robots for PV plants. We are evaluating different PV cleaning solutions for fixed structure systems as well as for single-axis tracking systems in the harsh environmental conditions experienced in the UAE.
2. Masdar Institute Solar Platform
The Masdar Institute Solar Platform (MISP), managed by Khalifa University of Science and Technology, allows for concentrating solar power (CSP) and thermal energy storage (TES) technologies to be developed on a wider scale by providing access to high-performance CSP research and demonstration infrastructure. A 20-metre-high tower is surrounded by a solar field of 33 heliostat mirrors in three concentric rings which adjust their angle to track the movement of the sun while directing the reflected light to the top of the tower. Lining the top of the tower is a 45-mirror array which redirects the light from the heliostats towards a receiver at the tower’s base. The facility is being used to test reflector technologies, absorbed tubes, heat transfer fluids, mirrors and a variety of components used in the CSP industry. The Masdar Solar Hub is a valuable resource to equipment manufacturers, system integrators and installers, project developers, utility companies, investors, private end users, research organisations, and the public.
Modelling of Micro climate in the Urban Environment and Mitigation of Heat Island Effect
Cities generate a lot of heat, from car motors, asphalt roads and pavements, and from the very things we use to cool our homes – air-conditioners.
These heat-radiating sources can contribute to what is known as the urban heat island effect where city air and surface temperatures can be higher than those of nearby rural areas by as much as 10° Celsius.
Masdar City, as a sustainable urban community, has been designed to reduce this effect, making it an ideal site for modelling the local urban microclimate. Masdar and the Masdar Institute, now part of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology, are working together to study the environmental impact of sustainable urban design. The project has two main objectives: to better understand the exact causes of the heat island effect and the ways to reduce it.
Electric Energy Storage Solutions Hub (EESSH)
The variable nature of solar and wind energy may cause operational challenges for grid operators at certain times. Energy storage technologies can alleviate this issue, which is expected to become more important as the share of electricity from variable renewable energy sources in the global power mix is continuously increasing. The Electric Energy Storage Hub at Masdar City is dedicated to the study of advanced energy storage technologies with the aim of delivering more cost-effective solutions. The Hub comprises a solar-powered outdoor test stand, which allows for testing of battery systems used in off-grid PV systems. Industry and researchers use it to optimise the viability of new technologies.