Masdar Solar Hub — UAE’s First Independent Solar Testing And R&D Facility

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About a month back, Masdar and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology launched the “Masdar Solar Hub” at the Intersolar North America conference.

Said to be the UAE’s First Independent Solar Testing and R&D Hub, the research facility will aim to fast track the development of solar technologies in the country, including solar PV, solar thermal and energy storage technologies.

Beam Down Concentrating Tower At Masdar Solar Hub

Established in 2006, Masdar is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mubadala Development Co., which in turn is owned by the Abu Dhabi government. The company is guided by The Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, and proclaims itself to be on a mission to advance the clean energy industry in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates and around the world, as well as be a catalyst to diversify the economy of the emirate.

Incidentally, 2015 happens to be UAE’s year of innovation.

The creation of the Hub, is an important step for Abu Dhabi to meet its renewable energy goals. The Emirate has committed to meet 7% of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. In comparison, Dubai is chasing a target of 5%.

Located in the Masdar City, the Solar Hub has the potential to accelerate the development of solar energy solutions in the UAE and the Middle East by increasing the available solar equipment testing capacity in the country.

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While solar power has been increasingly becoming cost competitive, the UAE faces certain geographical barriers to promote the technology. Analysis of satellite data by Masdar Institute’s Research Centre for Renewable Energy Mapping and Assessment has shown that due to high levels of atmospheric dust and humidity, Abu Dhabi receives significantly less direct sunlight than expected.

Simple logic demands that the successful large-scale implementation of new solar energy systems, a large number of which are being invented every year, depends heavily on accurate measurements of performance, reliability, and durability.

The Masdar Solar Hub will allow the Masdar Institute, Masdar, and other associated organisations to advance demonstration-scale solar technology assessment in the region’s hot, dust-filled environment. This will help manufacturers, investors and equipment users, who require independent and accredited performance tests before investing in any new technology. Positive test results will increase confidence in the technology, thereby accelerating the market uptake, and reducing the cost of financing.

As Alexander Ritschel, Technology Manager at Masdar explained in an interview to CleanTechnica, the testing facilities at the Solar Hub will not only help to benchmark the performance of the existing products but will also help to develop products which can deliver in the existing environment.

On top of this, the very fact that these products are being tested in the harsh and demanding desert conditions of Abu Dhabi will make them suitable for other similar regions. Including the Middle east, North Africa and parts of India.

The Masdar Solar Hub contains three primary functional areas — the Photovoltaic Test Center, the Concentrating Photovoltaic Test Center, and the Masdar Institute Solar Platform. The Photovoltaic Test Center evaluates performance and durability of all types of PV-related equipment and systems. The center uses internationally accepted testing standards (IEC, IEEE etc.) The Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) Test Facility, which is a joint initiative of Masdar and the Spanish organization Instituto de Sistemas Fotovoltaicos de Concentración (ISFOC), provides testing and evaluation of CPV systems under Abu Dhabi’s environmental conditions. Data obtained from this facility will be used for developing future CPV technology as well as the for the deployment of CPV technology in the region.

Masdar Insititute’s Solar Platform provides a facility where researchers, universities and industrial partners carry out R&D activities to drive research, development and demonstration of solar thermal technologies such as concentrated solar power (CSP) and thermal energy storage (TES). Resources available at the facility include a Beam Down Concentrating Tower, a solar field, a hot-oil loop, a TES system, a solar irradiometer platform, compact linear Fresnel reflector, and a double effect absorption chiller for solar cooling research.

Since there are no internationally accepted standards for testing CSP system and components, the facility will develop its own testing procedures in collaboration with other organisations working in the field.

Apart from providing research & development, testing and evaluation services for existing products and technologies, the Hub will also offer certification, consulting and information services.

Dr Ritschel also shared that the Solar Hub is looking to collaborate with like minded institutes and organizations.

Solar power has started to make some inroads in the UAE. Some time back, Dubai announced lowest prices (ever) for solar power in a tender result. Masdar is also home to the largest single-unit Concentrated Solar Power Plant in the world — Shams 1.

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Anand Upadhyay

is a Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI, New Delhi). He tweets at @indiasolarpost. Views and opinion if any, are his own.

Anand Upadhyay has 95 posts and counting. See all posts by Anand Upadhyay