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A Bright Idea?

A Bright Idea?

Dubai’s Dh12 billion solar power park maybe a tad over ambitious, but it sure is a lot more sensible than the Emirate’s past projects.

January 10, 2012 3:00 by

The days of announcing massive billion dollar projects are something of a cherished history for Dubai (unlike its rich neighbouring emirate in the south)—which is why Kipp’s interest was piqued when we read of Dubai’s latest announcement.

News of a Dh12 billion solar power project to be (originally) called The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Energy Park is making headlines today. The solar park will be managed and operated by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) and will be developed in Seih Al Dahal area, southeast Dubai. Covering 48 square kilometres, first phase of the solar park is predicted to be completed in 2013—the whole solar park is expected to be completed in 2030. At full capacity the park is expected to generate 1,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Collaborations with Masdar City and other partnerships from the private sector are also on the cards for the latter stages of the development.

Now just yesterday we put out a rather cynical piece on Dubai’s love affair with discounts and fines: Over the past six months, the UAE has been adamant to get you to pay your fines. Let’s get real. It isn’t exactly because the markets are back on track-were our particular words.

But before we get into the habit of hate, it is interesting to note that while planning a solar panel park project screams of the infamous over-ambitiousness that got Dubai into the mess it’s in, at least harnessing solar power is an achievable and suitable pursuit.

Consider for instance, the recent move by Qatar to double farmland in order to become self-sufficient. Currently Qatar imports up to 90 percent of its food requirements, but with its plans to increase the number of farms in Qatar from 1,400 to 3,000, the country aims to produce enough to meet 60-70 percent of domestic demand. Ambitious plans, but is a move to increase food production in keeping with the capabilities of Qatari’ agricultural industry?

According to United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, only about 1 percent of Qatar’s total land area of 11,590 square kilometers is suitable for growing crops. Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome said: “They don’t have that much land they can put into production; much of it is desert. And Qatar has a very small population.”

Though perhaps noble intentions, you would have imagined Qatar would have learned from the mistakes of its ambitious neighbours. Take for instance Saudi Arabia, who abandoned an attempt to become self sufficient in producing wheat in 2008 when it was found to be ‘too expensive and wasteful in using domestic water resources.’ Now, Saudi aims to be 100 percent reliant on imports of wheat in four years time. What is more, not only was the attempt to become self sufficient in wheat found to be a waste of money and water, but Mahendra Shah, food security advisor to the U.N. and director of international planning at Aquiess Rainaid, said “the drive to produce wheat domestically using underground water had caused environmental damage in Saudi Arabia.”

Solar power though a responsible form of generating power-isn’t always the most economical or realistic of ventures. Need Kipp recall the painfully long drawn out development of Masdar: from Zero Carbon to not-too-much-carbon. Nonetheless, we are staying positive on this one…for now.

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