Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, one of the world’s most sustainable urban developments, will undergo significant expansion over the next five years driven by its emergence as a hub for research and Development and the commercialisation of clean technologies.
"Around 35 per cent of the planned built-up area will be completed over the next five years – up from 5 per cent today – and nearly 30 per cent has been committed to, including private homes, schools, hotels and more office space," said Anthony Mallows, Executive Director of Masdar City, adding that all available space within its existing buildings, and those under construction, is fully leased.
"Masdar City’s expansion is gathering pace because today we are recognised as an innovation ecosystem – a hub for R&D, technology, human capital building, business opportunity and investment."
Plans for a purpose-built community serving the Middle East’s first dedicated R&D cluster integrated with a world-class research institute will be unveiled at Cityscape Abu Dhabi, the property exhibition and conference taking place from April 12-14.
Besides 2,000 residential apartments, the concept involves developing restaurants, cafes, a premium school and green open spaces within walking distance of a number of Masdar City’s flagship R&D and pilot facilities, which include ground-breaking projects in solar energy, energy storage, green building and urban sustainability.
The City’s growth will yield more opportunities for collaboration with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the world’s first graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies and the nucleus of Masdar City, as well as opening the door to further research and training cooperation with the wider business and clean tech community.
"Effective research and development of viable technologies requires a culture of collaboration and an environment where scientific theory and practical insight can flourish," said Dr Noura Al-Kaabi, Director of Research and Development Office at the Masdar Institute.
"The pilot research projects located at Masdar City, many of them led by or closely involving Masdar Institute scientists and students, are accelerating the acquisition of scientific knowledge in the clean tech industry and paving the way towards the development of real-world commercial applications. As the surrounding community at Masdar City grows, so the R&D cluster will also expand."
Masdar City’s participation in this year’s Cityscape Abu Dhabi will highlight the many R&D and pilot facilities within the development, including the Eco-Villa Prototype.
The project incorporates innovative water- and energy-saving technologies and design features that significantly reduce its environmental impact compared to existing villas – and it can even export excess electricity to the national grid when fitted with photovoltaic panels.
With a gross floor area of 405 square metres (sqm), the four-bedroom Eco-Villa is designed to consume 97 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per sqm per year (sqm/yr) without solar panels. That is 72 per cent less energy than older villas in Abu Dhabi typically consume, and 46 per cent less than newer properties.
The Eco-Villa Prototype is also designed to displace up to 63 metric tons of carbon emissions each year and use 35 per cent less water than regular villas.
The ‘Net Zero Energy’ version of the prototype equipped with 80 rooftop PV panels can supply up to 40,000 kWh per year to the national grid, easily offsetting its own electricity requirements.
The Smart Home Energy Management System (SHEMS) research project led by the Masdar Institute is currently testing ‘intelligent’ IT systems to manage energy consumption within the Eco-Villa Prototype, and potentially other buildings at Masdar City, more efficiently.
Masdar and Masdar Institute specialists are also studying energy-efficient indoor climate control technologies, known as Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems, for the Eco-Villa project and other residential and commercial real estate.
Elsewhere in the R&D cluster, the Electric Energy Storage Solutions Hub is exploring the potential of electrochemical technologies (Redox Flow Batteries) to enhance the capacity of renewable energy systems to store power, enabling their wider adoption in the energy mix.
Another trailblazing project is evaluating geothermal energy as a possible power source for district cooling. With geothermal wells already sunk to a depth of 2,500 metres within the grounds of Masdar City, the research initiative is the first of its type in the Middle East and may be converted into a full-fledged demonstration project.
Other Research, Development & Pilot Facilities at Masdar City include:
Masdar Solar Hub, a globally recognised centre of excellence in photovoltaics and solar thermal energy technologies, jointly managed by Masdar and the Masdar Institute, comprising:
The Masdar Institute Solar Platform (MISP) featuring a Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and thermal energy storage test facility, known as a ‘beam-down’ tower.
The Photovoltaic (PV) Test Centre, operated in partnership with Masdar Institute and T?V Rheinland, providing independent measurement of the performance, reliability and durability of PV modules, their panel coatings and other related technical equipment.
Seawater Energy & Agriculture System (SEAS) supporting the nascent aviation biofuel industry in the Middle East and increasing food security through the cultivation of salt-tolerant plants with the waste water of an integrated aquaculture farm. SEAS is an initiative of the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium at the Masdar Institute whose partners include Etihad Airways, Boeing, Takreer, Safran and GE Aviation.
The Masdar Institute for Science and Technology Field Station, a standalone testing, demonstration and development facility for built environment technologies, in particular cooling technologies that seek to optimise energy and water demand management.
Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) System operating since 2010 as a pilot project in driverless, emissions-free urban transport solutions and a practical link between Masdar City’s north-side parking lot and the Masdar Institute.
Construction Waste Management to reuse and recycle waste building materials from Masdar City, including metal, plastic, wood and construction aggregate – and in the future, to process waste from other construction sites.
"All its different yet complementary elements have given rise to a thriving community at Masdar City," said Anthony Mallows, Executive Director of Masdar City. "They are also attracting growing interest from prospective tenants, developers, investors and research partners eager to participate in the development of clean technologies, and to profit from their many economic, social and environmental benefits.
"Further integrating Masdar City’s existing and planned R&D platforms with the surrounding urban community will only add to the city’s appeal."
"This year marks Masdar’s 10th anniversary and the continued evolution of the City is helping us to deliver on our goal for the next decade: to make clean energy an essential part of the energy mix worldwide," added Mallows. "By making clean energy commercially viable, we help preserve the planet, inspire innovation and new industries, and diversify the UAE economy and economies around the world."