Lighting the way
Kurt Parry looks to the future and discusses energy saving lighting alternatives.
Kurt Parry looks to the future and discusses energy saving lighting alternatives.
Dubai was plunged into darkness last month as part of a massive campaign across the world to bring more awareness of pollution and global climate change. Although the token gesture of 'Earth Hour' is of course going to make no tangible difference to the situation, it does highlight the immense importance of the issue.
The figures vary from expert to expert, but there seems to be a common consensus that this is a potentially disastrous scenario for the planet and its inhabitants.
Whether it's solar panels, wind turbines or tidal power, there is a race in the search for alternative sources of natural energy. Until that race is won, the battle is on to reduce the waste we generate.
The total amount of industrial CO2 emissions in the US for 2007 was 6 billion metric tones, which is a terrifying statistic in itself and one that needs addressing as a matter of urgency.
What many of us don't realise is that the residential sector accounted for 1.2 billion tones in its own right. So the drop in the ocean excuse of leaving the laptop on standby or not turning off the living room lights when you go out doesn't really hold too much water, (and neither should the kettle if you're only making one cup of coffee).
Seeing the light
The UAE has the largest carbon footprint per capita than anywhere else in the world and it is an issue that is being tackled on a grand scale.
The edict from Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, mandating that builders and developers in Dubai comply with green building standards is a massive step in the right direction.
In December last year, Watt Stopper/Legrand, one of the world's leading energy saving light manufacturers, was in Dubai to present a three day course on the potential and practices of increasing lighting efficiency and reducing unnecessary costs.
"Dubai is uniquely positioned to lead the region in sustainable development and demonstrate to the rest of the world that building green can be both simple and cost-effective. As an example, implementing multi-level lighting with automatic shut-off can achieve 60% energy savings. These practices are already becoming standard in Dubai, and will have a huge impact in the region," says Pete Horton, vice president of market development, Watt Stopper/Legrand.
Dubai Airport Terminal 3, Al Ain University and Dubai Uptown Motor City are already using the appropriately named Watt Stopper lighting controls to save energy.
So-lar, so good
In Dubai's Knowledge Village, a campus for many of the Emirate's Universities, a solar power tracking system has been saving on streetlight energy for almost six months.
The tracker is an advanced photovoltaic power system that uses sensors to follow the sun during the day, exposing the surface to maximum irradiation levels.
The device increases output by an amazing 40% compared to conventional systems.
With these sorts of results, there are obviously plans for many more sites, but the Knowledge Village solar tracker alone will produce approximately 10 Megawatt hours a year and prevent over 125 tonnes of CO2 pollution during its 20 year life term.
There are also less obvious beneficial spin-offs to energy saving lighting. Again, in Knowledge Village, all indoor halogen lighting is now switched off.
"This has already generated excellent results. Switching off the halogen lamps not only helps reduce energy consumption, it also makes indoor areas cooler, which in turn means saving on air conditioning. Each initiative helps in its own right, but also contributes to further efficiency. There's also the human angle; people are far more comfortable and find it easier to concentrate when you eliminate the harsh glare that is emitted by the lamps," explains Ali bin Towaih, director of sustainable energy and environment division (SEED), Knowledge Village.
With Dubai's incredible pace of growth and expansion, the city's tourism industry is phenomenal. The number of hotels already established and those that are planned means the energy used for lighting runs into millions of dollars and tons of carbon.
Raj Dhanjal is operations director of Avireal, the facilities management company whose clients include Jumeirah International, Movenpick and Radisson SAS.
"We act as consultants to advise our customers on a range of alternative technologies and more efficient design to lengthen the lifespan of the equipment. Air conditioning is without doubt the largest single expense factor, accounting for around 55% - 60%. But lighting plays a significant role and the more effective and efficient that can be, the higher the savings in terms of real cost and pollution."
But Dhanjal says it's not just a question of providing the right advice. "While the lighting solutions are readily available, many managers are still unaware of the true benefits. Because Dubai has developed so quickly, many of the energy saving systems need to be spelled out.
"I think we were all surprised when we first heard just how much of a difference this technology makes. If you think in its most basic terms of how much lighting there is in a large hotel and that each energy efficient light bulb can use as little as a quarter of the energy of a traditional bulb, that's an incredible saving."
"Obviously, that's just on a very simple scale and doesn't take into account the trade lighting, which makes it an even bigger saving."
A new generation
Gesolar is a renewable energy solutions supplier with branches across the world.
Its clients include the UAE President's office, government departments and Nakheel.
Prapish Thomas, Gesolar's managing director for the Middle East believes energy efficient lighting can make an enormous difference to a company's running costs.
This is something that is being introduced more and more into corporations and the attitude towards these sort of savings is changing day by day. The media coverage of the economics of energy efficiency and the conscience of businesses and individuals is making a real difference.
"Lighting is a factor that was generally regarded as an afterthought when it came to running costs. The fact is, a company with high lighting needs can save up to 20% of its operational expenditure."
Thomas says that the commitment from large corporations is also having a positive effect on the smaller organisations.
"If businesses see that someone as successful as Nakheel is investing in this type of lighting, they know that there must be cost advantages as well as green motives. Nakheel developments are using solar energy to power their external lighting and are using energy efficient lamps and bulbs internally. It's great to see that there are massive strides being taken in the right direction, but there's still a long way to go in some areas. Take a walk through Deira in Dubai or drive along Sheikh Zayed Road at night and the number of billboard lights is frightening."
While the change in lighting technology seems to have been a rapid revolution, it took some time to move away from tried, tested and traditional methods.
"We're on fourth generation lighting now," says Thomas. "First was Edison's incandescent bulb, which basically passed a current through a filament until it heated up and produced light. Crude, but effective and very high in energy usage. The next generation was fluorescent lighting which used electricity to excite mercury molecules in a gas until it produced ultraviolet light. Next came LED lighting, which was a big step forward and compared to its predecessors was incredibly energy efficient, but there were some brightness issues. Now, we're on to the induction lamp generation, which has no electrical connection going inside the glass bulb. The energy is transferred solely through electromagnetic induction."
If you're easily baffled by science, the underlying theme is that the new technology is more cost effective, more energy efficient and has a longer shelf-life.
"These lamps last around 100,000 hours. That's the equivalent of 11 and a half years of constant use," adds Thomas.
From one of the villains of global pollution, the Middle East is now becoming one of the pioneers of sustainable power and the greatest source of energy is more harvestable here than anywhere else on the planet.
The potential of solar energy is finally being recognised and Thomas believes that this will be the real future for the region.
"We are living right underneath the answer to many of our energy problems. The sun has sustained life on the planet for billions of years, it is now just a case of how to harness that incredible power in the most effective way."
That, he says, would literally be a universal solution.