Solar thermal cooling at Masdar a Gulf first

Green air-con system pioneered at Masdar City in Abu Dhabi

The absorption chiller plant at Masdar City
The absorption chiller plant at Masdar City

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Masdar has successfully activated a proprietary double-effect solar thermal cooling system – the first in the Gulf region, and one of only a handful in the world – to test the viability of using the sun’s heat to cool buildings at Masdar City, the emerging low-carbon cleantech cluster being constructed on the outskirts of the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

Designed and engineered by Masdar, the pilot plant is the only one in the world to combine two different concentrating solar thermal collector technologies in a single system.

‘Green’ air-con systems generally consist of conventional compression chillers powered by electricity from photovoltaic (PV) panels or concentrated solar power (CSP) plants. While such conventional chillers and air conditioners use electricity to run a compressor, a double-effect absorption chiller such as the one being tested at Masdar City uses heat to activate a chemical process that provides chilled water for cooling.

If successful, the technology could become a major source of cooling across the 6km2 city. Solar cooling is ideal for medium-scale cooling loads, such as those of supermarkets and shopping malls, and can also be implemented in a central cooling plant configuration, namely district cooling. It is especially well-suited to address peak cooling demand as the solar thermal energy supply closely matches high daytime cooling demand.

“This project reflects the ongoing innovation taking place at Masdar City as we push the boundaries of sustainable cooling to deliver new solutions that not only compete with conventional systems in terms of quality, but also excel in terms of what we can achieve via optimised and cost-effective implementation of state-of-the-art solar technologies,” said Masdar City head of energy management Afshin Afshari.

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