Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | January 22, 2011

Kuwait 2030: Solar City

I’m going to start a series of posts called Kuwait 2030 where I will outline  some ideas about where I would like Kuwait to be in twenty years. I’m going to outline each idea and then some realistic steps on how to achieve the goal.

Solar City

  • Kuwait as a worldwide hub for solar energy research
  • A new manufacturing industry for Kuwait exporting solar panels and creating manufacturing and research jobs for Kuwaitis
  • Kuwaiti energy supply to be 20% solar

    The idea is to create a brand new research and manufacturing industry in Kuwait. It is a challenge for the nation in the same way Kennedy challenged Americans to land on the moon. How can we achieving the goals outlined above?

    1. Create a Solar Institute somewhere out in the desert with a practically unlimited budget, as an offshoot of KISR or even as an entirely new entity. It should be an independent authority that is held accountable to agreed upon milestones and deadlines. It is a research center, patent holding entity and a post-graduate school.
    2. Purchase many established and new foreign Solar energy companies to acquire talent and patents to get a head start at the institute. All of the acquired firms will relocated some of their research and training facilities to Kuwait.
    3. Select the best and brightest young Kuwaiti engineers and guide them through PhD’s and promise them a generously rewarding future (both financially and scientifically). This would be a national patriotism project in the same way kids were inspired by NASA to become engineers in the 50’s and 60’s.
    4. Provide generous subsidies to Kuwaiti industrialists and allow them a financially feasible way to build solar panel manufacturing plants using the patents and methods acquired by the Solar Institute. Yes, that would be picking winners and losers, but we have to do this in order to start the ball rolling.
    5. Begin to slowly raise electricity prices while providing an energy rebate to compensate.
    6. Offer to install solar panels for free on rooftops in Kuwait which will be leased by the homeowners. That way, they cannot be resold, but the homeowner and the country benefit. If the solar panel is removed, the homeowner is fined.
    7. A national initiative whereby homeowners and industry can sell back excess energy generated by them back to the national grid. This means if your home generates more energy than it consumes, you can sell this energy back to the grid and make money doing nothing.

    This has been attempted by Abu Dhabi with their Masdar Institute. It’s a great idea, although their plans for Masdar City were  unrealistically ambitious. They have a big head start. I don’t see why we can’t do the same and share our research with each other. KISR have already been planning for something similar and I hope lawmakers take their ideas and calls to action seriously.

    Solar energy is almost perfect for the Gulf. We have so much capital now and all solar energy needs to take off is a huge initial investment in the research and manufacturing base. Once we have the research and the solar panels moving out the door, the whole thing becomes self sustaining. It is such a great investment for the future of our country and the GCC. The time will come when we will no longer have oil to sell to the world. Oil will run out, but the sun will always shine. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make some money off that too?


    Responses

    1. I just wanted to comment on a few things from the KISR interview I linked to:

      “Q: So far you have been only telling me about meeting electricity needs. What about automobiles? Is there any way of using renewable energy to run vehicles?
      A: Yes. Electric cars have already been tested in the market. Hydrogen cars are also feasible. These are cars that run on fuel cells. But I think it will take some time, though the technology has been proven. Many car companies have introduced their electric cars in the market. But there are some technical limitations. I believe it is only a transition period. It’s only a matter of time before electric cars will eat into the market and run alongside conventional cars in another fifty or hundred years from now.”

      – Fifty or a hundred years? Are you kidding me? Electric cars will be mainstream in less than 10 years. One look at what Kandi is doing in China should strike fear into the heart of the KOC. Electric cars are real and not some distant dream.

      “This is one of the main advantages of renewable energy.
      While the energy you consume is clean and green, then you do not contribute to climate change. Once CO2 particulates are emitted into the atmosphere, they are difficult to control.”

      That’s sort of ignoring the carbon produced and energy consumed from making the solar panel. I don’t buy the argument that we should do this because it’s ‘green’.

      Overall, though, I thought the interview was really great and says a lot about KISR. I hope their work develops into real action.

    2. That’s a dream of mine too, Barrak. The problem with solar panels is that they lose efficiency quickly due to our extremely hot summers. Dust is also a major problem in reducing their efficiency. However there is a new type of panels made by Sony that get more efficient in high temperatures, and another company who created automated self washing panels to get rid of dust. So investing in solar research is extremely important to sustain ourselves among the rest of the world who are already miles ahead of us in those terms. The gulf region alone gets 40% more sun than Spain per meter2. So it’s only intuitive to start using all of that free energy.
      Another comment i have is about Masdar city. True it is a big research institution and it recycles all of its water and waste and produces all of its energy. However it still is not sustainable to build a whole city from scratch on a concrete podium in the middle of the desert. Think of all the embodied energy!
      What do you say we create a think tank?😉

    3. More than Solar panels, we should focus on passive solar energy unlike active solar energy which converts to heat or electrical energy, they use sunlight without active mechanical systems Such technologies convert sunlight into usable heat (water, air, thermal mass), cause air-movement for ventilating, or future use, with little use of other energy sources.

      More work from Ken Yeang suggests that high rise buildings do not have to depend on solar energy, rather the design itself allows ventilation and green gardens in Vertical Towers compared to flat surface grounds.

      Also the use of solar chimney would be beneficial which uses passive energy. A simple description of a solar chimney is that of a vertical shaft utilizing solar energy to enhance the natural stack ventilation through a building.


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