Dubai's first vertical axis wind turbine to power RIT's sustainability park

The 10-kilowatt turbine, which has the ability to capture wind from any direction, is part of partnership between RIT Dubai and Ecolibri

Vertical axis wind turbines are  gaining popularity in cities where larger, horizontal axis versions aren’t as practical. Cody Combs / The National
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Dubai now has a vertical axis wind turbine, a first for the emirate, installed on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s branch in the emirate.

The installation of the 10-kilowatt turbine is the result of a collaboration between RIT Dubai and Italy-based Ecolibri, a renewables company with a focus on wind energy.

Vertical axis wind turbines, unlike the conventional horizontal axis wind turbines, have the ability to capture wind from any direction.

The turbines, which depending on the design can sometimes resemble a giant egg-beater, are also known as Darrieus model turbines, a reference to the French aeronautical engineer and inventor Georges Jean Marie Darrieus, who pioneered the idea in the 1930s.

Because they're generally quieter and don't require high wind speeds, vertical axis wind turbines are quickly gaining popularity in cities where larger, horizontal axis versions aren’t as practical.

"We did some research over the course of a year and found the wind in the area was good enough to power the wind turbine," said Prof Ghalib Kahwaji, director of RIT Dubai’s Sustainability and Energy Centre.

He emphasised that although the turbine was not connected to the overall power grid, it will be used to power RIT Dubai's sustainability park.

"It's equipped with a smart microgrid," he said. "It will be a small community integrating the wind turbine and solar power systems."

As part of the collaboration with Ecolibri, the sustainability park also contains a geodesic dome that can be used as a meeting area or classroom complete with electricity.

Installation of RIT Dubai's vertical wind turbine in December came only months after the UAE announced plans to launch its first wind programme in an effort to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The UAE's wind farm programme, announced in October, is expected to power more than 23,000 homes a year, displacing 120,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, Abu Dhabi clean energy company Masdar said.

Innovations in climate technology have made wind energy more feasible in the UAE, where wind speeds were previously deemed inadequate to generate enough power.

Mr Kahwaji said RIT Dubai's wind and sustainability research started two years ago.

"It feels good," he said. "Our efforts complement each other and we're pioneering research in this area."

The vision of RIT Dubai's Sustainability Centre, according to Mr Kahwaji, is for the programme to be a leading enabler of smart sustainability research in the UAE.

"That's what we're doing with wind and geothermal research and applications," he said. "We don't want to keep our work entrapped by research, we want to go out into society and apply our ideas."

The wind turbine is the latest addition to RIT Dubai's campus in the Silicon Oasis district. In 2022, Newsweek magazine rated the futuristic innovation centre, which resembles the core of a quantum microchip, as one of the 10 quirkiest college campus designs in the world.

RIT Dubai was established in 2008 and is a satellite campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, which was founded in 1829.

Updated: January 21, 2024, 10:02 PM