Dubai launches first clean energy project

Dubai's first clean energy project was launched on Wednesday, using methane gas from a waste landfill site in Al Qusais to produce electricity and reduce the country's carbon footprint.

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DUBAI // The emirate's first clean energy project has been launched, using methane gas from a waste landfill site in Al Qusais to produce electricity and reduce the country's carbon footprint.

The project, between Green Energy Solutions and Sustainability (Gess) and Dubai Municipality, will pave the way for reducing the country's CO² emissions and its organisers hope the programme will be implemented around the country.

It is expected that 300,000 tonnes of CO² a year will be eliminated.

Abdulmajeed Saifaie, director of waste management at the municipality, said it was "one of our best environmental projects".

The municipality has been trying to implement more sustainability plans. Last year, all shopping malls were required to have recycling initiatives.

The clean energy project meets the target to improve air quality, Mr Saifaie said, reducing the release of harmful methane into the air, a gas that is more than 20 times more potent than CO² in terms of its greenhouse effect.

The 20-year-old landfill is near residential areas and there had been many complaints about the smell and pollution.

"Now, the smell has gone and there are no more complaints," he said. The plant has since been covered in sand, which also eliminates the presence of scavengers.

Mr Saifaie said transforming these harmful gasses into green energy is a bonus on top of improving the quality of life for local residents. "It's turning something that's waste into something that's a benefit, reducing greenhouse gases and reducing the environmental impact landfills have on the world."

He added: "We hope other emirates will follow. In the region countries are often looking at Dubai to see what's happening and we are really hoping to lead the way on this."

Anita Nouri, business development director at Gess, said the team is "paving the way to expand this project to elsewhere".

The site receives 5,000 tonnes of waste a day and 20 kilometres of piping transports the methane collected from the 12 stations around the site.

"As soon as the waste arrives, it is covered and compacted so there is no smell, no fires and no scavengers," Mrs Nouri said.

Subhendu Biswas, director of First Climate, one of the advisers on the project, said it was "the biggest CO² mitigation project in the region".

Such projects, he said, are more prevalent in cooler countries such as Brazil and China. "The moisture gets out of the landfill over a period of time so in climates such as the Middle East it makes projects such as this harder," he said.

The project, funded by Gess is not intended to generate profit, but to reduce the UAE's points on the United Nations carbon emissions register.

"The fact it produces electricity is an add-on but right now it's only powering the plant and nobody is buying the fuel," Mr Biswas said. "But at least it means the site is powered for free now."

Faheem Shafiq, sales manager at Intelligent Energy, which was also involved in supplying the project's equipment, said there is potential to generate 12 to 15MW of energy, though it currently produces just one. "Even if this site closed down tomorrow, it can still run energy for the next 20 to 25 years on 12MW," he said.