UAE youth turn their attention to renewable energy and sustainability

Young Emiratis hope to lead the UAE's future in sustainability.

BASF Besucherzentrum  Students from Masdar institute, BASF Dubai
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Maintaining cool temperatures in buildings and converting humidity into potable water are some of the projects a group of young Emiratis hope to one day apply in the UAE.

The Young Future Energy Leaders visited one of the world’s largest chemical producers, Basf, in Germany this week to learn about the latest ground-breaking sustainable solutions.

“The world is shifting towards sustainability and clean, renewable energy,” said Hamad Al Khoori, a 25-year-old Emirati from Al Ain. “Everything I saw there, learning new processes and technologies in sustainability, might be available in the future in the UAE.”

The civil engineer, who works for Abu Dhabi Ports, discussed his findings with the company upon his return. He hopes many of the projects he witnessed will help serve the UAE in the future.

“They reuse by-products in a sustainable manner so almost nothing goes to waste. Oil is the main mechanism here in the UAE and it’s what we mainly depend on to create energy but it’s not very sustainable so using that can create clean energy here,” Mr Al Khoori said.

Another potential project included insulating heat or cool air in a building. “Small pellets are placed between the walls of a building to maintain its temperature so this can be used for air conditioning, in planes, boats and midrise towers,” he said. “We would use a lot less AC so it’s environmentally-friendly and cost effective.”

For Sarah Al Zarouni, a graduate in sustainable and renewable energy engineering from the University of Sharjah, leading the country in a more sustainable way is her goal.

“They have projects in oil refineries and water desalination done in a sustainable manner,” said the 22-year-old from Dubai. “It inspired some ideas of my own like a new way of using photovoltaics in different applications, not just to gain electricity, but also in a hybrid system to combine it with other elements, for example combining wind and solar energy with new technologies.”

The UAE uses photovoltaics through solar parks to generate electricity from sunlight. “I’ve learnt how to convert these ideas into reality,” Ms Al Zarouni said. “They also taught us to convert humidity into drinkable water. We have a lot of humidity here in the UAE so if that works, it would be great to have and we could add more twists and more resources to it and tie it with other technologies to improve it.”

She said citizens must become more aware of their surroundings and the environment. “They should care and take the next step by recycling, for instance,” she said. “Having it available means nothing if people don’t use it.”

Knowledge sharing with the sustainability leaders of tomorrow and finding solutions for pressing real-world problems by giving young people direct exposure to new technological trends is key for Basf.

“It provided us with an insight [to] how these extremely bright and ambitious young people work towards promoting a water-secure and sustainable energy future for the UAE,” said John Frijns, the company’s Vice President for the Middle East.

“They toured various site facilities, including one of the largest wastewater treatment plants in Europe and they received first-hand insights from Basf’s experts in water chemicals and ultrafiltration on how the company manages wastewater from [our] production process.”

The visit also included talks on insulation for greener buildings and chemical solutions for solar energy plants that enable the sun’s energy to make a sustainable contribution towards a low-carbon society.

“The Basf Ludwigshafen site is the world’s largest integrated chemical complexes,” Mr Frijns said. “It employs more than 39,000 people and uses resource-saving processes that make products that create value for customers and the environment”.