Solar ‘ponds’ energy could rival fossil fuels in UAE

A general view shows part of a new 15 million euro solar plant, funded by the German government, that emits some 12.9 megawatts during its official inauguration at the Zaatari refugee camp, in this November 13, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 21 November 2017
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Solar ‘ponds’ energy could rival fossil fuels in UAE

LONDON: The lagoons and salt flats around the UAE’s coastline could be used to generate a new source of clean energy for the country, according to new research carried out by the United Arab Emirates University.
The energy produced within so-called “solar ponds” could be a viable and far more environmentally-friendly alternative to liquefied natural gas and other fossil fuels, particularly for rural areas already rich in salt.
“Heat from solar ponds is expected to be competitive with the use of liquefied petroleum gas and electricity in rural areas,” said Dr. Samir Abu-Eishah, a professor of chemical engineering at the university in Al-Ain, who led the research.
The ponds would be used for the production of salt as well as the generation of thermal energy required in water desalination processes. “For the long-term, the technology makes use of renewable solar energy and is sustainable. The technology itself is environmentally-friendly and, if implemented, would serve as a sustainable energy source for the desalination of saline waters.”
According to Dr. Abu-Eishah’s study, the UAE’s coast has many highly salty lagoons surrounded by sabkhas or salt flats where salinity-gradient solar ponds (SGSP) could be created that would act as “heat sinks” due to their high concentration of salts trapping in solar radiation.
“The SGSP technology uses high-density saltwater to store thermal heat,” said Dr. Abu-Eishah in his paper. “The pond absorbs solar heat, but a portion of it is trapped within its ‘lower convective zone’, which has high salt concentration and density. This thermal energy can be harnessed at a later time for processes that require water temperatures between 50-90 degrees Celsius.”
The hot water could be used to drive low-temperature energy-generating turbines, which are used in salt production, water supply as well as in the dairy, grain, fruit and vegetable canning industries.
His research found that the prospect of developing this cleaner energy source is becoming “increasingly attractive” due to declining costs.
Abu-Eishah said that the ponds also help bring agricultural land considered too salt-heavy to be farmed or developed and brought back into use. “SGSP technology is expected to have several economically and environmentally advantageous returns for the UAE, with the most significant being environmentally-friendly renewable fuel,” he said.


Saudi Arabia real estate reform ‘on the right track,’ housing minister tells conference

Updated 13 min 10 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia real estate reform ‘on the right track,’ housing minister tells conference

  • Financial Sector Conference is designed to showcase Saudi Arabia’s finance industry to a world audience
  • The most eye-catching was a plan by the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s real estate finance sector — crucial to the ambition of a home-owning economy under the Vision 2030 strategy — is maturing rapidly, a high-profile event in Riyadh heard on Wednesday.
“We’re on the right track,” housing minister Majid Al-Hogail told attendees on the first day of the Financial Sector Conference, designed to showcase Saudi Arabia’s finance industry to a world audience.
His comments came as financial institutions in the Kingdom announced a raft of measures to encourage more home ownership.
The most eye-catching was a plan by the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC) — owned by the Public Investment Fund — to issue up to SR3.75 billion ($1 billion) worth of sukuk, or Islamic bonds, this year to finance home ownership plans.
Fabrice Susini, chief executive of the company, said SRC had spent SR1.2 billion buying mortgages from local mortgage finance companies and adding liquidity to these firms. SRC is often compared to US home finance group Fannie Mae.
Reform of the financial infrastructure of the property market is regarded as crucial to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plans, to ensure an ownership rate of 70 percent in the privately owned housing market by 2030.
In a panel entitled “Mortgages: Bolstering Industry Appetite,” Al-Hogail spoke of the unique position Saudi Arabia has in the housing market, highlighting the relevance of a database established by the Ministry of Housing to give a better and deeper understanding of the market. The diverse nature of the market presents its own challenges, he said.
“Every city has its own different set of challenges and we can’t generalize. With the establishment of the database, it provides the ministry with a better future outlook through more detailed information, obtained through various means — whether it were through the Electric Company, through the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, or through the General Authority for Statistics and their surveys.”
“Over 16 government agencies support the housing sector to achieve Saudi Vision objectives, to increase property ownership among Saudis to 70 percent by 2030,” he said.
An official report for the first quarter of 2019 revealed that the finance market reached SR5.6 billion last March. Some 12,800 citizens received loans, and 85 percent were subsidised.
Saudi Arabia last year announced plans to boost the size of the mortgage market to SR502 billion by 2020 as part of a comprehensive plan to provide housing finance to its citizens, facilitating a balanced and sustainable housing environment through the establishment and development programs.
In other deals, Bidaya Home Finance announced three initiatives to enhance the Saudi market. Its first initiative involved the sale of Bidaya’s mortgage portfolio to SRC, valued at SR500 million over a period of six months. SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview. “Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said.
“We are really looking at probably issuing something between SR2 to 4 billion that we may be issuing in two tranches.”
He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10- to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said. He added that the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the Saudi riyal.
In March, SRC completed a SR750 million sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to SR11 billion of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.