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

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.


Japan’s households tighten purse strings as sales tax and typhoon hit

Updated 06 December 2019

Japan’s households tighten purse strings as sales tax and typhoon hit

  • Falls in factory output, jobs and retail add to fears of worsening slowdown after Tokyo unveils $122bn stimulus package

TOKYO: Japanese households cut their spending for the first time in almost a year in October as a sales tax hike prompted consumers to rein in expenses and natural disasters disrupted business.

Household spending dropped 5.1 percent in October from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday.

It is the first fall in household spending in 11 months and the biggest fall since March 2016 when spending fell by 5.3 percent. It was also weaker than the median forecast for a 3 percent decline.

That marked a sharp reversal from the 9.5 percent jump in September, the fastest growth on record as consumers rushed to buy goods before the Oct. 1 sales tax hike from 8 percent to 10 percent.

“Not only is the sales tax hike hurting consumer spending but impacts from the typhoon also accelerated the decline in the spending,” said Taro Saito, executive research fellow at NLI Research Institute.

“We expect the economy overall and consumer spending will contract in the current quarter and then moderately pick up January-March, but such recovery won't be strong enough.”

Household spending fell by 4.6 percent in April 2014 when Japan last raised the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent. It took more than a year for the sector to return to growth.

Compared with the previous month, household spending fell 11.5 percent in October, the fastest drop since April 2014, a faster decline than the median 9.8 percent forecast.

Analysts said a powerful typhoon in October, which lashed swathes of Japan with heavy rain, also played a factor in the downbeat data. Some shops and restaurants closed during the storm and consumers stayed home.

Separate data also showed the weak state of the economy.

The index of coincident economic indicators, which consists of a range of data including factory output, employment and retail sales data, fell a preliminary 5.6 points to 94.8 in October from the previous month, the lowest reading since February 2013, the Cabinet Office said on Friday.

It was also the fastest pace of decline since March 2011, according to the data.

Real wages adjusted for inflation, meanwhile, edged up for a second straight month in October, but the higher levy and weak global economy raise worries about the prospect for consumer spending and the overall economy.

While the government has sought to offset the hit to consumers through vouchers and tax breaks, there are fears the higher tax could hurt an economy already feeling the pinch from global pressures.

Japan unveiled a $122 billion fiscal package on Thursday to support stalling growth and as policymakers look to sustain activity beyond the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A recent spate of weak data, such as exports and factory output, have raised worries about the risk of a sharper-than-expected slowdown. The economy grew by an annualized 0.2 percent in the third quarter, the weakest pace in a year.

Analysts expect the economy to shrink in the current quarter due to the sales tax hike.