Startup of the Week: NOMADD offers revolutionary solutions for the Saudi Arabia’s clean energy sector

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Updated 15 October 2019

Startup of the Week: NOMADD offers revolutionary solutions for the Saudi Arabia’s clean energy sector

  • The NOMADD robots are equipped with specially designed brushes with drive motors and sophisticated control systems

JEDDAH: NOMADD is a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) startup that aspires to contribute to the growing clean energy sector with its leading photovoltaics cleaning system based in Saudi Arabia.
According to Georg Eitelhuber, chief technical officer and cofounder of NOMADD, the company will enable more widespread use of solar photovoltaics in the country while conserving water resources and utilizing the full potential of solar energy.
NOMADD is a system designed, developed and tested in the Kingdom to suit local and regional conditions. “Wherever there is sun and wherever there is a desert, that is where NOMADD is and wills to be,” Eitelhuber told Arab News.
In desert climates, solar panels are often exposed to harsh weather conditions that may affect their function and require constant maintenance.
According to Eitelhuber, dust can prevent sunlight from reaching solar cells. Consequently, the panel may lose up to 60 percent of its capability to produce power during and after sandstorms.
Therefore, panels should be cleaned daily because if the dust is left for more than a day, dust particles from organics, dew, and sulfur adhere to the panels and damage them.
After extensive research, NOMADD founders concluded whatever they created to clean solar panels needed to be a waterless, automatic mechanical device. From those characteristics, they came up with the name NOMADD, which stands for: NO water, Mechanical Automated Dusting Device.
The name is also a tribute to nomadic peoples living in the desert. “In this part of the world, the very harsh environment makes moving through the desert constantly and regularly not easy, and the people who were able to do that for thousands of years are extremely tough. We believe that our product is part of that spirit of toughness in the desert,” said Eitelhuber.
The first idea of NOMADD goes back to 2010. “I was out in the field where they had a small solar area back then, and there was an official inauguration for this solar field … the panels were so dirty so we called the housekeeping department to come and clean them.”
Solar energy was still new in the region at that time. Eitelhuber found that no accurate solution had ever been thought about before. “I had the vision that there will be a large scale of solar panels in the Middle East, and it would be great to have a solution ready for it,” he said.
The NOMADD robots are equipped with specially designed brushes with drive motors and sophisticated control systems. The robots communicate wirelessly with a central hub that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, via any mobile device, which allows the client to monitor the robots and collect and analyze data.
NOMADD has six founders, and 15 people working full time for them worldwide, eight based at KAUST. The team is growing fast, and they hope to have 20 to 25 people by the end of the year.
Reliability of the product is everything for NOMADD’s team. Constant evaluation of the quality and expansion of the service is key to their success. Their biggest goal is to be recognized as the world’s leader in desert solar cleaning solutions.


Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year

Awareness campaigns highlight the importance of trees. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 February 2020

Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year

  • The fine for cutting down a tree can reach SR5,000 ($1,333) while the fine for transporting logs is SR10,000

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year through destruction and tree logging.
Trees help stop desertification because they are a stabilizer of soil. In the Arabian Peninsula, land threatened by desertification ranges from 70 to 90 percent. A national afforestation campaign was launched in Saudi Arabia last October, and there is a national plan set to run until this April.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said that although natural vegetation across the country had suffered in the past four decades, modern technologies such as satellites and drones could be used to track down individuals or businesses harming the Kingdom’s vegetation.
“Harsh penalties should be imposed on violators such as the seizure or confiscation of transport and hefty fines,” Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sugair, chairman of the Environmental Green Horizons Society, told Arab News.
These were long-term solutions and they needed coordination with authorities to ensure warehouses and markets did not stock logs or firewood, he said. Another solution was sourcing an alternative product from overseas that was of high quality and at a reasonable price. A third was to provide support to firewood and coal suppliers.
“The general public needs to be more aware of the importance of trees and should have a strong sense of responsibility toward these trees,” Al-Sugair added.
“They should also stop buying firewood in the market. We can also encourage investment in wood production through agricultural holdings as well as implement huge afforestation projects and irrigate them from treated sewage water.”
The fine for cutting down a tree can reach SR5,000 ($1,333) while the fine for transporting logs is SR10,000. These fines could not be implemented as they should be because there were no available staff to monitor and catch violators and, to make matters worse said Al-Sugair, there was a weak level of coordination between authorities.
Most of the Kingdom’s regions have suffered in some way from tree felling, and some places no longer have trees. These violations are rampant in the south and Madinah regions, as well as in Hail and Al-Nafud Desert.
Riyadh is the most active and the largest market for firewood. Many people in Al-Qassim use firewood as do restaurants in some parts of Saudi Arabia.
Omar Al-Nefaee, a microbiology professor at the Ministry of Education in Taif, said the reason behind the widescale destruction of the environment could be attributed to a supply shortage of imported firewood.
“Tree logging causes an environmental disequilibrium,” he told Arab News. “The Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Water has launched an initiative raising public awareness on the issue and is asking people not to use local firewood. Several awareness campaigns have been launched for the same purpose to educate people about the importance of using imported wood instead of the local wood in order to protect the Kingdom’s vegetation.”
Official reports warn that the Kingdom has lost 80 percent of its vegetation and that the drop will have a detrimental effect on its biodiversity, as well as causing great damage to the environment.
The general public should use other heating options during the winter and stop using firewood, Al-Nefaee said.
Some local studies have called for farms that can produce wood from plants that do not consume too much water and do not affect vegetation, while at the same time reducing the pressure on other regions in the Kingdom that are rich in animal resources.
Falih Aljuhani, who runs a business that imports wood from Georgia, encouraged Saudi firms to import wood from the Balkans because it was a competitive market and the trees had low carbon percentages.