Abu Dhabi project eyes breakthrough in energy-storage tech

Azelio’s storage device can be charged with thermal energy direct from solar or with electricity from PV or wind power, allowing for renewable power production at all hours of the day (Supplied)
Updated 11 November 2019

Abu Dhabi project eyes breakthrough in energy-storage tech

  • Sweden's Azelio has tied up with UAE's Masdar and Khalifa University for Science and Technology
  • Tests to determine if Azelio's storage solution can be included in renewable energy projects

ABU DHABI: One of the biggest challenges facing humanity as it grapples with global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is how to supply clean, renewable energy at a competitive cost where and when it is needed.

Fortunately, a renewable form of energy such as solar, which is generated only during the day, can now be converted into electricity non-stop. In theory, at least, this opens up the possibility of boundless energy for the 1.2 billion people living in societies along the Earth’s so-called sunshine belt.

Through efficient exploitation of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, coupled with state-of-the-art energy storage systems, many countries can not only power their everyday lives in a way that was impossible before, but can also reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

A small but significant step was taken recently in the Middle East when Azelio, a Swedish solar-energy company, entered into a partnership with the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) and Khalifa University of Science and Technology to run a pilot project evaluating new technology in power storage.

“The technology is important in order to have access to energy, which builds growth and wealth,” Azelio’s CEO, Jonas Eklind, said.


  • 1.2 BILLION - People in the world have no electricity
  • 2.4 BILLION - People connected to grid that fails to deliver sufficient energy
  • 27.3 GIGAWATTS - Saudi Arabia’s combined target of solar and wind energy by 2024
  • 40% - Percentage of Kingdom’s electricity produced by burning oil in 2016
  • 400 MEGAWATTS - Capacity of Dumat Al-Jandal, Saudi Arabia’s first and the Middle East’s biggest wind farm

“Without electricity, you cannot be part of the modern world. If you don’t have it and you wait for a centralized solution, you might wait 40 to 50 years. With our solution, you can have it next week.”

The Abu Dhabi unit aims to test and demonstrate Azelio’s Stirling engine systems and “integrated thermal energy storage” solution for projects that use solar energy and wind energy, or projects that provide off-grid solutions.

Testing will determine if the technology can be included in current as well as future renewable energy projects.

“What we are doing is a technology to store renewable energy in a wide sense, and it can be any type of renewable energy coming from any source,” Eklind said.

“We store a lot of energy and then convert that stored energy to electricity on demand. Consumers can then control when they want electricity.”

Azelio said that this “distributed base load” can be built in smaller-sized units close to consumers, which removes the need for a complex national grid system. The company also says that by adding an ingenious storage innovation to its Stirling engine, it makes electricity generated by a renewable source accessible at all hours of the day.

“It can be a local system that services, for instance, one factory, one village, one hotel or one desalination unit with whatever they need, 24 hours a day,” Eklind said. “We have worked with the technology for some years at more of a demonstration level and we have a unit in Sweden.

“We are also providing a reliable way forward for countless enterprises in remote locations around the world. Renewable electricity in its purest form is readily available exactly when it is needed. The opportunity for sustainable growth has never been greater.”

The Stirling engine efficiently converts thermal energy into mechanical movement to generate electricity. (Supplied)

Given that 1.2 billion people still have no electricity today and about 2.4 billion are connected to an electricity grid that cannot provide them with enough power, Azelio’s partnership with Masdar and Khalifa University of Science and Technology could not have been more timely.

“So for all these people, we could be a solution to give them a base load system instead of waiting 35 years for someone to build a national grid,” Eklind said.

As things stand, communities that are not connected to a stable grid are often forced to use generators, which entails burning diesel to generate electricity.

Azelio says that its system can replace a lot of the diesel burning, which benefits the climate and the environment. According to the company, the system is also less than half the price of conventional methods.

The company has installed a verification project of the technology for a state-owned firm in Morocco that is expected to be operating before the end of this year.

The Abu Dhabi unit will be Azelio’s second abroad. 

Yousef Baselaib, executive director of sustainable real estate at Masdar, said: “With Masdar City established as the natural home for innovation in sustainable urban development and clean technologies, we are delighted to be working with Azelio and Khalifa University to help validate the commercial feasibility of their project.”

The pilot will be installed at the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium site on the Masdar City campus of Khalifa University. Power generated from the project will be used to drive the air-conditioning for the project’s office and storage units.

“It’s general verification for the technology, but it is also special because Masdar wants to verify our technology to be a part of their projects. They build a lot of renewable energy projects and they need to have a source, especially in solar, which you don’t have at night,” Eklind said. “So we can essentially deliver solar energy in the middle of the night.”

Khalifa University will provide research support and expertise for the two testing periods, and the data collected by the researchers will be compared with findings from existing “dispatchable technologies.”

“As a research-intensive academic institution, Khalifa University offers one of the most suitable platforms for testing and demonstration of new technologies and solutions, especially in clean energy,” said Arif Sultan Al-Hammadi, executive vice president of the university.

Eklind said that even in the developed countries of northern Europe, electricity grids face challenges as a result of local electricity production with wind and solar.

Residents produce electricity with their own solar panels during the day, then use up the energy at night charging their cars, with no production during that period. “So they have a huge demand on electricity,” Eklind said, adding that the grid systems are not designed to cope with such types of fluctuation.

By contrast, Azelio’s technology builds stability and prepares the grid for new challenges, he said.

Referring to the partnership with Azelio, Al-Hammadi said: “Masdar Institute at Khalifa University will continue to serve as the research location for leading and cutting-edge scientific exploration in clean energy-related areas, including energy storage, biofuels, renewable energy mapping, advanced power and nuclear energy.

“As a research institute, it will continue to set fresh milestones while obtaining new solutions in clean energy and advanced sustainable technologies.”

Top Iraqi Shiite religious leader calls for new election law

Updated 8 min 5 sec ago

Top Iraqi Shiite religious leader calls for new election law

  • Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon
  • His comments came as protesters called for large protests to take place on Friday

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s most influential Shiite religious leader called Friday for a new election law that would restore public confidence in the system and give voters the opportunity to bring “new faces” to power.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon, saying none of their demands have been met so far and that electoral reform should be a priority.
His comments came as protesters called for large protests to take place on Friday after one protester was killed and over 40 were wounded in renewed clashes overnight in central Baghdad.
At least 320 people have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when protesters took to the streets in the tens of thousands outraged by what they said was widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services despite the country’s oil wealth.
The latest clashes broke out late Thursday in Baghdad’s Khilani Square, according to Iraqi medical and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The violence erupted hours after demonstrators celebrated Iraq’s 2-1 World Cup qualifier win over Iran.
Demonstrations have mostly been taking place in Baghdad’s Tahrir and Khilani squares and the predominantly Shiite southern provinces, following tough measures by Iraqi security forces to calm down on protests.
The powerful cleric, who’s opinion holds major sway over Iraqis, said a fair electoral law should give voters the ability to replace current political leaders with “new faces.”
“Passing a law that does not give such an opportunity to voters would be unacceptable and useless,” he said in his weekly sermon Friday.
“If those in power think they can evade dealing with real reform by procrastination, they are mistaken,” Al-Sistani said. “What comes after the protests is not the same as before, so be careful,” he warned.
He said corruption among the ruling elite has reached “unbearable limits” while large segments of the population are finding it increasingly impossible to have their basic needs met while top leaders “share the country’s wealth among themselves and disregard each other’s corruption.”
“People did not go out to demonstrations calling for reform in this unprecedented way, and do not continue to do so despite the heavy price and grave sacrifices it requires, except because they found no other way to revolt against the corruption which is getting worse day after day, and the rampant deterioration on all fronts,” he said.
On Monday, Al-Sistani said he backed a roadmap by the UN mission in Iraq aimed at meeting the demands of the protesters, but expressed concern that political parties were not serious about carrying out the proposed reforms.