Qatar’s abundance of sun makes it the perfect location for solar energy development. A new solar research zone at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, part of QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University, is just one of several projects getting off the ground around the country, in an effort to promote sustainable energy.
Governments across the globe are increasingly focusing on the benefits of sustainable energy and Qatar is no different. As part of its national vision, the country is working to create harmony between environmental protection and economic growth.
To that end, projects like the one being undertaken at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), part of Qatar Foundation (QF) member Hamad Bin Khalifa University, are a step towards fulfilling that goal – reflecting the efforts of QF, which is this year marking its 25th anniversary, to develop solutions in the field of research, development, and innovation that can make a pivotal contribution to securing a sustainable future for Qatar.
Since mid-June, and continuing over a two-month period, Total’s Gas, Renewables & Power branch – and specifically its Paris-based T-lab – has expanded its solar research zone at QEERI’s Outdoor Test Facility. The extension, featuring three trackers, bifacial modules, inverters, sensors and power optimizers, looks to improve the performance of Total’s photovoltaic components in desert conditions. The zone will also monitor performance in real time and validate the results through simulation tools.
The project is part of not just Qatar’s vision, but Total’s increasing move into sustainable energy. The company aims to reach zero carbon emissions within their operations by 2050, and is therefore investing highly in low-carbon solutions.
In addition to the solar research zone at QEERI, Qatar recently signed an agreement with Total, alongside Japan’s Marubeni, to build a solar power plant that will be capable of producing 800 megawatts – meeting 10 percent of Qatar’s peak electricity demand.
Solar is different. It’s the cheapest source of energy in most countries. It’s disruptive. The global message is: solar is the way to go
“Total aims to develop and commercialize new low-carbon solutions to provide sustainable energy for the future,” says Yousef Al-Jaber, Vice President of Innovation & Change Management at Total Qatar and Acting Director of Total Research Center-Qatar, which is located in Qatar Foundation’s Qatar Science & Technology Park. “We therefore decided to push the boundaries of our innovative capabilities towards new limits.”
Total looked at key areas across the globe in order to find the right ecosystem to test, deploy and commercialize its cutting-edge solutions. The company ultimately found the perfect partner in QEERI, with the institute’s extreme desert conditions and commitment to sustainable energy research. Since 2013, QEERI has been dedicated to addressing the country’s energy and water security challenges.
Dr Marc Vermeersch, Executive Director of QEERI, says the new solar research zone is in line with what he worked towards during his nine years at Total. The trained physicist was instrumental in Total’s move into solar energy, and continues to promote sustainable energy at QEERI.
He says that solar photovoltaic energy conversion, which converts sunlight into electricity, is the most useful technology for the Middle East. Solar thermal energy – which harnesses sunlight to transform it into heat – is less appealing to desert environments, where solar irradiance is significantly different from other regions. Solar energy is also, according to Dr. Vermeersch, an inexpensive energy source.
This is clearly a region of strategic importance. They understand that wasting energy costs a lot of money and costs a lot in political capital in the climate change agenda
“If you look at more traditional gas turbines or electrical distribution, there are very significant operational costs,” says Dr. Vermeersch. “Solar is different. It’s the cheapest source of energy in most countries. It’s disruptive. The global message is: solar is the way to go.”
It’s a message that is becoming increasingly louder, especially as Qatar moves into the limelight as host of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. With a global focus on sustainable energy and Qatar’s exceptional sun exposure, experts believe the country can’t afford not to move towards solar energy innovations.
“It’s the right time,” says Marc-Antoine Eyl-Mazzega, the Director of the Center for Energy & Climate at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. “All stars are aligned for this type of project to take off.”
Choosing to work with France’s Total was also a natural choice for Qatar, which already shares a close relationship with France through political support, cultural ties and joint investments.
But while the Middle East has the most potential for solar deployment, due to its natural environment, installation capacities are moving at a slower rate than in Europe or the US. Countries like Qatar are quickly realizing that solar is the future, says Mr. Eyl-Mazzega, not just for environmental reasons but for economic and political ones as well.
“This is clearly a region of strategic importance,” says Eyl-Mazzega. “They understand that wasting energy costs a lot of money and costs a lot in political capital in the climate change agenda.”
Ultimately, the new solar research zone will benefit not just Qatar and the region, but similar climatic areas around the world.
Total’s solar testing facility at QEERI reduces carbon emissions, whilst supporting Qatar in developing leading-edge technologies and inspiring future engineers to work on more sustainable solutions.
“Total’s solar testing facility at QEERI reduces carbon emissions, whilst supporting Qatar in developing leading-edge technologies and inspiring future engineers to work on more sustainable solutions,” says Total’s Al Jaber. “This in turn creates a healthier environment for our future generations.”