DOHA, Qatar – The desert in Qatar extends on the right of the massive natural gas plant towards Mesaieed along massive sand dunes, reaching the sea border with Saudi Arabia.
“Here we have high temperatures, high humidity, high salinity, high level of dust, we have high UV so if we are able to make or develop technologies and knowledge that address all the different challenges in environmental conditions can work outside,” Veronica Bermudez, from the Qatar Environment & Energy Research Institute (QEERI) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) and an expert in sustainable energy research, technology and innovation told New Europe on the sidelines of the ICSEWEN19 conference in Doha on 3 December.
QEERI organised on December 2-5 a specialised conference to address the challenges and opportunities in the Energy-Water-Environment (EWE) nexus, in particular the research and technology development requirements for EWE nexus in harsh desert climates.
“In this conference we are exploring the challenges and opportunities in the energy, water environment nexus but is specifically for the desert environments,” said Bermudez, who is also the conference chair.
She called for taking the energy, water and environment nexus into account to develop new technologies, stressing that desert environment will be important in research.
“Because for us it makes sense as a research institute in Qatar, we are research institute for these three topics in Qatar, it makes sense for the region but when you look globally in the earth you see that 43% of the emerged surface is in arid regions so it really makes sense because for example, my background is in energy and I have been working in Europe, in Japan, most of the technologies that have been developed for the so-called mild weathers do not work here. They have difficulties. There is something always that makes them failing before that perspective,” she said.
“We are lucky to be here in Qatar because here we have all the bad conditions for weather, for energy, for electronic appliance, for water. We have not bad but not so good quality so everything is here so things that work in Japan and Europe do not work here but things that work here will work outside,” Bermudez said.
“We’re looking mainly for renewable energy and Qatar is a country with a lot of natural resources. It is one of the three top exporters in LNG (liquified natural gas). We’re looking how to balance also that because in the end the economy of the country there is an interest to go towards diversification so we can help in this field while we are helping to move towards renewable energy, to utilise the resources that we are not using to produce electricity,” she said.
According to Bermudez, the top renewable source in Qatar is solar PV. However, despite the ample sunlight, the aerosol in the atmosphere and dust diffuse the light so the quality is not good for solar concentrated and thermal solar. “However, solar PV is one of the best,” she said.
Alberto Troccoli, managing director of World Energy & Meteorology Council at the School of Environmental Studies at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK told New Europe on 5 December in Doha that there is higher turbidity in Qatar than many other places. “The main resource is solar and solar PV and the when you look at that resource it is very good but it’s actually attenuated by the aerosols in the air because there is a lot of desert dust and it depends on the season. Normally there is more in the summer because on top of the normal sand that you see also here, you never see a clear sky here basically and in winter you get more desert dust that accentuates the sun but in summer you also have the evaporation from the sea and the sea salt and that accentuates the sun. It’s quite large percentage of the sun that would normally come down and in addition to that because of the aerosol and dust you have a lot of deposition on the solar panels and all the instruments so if you want to make measurements,” he said. “For example, in a normal climate you have to clean the instrument one time a week. Here you have to do it three times a week because there is a lot more dust and the same for the panels.”
According to Troccoli, but even with PV you even have harsh conditions and on top of the dust, high temperatures in the summer. “They operate in higher temperatures than normal so efficiency goes down, that’s normal, but because there are very hot and not very vendilated they last less than in other conditions,” he said.
Turning to energy efficiency and conservation, Bermudez reminded that in Qatar, where the temperatures in the summer sometimes climb well above 50 degrees with high level of humidity, more than 60 percent of the electricity goes to AC. “So, there is a very big interest in going through energy efficiency and standards for buildings without decreasing the level of comfort of the society so it is a very good testbed and also due the fact that Qatar is small is also like a live laboratory a live life test,” the QEERI energy expert said.
Regarding the ongoing Climate Conference COP25 in Madrid on December 2-13, Bermudez acknowledged that there are so much interests that makes it difficult to have consensus. “But what is clear is that the awareness of the society may be an important trigger to make this consensus happen because even if some politicians in the US or Australia and others do not really want to commit, do not really really be on board, to make it happen, their societies are also building together to make them change their position so I think this is a good moment with the societal awareness to make this happen,” she said.
Back in the desert at the Regency Sealine Camp, near the sea coast, the temperature in the winter is very pleasant and the campfire creates a cozy atmosphere in the center of the camp. But in the summer, the extremely high temperatures create a harsh environment, highlighting the need for a sustainable energy, water environment.