Global Center of Future Energy – MASDAR CITY

One of the most sustainable communities on the planet, Masdar City is an emerging cleantech cluster that offers a creative and entrepreneurial atmosphere for businesses can thrive and  innovation can flourish, in part because the city itself seves as a model of what green ubarn development can be. This is especially the case because Masdar City is being designed and operated to be provide the highest quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint – all in a manner that is commercially viable.

In short, Masdar City is an emerging global hub for renewable energy and clean technologies that position companies located here at the heart of this global industry.

A place where businesses can thrive and innovation can flourish, Masdar City is a modern Arabian city that, like its forerunners, is in tune with its surroundings. As such, it is a model for sustainable urban development regionally and globally, seeking to be a commercially viable development that delivers the highest quality living and working environment with the lowest possible ecological footprint.

View of the facade at Masdar Institue, Masdar City It is a community where cutting-edge cleantech research and development, pilot projects, technology testing, and construction on some of the world’s most sustainable buildings are all ongoing. As such, Masdar City offers a fertile environment that inspires creativity and growth to organisations operating in this strategic and dynamic sector.

As an emerging hub and a magnet for talent, financial capital and entrepreneurship in the fast-evolving renewable energy and cleantech industry, Masdar City provides a unique competitive advantage to companies, other organisations and ancillary service providers operating in, and serving this sector.

As an industry cluster, the city creates a dynamic, vibrant, international and entrepreneurial community that offers numerous benefits, including potential access to capital, a critical mass of sector knowledge, a large pool of high-quality talent, and a launching point into local, regional and international markets.

Significantly, Masdar City serves as an open technology platform that gives partner companies an unmatched opportunity to develop, test and validate their technologies in a large scale, real-world environment – and in particular, with consideration to the region’s climate conditions and consumption patterns.

Established in 2006, Masdar is a commercially driven enterprise that operates to reach the broad boundaries of the renewable energy and sustainable technologies industry – thereby giving it the necessary scope to meet these challenges.

Masdar operates through five integrated units, including an independent, research-driven graduate university, and seeks to become a leader in making renewable energy a real, viable business and Abu Dhabi a global centre of excellence in the renewable energy and clean technology category. The result is an organisation greater than the sum of its parts and one where the synergies of shared knowledge and technological advancement provide this commercial and results-driven company with a competitive advantage that includes an ability to move with agility and intelligence within an industry that is evolving at great speed.

This holistic approach keeps Masdar at the forefront of this important global industry, while ensuring it remains grounded in the pursuit of pioneering technologies and systems that also are feasible. As a result, it delivers innovation to the market while deriving profits for its shareholders.

Masdar is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Government-owned Mubadala Development Company, a catalyst for the economic diversification of the Emirate.

Why Future Energy?

Abu Dhabi is home to 8% of proven global crude oil reserves, while the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company is one of the 10 largest oil companies in the world; what’s more, the Emirate has enough hydrocarbon reserves at current production levels to last 100 years. So why has the leadership of this Emirate, which is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, committed billions of dollars to developing Masdar and establishing Abu Dhabi as a global centre of excellence in renewable energy and clean technologies?

For the Planet: With a heritage tied to life in the harsh and unforgiving desert, Abu Dhabi’s leadership well understands the lessons of traditional desert living, where sustainable practices and resource conservation are not just slogans, but are essential to survival in such surroundings. That’s why the emirate’s leadership understands the tremendous challenges posed by climate change, environmental degradation and the need to find sustainable energy sources.

For Abu Dhabi’s Future: Abu Dhabi has traditionally played a leading role in global energy markets as a significant hydrocarbon producer. Through Masdar, it seeks to leverage its substantial resources and experience in this sector to maintain its leadership position in an evolving world energy market that is increasingly looking to renewable energy. Through Masdar, Abu Dhabi aspires to be an international hub for renewable energy, new energy and sustainable technologies, thereby balancing its already strong hydrocarbon position.

This leadership is expressed in other ways as well. While Abu Dhabi has always been known as a global energy player, through Masdar, it is demonstrating what a responsible oil producer can do to help create a balance between hydrocarbons and renewable energy in addressing both climate change and energy security.

For Abu Dhabi’s People: Abu Dhabi has embarked on a two-decade programme to transform its economy from one based on natural resources to one based on knowledge, innovation and the export of cutting-edge technologies. Guiding this transformation is a document called the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, which provides a comprehensive plan, including the steps to be taken to transform the emirate’s economy over the next two decades.

Key goals include increasing the non-oil share of the economy from approximately 40% to more than 60% and significantly diversifying the scope of economic activity to include priority sectors such as education, banking & finance, tourism, pharmaceuticals, media, aviation & aerospace, transportation & logistics, and manufacturing in areas such as aluminum and petrochemicals. It also puts a strong emphasis on value-added knowledge-based industries, such as renewable energy and sustainable technologies.

Masdar will contribute significantly to this diversification in a number of ways. Across its five integrated units, the company will help:

  • Expand the export base.
  • Encourage private-sector entrepreneurship.
  • Invest in education and research that stimulates innovation.
  • Train, attract and retain skilled workers in knowledge-based sectors.
  • Encourage investment in areas that generate intellectual property gains.
  • Grow the non-oil sector’s share of the emirate’s economy and decouple economic growth from fluctuating oil prices.

Successfully incorporating sustainable planning and development into how cities and towns operate is a crucial part of the global response to climate change and improving energy security.

This is because more than half the world’s population now lives in cities, a percentage that is expected to rise to 70% by 2030, and because cities today are responsible for over 70% of global CO2 emissions.

But, only if sustainability is economically feasible will enough communities be able to implement the technologies and systems, and do so on a big enough scale to achieve meaningful progress in this realm.

That’s why Masdar City is not only committed to building one of the most sustainable cities in the world, and one that is an attractive place to live, but also to achieving this in a commercially viable manner.

From our experience planning, designing, developing and operating a sustainable city, achieved by deploying the latest commercially viable technologies, and integrating them in systems that deliver further cost and resource savings – we know how to deliver sustainability in a way that makes sense financially.

Creating any sustainable urban development or re-development requires a unique focus across all areas of design, development and operation. Five of the most important are: planning and design, power, water, transport and supply chain.

Every aspect of the city’s urban planning, engineering and architecture is approached with sustainability in mind. More specifically, planning seeks to facilitate reductions in demand of electricity, water and other resources.

Planners recognised that the biggest environmental gains come from some of the most passive, and least expensive, tools: the city’s (and buildings’) orientation (with regards to the sun and prevailing winds) and its form. Next most effective is building performance optimisation, such as an efficient envelope and systems, and smart building management. Active controls, such as renewable energy, are the most expensive, while offering the lowest relative environment-impact returns. That’s why designers first concentrated on orientation and performance optimisation, thereby reducing a large amount of energy demand with little cost, and only subsequently looked at what active controls could be implemented.

Demand Side

Masdar City minimises energy consumption by deploying the best commercially available international energy-efficient techniques and setting stringent building efficiency guidelines in areas such as insulation, low-energy lighting specifications, the percentage of glazing (i.e., windows), optimising natural light, and installing smart appliances, smart metres, smart building management systems, an integrated distribution management system, and a citywide energy management system that interacts to manage the electrical load on the grid – all along the system, from the utility to the consumer.

Supply Side

Currently, the city is fully powered by onsite renewable energy. As the city grows, however, this will change, with a medium-term target of at least 20% of energy supply coming from onsite renewable sources. The remaining power will be sourced from offsite renewable sources. There are several renewable energy projects under construction or in earlier stages of development in the UAE that will provide potential clean-energy sources for the city.

In addition to photovoltaic electricity generation, the sun’s energy is being tapped via evacuated tube solar collectors to provide domestic hot water. Furthermore, concentrated solar and geothermal heat to run single- and double-effect absorption chillers are currently being tested as possible air-conditioning solutions for the city.

A 10MW solar photovoltaic plant is already operational within Masdar City, the largest such solar plant in the Middle East. It powers the first Masdar Institute buildings, the temporary Masdar administration buildings and many ongoing construction activities on site. Built across 22 hectares by Abu Dhabi-based Enviromena, the plant was connected to the Abu Dhabi power grid in April 2009 and consists of 50% thin film photovoltaic modules and 50% polycrystalline photovoltaic modules.

Onsite solar power also is provided by a 1MW solar photovoltaic plant located on the roofs of the first Masdar Institute buildings and which is providing 30% of the buildings’ overall energy requirements.

Masdar City’s water needs are less than half that of Business as usual (BAU). In phase 1 it is targeting 180Ltr/person/day, well below the 550Ltr/p/d BAU. The city’s target will be progressively lowered, to an ultimate goal at full-build out that is 40% below the phase 1 target. However, this does not include required water for district cooling, which could double the amount of water required by the city.

To achieve these lower consumption figures, the city is using a broad array of water-use reduction technologies and systems. Highly efficient fittings, fixtures and appliances, smart water metres that inform consumers of their consumption, and smart metres to identify leakage across the system are already in use. As the city pursues more ambitious consumption targets, additional strategies will be implemented, including a water tariff to promote further water efficiencies.

As well, treated wastewater is 100% recycled for use in landscaping, which has achieved a 60% reduction in water usage per square metre over BAU, through a variety of strategies, including highly efficient micro-irrigation, landscaping design that minimises plant evapotranspiration, and low-water-use and indigenous plants and trees.

In answering one of the overriding priorities of Masdar City’s master plan – to be a pedestrian focused community – a rich network of public and personal transportation will ensure it is easy to move across the city in comfort and ease. As a result, walking and self propelled transport will be the most convenient forms of transportation to many destination within the city, as well as the most pleasant. This is the result of planner’s focus on creating extensive shading sidewalks and pathways throughout the city.

In addition, a public transport system of electric buses, electric cars, and other clean-energy vehicles will provide transport within the city, while Abu Dhabi’s light rail and Metro lines will pass through the centre of Masdar City, providing transport within the city and serving as a link to the wider metropolitan area. Most private vehicles will be kept at the city’s edge in parking lots that will be linked by public transportation to the rest of the city.

In its search for appropriate and sustainable transportation solutions, Masdar City is piloting a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) and Freight Rapid Transit (FRT) system of electric-powered, automated, single-cabin vehicles that offer the privacy, comfort and non-stop travel of a taxi service, and the reliability and sustainability of a public transport system.

Masdar City also has initiated an electric car pilot with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to test. a point-to-point transportation solution for the city that uses Mitsubishi Motor’s i-MiEV, five-door hatchbacks.

Substantially reducing the embodied carbon of the built environment is largely achieved through a rigorous green supply chain. Through a detailed product evaluation process that includes environmental, economic (including cost and quality) and social considerations, Masdar City is reducing the overall economic impact of the materials used in the city.

As well, the city’s supply chain team works with local and international suppliers to develop materials that are more sustainable and that also deliver higher performance than business as usual. This includes concrete that uses ground granulated blasted slag (an industrial waste) to replace cement, for substantial reduction in its carbon content, while delivering performance and strength that are higher than conventional concrete. As well, a high-recycled content aluminium developed in partnership with Masdar City was tested and achieved performance levels that exceeded international standards.

Examples of the supply chain outcomes in the six existing buildings of Masdar City include:

  • 100% sustainably sourced timber
  • 90% recycled-content aluminium used for the inner façade
  • Green concrete that used ground granulated blasted slag to replace cement, resulting in a reduction of the concrete carbon footprint by 30-40% of CO2
  • Water-based paints that have no volatile organic compound, which harm human health
  • Reinforcing bars made of 100% recycled steel.


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