June 29, 2009 By Blake Harris
The "city of the future," as it is described by Abu Dhabi officials, is currently planned as the cornerstone of a global cooperative effort to develop or improve sustainable technologies.
The new city of Masdar is to be constructed on an area of approximately 6 square kilometres, located about 30 kilometres east of the capital Abu Dhabi. It is designed to support a population of about 50,000. The plan is that it will be a carbon-neutral city entirely powered by renewable energy. Using systematic recycling techniques it is to be nearly waste-free and will have significantly reduced water consumption. And thanks to an underground transportation system, it is to have car-free streets.
But this initiative is just the beginning as far as the country's leadership is concerned. According to their web site, the Masdar initiative is to become a global cooperative platform to aid in the search for solutions to some of mankind's most pressing issues: energy security, climate change and the development of human expertise in sustainability. The goal is the establishment of an entirely new economic sector in Abu Dhabi around these new industries, which will assist economic diversification and the development of knowledge-based industries in that country.
To achieve this, however, the company behind the project, the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, is developing partnerships with some of the world's leading research institutions. The latest news is that researchers from the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the largest European institution for applied research, are now adding their expertise in the development of new technologies for Masdar. On June 21, 2009, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, representing the Masdar City Project, signed a cooperative agreement for a strategic partnership.
Over the long term the goal, according to a press statement, is to establish a close cooperation in the field of sustainable urban development and building planning. Participating in the cooperation are the Fraunhofer Institutes for Industrial Engineering IAO and for Building Physics IBP as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.
"Coupling applied research with sustainability is one of the strengths of our Institutes," says Prof. Hans-Jörg Bullinger, president of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, in the statement. "Therefore it is of great mutual interest to bring Fraunhofer into the unique, future-oriented project of the eco-city Masdar. This cooperation represents a milestone in the development of sustainable solutions for meeting the global challenges."
"Our mission is to accelerate innovation in clean and renewable technologies and make these available and affordable on a global scale", added Masdar CEO Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. "We believe global collaboration is essential to achieving this mission and our partnerships with MIT, DLR, Imperial College and the Tokyo Institute of Technology are proof of this. The collaboration with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft will also ensure Masdar plays a key role in the development of Abu Dhabi's renewable energy sector; driving continual innovation and commercialization of clean and sustainable energy technologies."
Presently Fraunhofer ISE is working on its first projects with Masdar in the field of solar climatisation as well as solar-thermal process heating. Three spin-off companies of ISE, Mirroxx, Concentrix Solar and Solar Spring, have already established contacts in Masdar.
Solar energy with its wide variety of application fields is a central focus of the cooperation. Similar importance will be placed on sustainable technologies such as energy efficient buildings, sustainable natural resources, desalination technologies, intelligent electricity supply concepts, electro-mobility, simulations of architecture and engineering and sustainable behavior.
Also, design projects based on virtual reality are planned. The idea is that planners, users and visitors could collectively plan and experience a zero-carbon city even before it is built using the virtual reality software developed by IAO.
"To initiate rapid change from our present energy supply system to one based on renewable energies, we need ambitious examples," said Prof. Eicke R. Weber, Institute Director of ISE, who, as the representative for the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, signed the Memorandum of Understanding. "The construction of a world-wide exemplary concept for sustainable urban planning within this initiative will have global impact, and we are looking forward to make a substantial contribution to this project."