Tag Archives: Dubai

UAE unveils plans for new city on Mars, to be built in 2117

The United Arab Emirates have their eyes set on colonizing Mars, too. This Tuesday at the World Government Summit in Dubai, UAE engineers presented a Chicago-sized concept city for the representatives of 138 governments to explore — the real thing, they say, will be built on the red planet by 2117.

This pod will enclose the whole city.

Just forty years ago, Dubai was a tiny pearl-fishing village nestled on the Persian Gulf’s coast. Today it’s one of the most modern cities in the world, adorning the coast with its man-made palm islands. Now they got their sights on making an even better “mini-city and community” — on Mars.

While most of us are still holding our jaws from falling, Dubai’s ruler and vice president of the UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is confident that the project will be a success.

A computer generated image of the city’s proposed look inside the pod.

“Human ambitions have no limits, and whoever looks into the scientific breakthroughs in the current century believes that human abilities can realize the most important human dream,” said Al Maktoum in a statement.

“We aspire to great things, so my brother Mohammed bin Zayed [first president of the UAE and crown prince of Abu Dhabi] and I today decided the UAE will join the global effort to send humans to Mars.”

Setting up a city anywhere is a daunting task. Setting the first one on another planet requires nothing short of a monumental effort. Still, by spreading the work over one hundred years, the UAE have a lot of wiggle room in how they go about the task. The Mars 2117 “is a long-term project,” Al Maktoum said, adding that the first step is to create a strong culture of space travel in the Emirates’ younger generation — Universities all over the country are setting up special programs in space sciences and space exploration.

The proposed plan for the new Martian city.

A specialized Emirati scientific team will handle the project, which Al Maktoum says will expand to include international scientists. The team will be tasked with developing faster means of transportation to and from Mars as well as colonial development — the first goal is to make the colony food and energy self-sufficient.

Some participants of the summit have expressed concern that this mission betrays the UAE’s anxiety to untie their economy from the oil and gas sector — which were hit hard by the recent price drops. But with other proposed Mars colonization missions getting a lot of criticism for their too ambitious goals and limited time-frames, UAE seems to have found a unique niche. This distant goal should give the UAE time to carefully prepare the operations and overcome any difficulties that arise. Still, the sheer length of the mission makes it hard to predict whether it will be successful or not — a lot of things can happen in a century.

Another CGI of the pod’s interior.

Dubai to start building world’s biggest concentrated solar power plant

Dubai loves to take things to the superlative, and the city isn’t toying around this time either. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) just revealed plans to build a massive solar power concentrated array that would generate a whopping 1,000 megawatts (MW) – almost twice as much as the current record holder, the Noor-Ouarzazate complex in Morocco.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority recently announced their plan for a massive 1,000-megawatt concentrated solar power plant. Image via Dubai Electricity and Water Authority Facebook.

Dubai, like most of the country, was built on oil money, but the city wants to claw (or buy) its way to the renewable market as well, tapping into another resource they have plenty of – the Sun. The first stage of the concentrated solar power (CSP) plant aims to produce 200 MW in April 2021, the Dubai Water and Electricity Authority said.

“This project is going to be the biggest CSP plant worldwide,” said DEWA chief Saeed al-Tayer.

Concentrated solar systems generate solar power by using mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight, or solar thermal energy, onto a small area. The solar energy then creates steam which in turn generates electricity, unlike photovoltaic solar panels which generate electricity directly. Concentrated solar arrays have a few advantages over photovoltaics, the most significant one being that energy can be stored in the form of heat, and therefore the system can also generate electricity during the night, way after the sun has gone down.

We still don’t have all the information about the design of this ambitious project, but Al Tayer said that there will be “several thousand” heliostats to reflect radiation to a tower.

Unlike their other oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi, Dubai has a dwindling reserve of crude oil so they are trying to diversify their assets as soon as possible. Dubai has been taking significant steps to green up their energy supply. The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 aims to generate 75% of energy through clean, renewable sources. The intermediate goal is to provide energy from 61 percent natural gas, 25 percent solar power, 7 percent “clean coal,” and 7 percent nuclear power by 2030.

The price of solar keeps falling, Dubai received the lowest ever asking bid for energy

A few days ago, India’s Energy Minister Piyush Goyal announced that solar energy became cheaper to produce than coal-powered, costing roughly 6 US cents/kWh. Now, it’s become even cheaper: the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) received the lowest ever asking price for solar energy, at 2.9 cents/kWh.

Image via flickr user the_dead_pixel

Image via flickr user the_dead_pixel

“Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has received 5 bids from international organisations for the third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park,” said HE Saeed Mohammed AlTayer, MD & CEO of DEWA. “The lowest recorded bid at the opening of the envelopes was US 2.99 cents per kilowatt hour. The next step in the bidding process will review the technical and commercial aspects of the bids to select the best one.”

In the U.S., utility-scale solar projects churned out energy for an average price of US$ 0.05/kWh, factoring in subsidies and incentives, in 2014. Since then, there has been a huge drop in production costs: in 2015, Dubai signed a deal for a fixed US$ 0.058/kWh over 25 years. Austin, Texas, saw a total of almost 1,300 MW of energy in bids of under US$ 0.04/kWh last summer, and this month Enel Green agreed to sell power to Mexico and Morroco at US$ 0.036 and US$ 0.03 per kilowatt-hour respectively. In under sixteen months, the price of solar has dropped down to half — even lower when you consider that these bids aren’t subsidized.

Image via energy.gov.

Image via energy.gov.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy reported that in November 2015, four years into the decade-long SunShot Initiative, the solar industry is about 70% of the way to achieving the target cost of US$ 0.06/kWh for utility-scale PV (based on 2010 baseline figures.) A cost target that will make solar-generated power be fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources, they believe.

Now, a consortium led by Abdul Latif Jameel of Saudi Arabia, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) of Spain, and Masdar of the UAE said they could produce solar energy at an even lower price of US$ 0.029 cents/kWh unsubsidized — the lowest asking price for solar in the world.

“The consortium’s 2.99$c/kWh bid is 18% lower than the 3.65$c/kWh bid submitted by JinkoSolar of China, and also drastically undercut the 3.95$c/kWh tariff submitted by an Acwa Power-First Solar consortium,” writes Ian Clover of PV-Magazine. “The two other bids were for 4.382$c/kWh – submitted by U.K./French firm Engie ad Japan’S Marubeni – and 4.482$c/kWh, submitted by a consortium comprised of France’s EDF and Qatar’s Nebras.”

As the biggest expense for solar power plants is the initial construction costs, some speculate that Masdar had access to financing through the wealthy emirate of Abu Dhabi that commercial banks, the primary source of capital for his competitors, couldn’t match in cost. Dr. Moritz Borgmann, a partner at clean energy advisory company Apricum, believes that Jinko Solar, whose bid stood at $0.0365/kWh, and Acwa Power, at US$0.0395/kWh, were more realistic in their bids.

[button url=”http://understandsolar.com/signup/?lead_source=zmescience&tracking_code=dubai_solar” postid=”” style=”btn-success” size=”btn-lg” target=”_blank” fullwidth=”true”]Find out how much solar energy costs in your area[/button]

Even so, that’s a massive drop in price. And although Dubai is probably the sunniest place I can think of right now, we can expect solar to get cheaper, across the board, as time goes by; Ramez Naam, author of “How Cheap can Solar Get?” said:

“If solar electricity continues its current learning rate, by the time solar capacity triples to 600GW (by 2020 or 2021, as a rough estimate), we should see unsubsidized solar prices of roughly 4.5 c / kwh for very sunny places (the US southwest, the Middle East, Australia, parts of India, parts of Latin America), ranging up to 6.5 c / kwh for more moderately sunny areas (almost all of India, large swaths of the US and China, southern and central Europe, almost all of Latin America).”

“And beyond that, by the time solar scale has doubled 4 more times, to the equivalent of 16% of today’s electricity demand (and somewhat less of future demand), we should see solar at 3 cents per kwh in the sunniest areas, and 4.5 cents per kwh in moderately sunny areas.”

jetpack flight dubai

Just two guys casually jetpacking over DUBAI

jetpack flight dubai

Yves Rossy and Vince Reffet look like out of the Jetsons in this epic video where they use jetpacks in a synchronized flight. Rossy is a pilot with more than 10,000 hours worth of flights and the lead designer and inventor behind the jetpack he and Reffet used in this powerful demo shot right above Dubai’s glorious skyline. The jetpack seems really sturdy and able to propel the pilots with agility and grace. To use them, however, the two had to jump off a helicopter. Despite this, the jetpacks can be used to gain altitude and sustains the flight from 6 to 13 minutes at speeds between 180 and 300 km/h, depending on how hard they go.

Out of this world, right? Well, you might be surprised to know that for $100,000 you could have your own jetpack. A few years ago, Martin Aircraft Co.  tested one of its jetpack model to a whooping altitude of  5,000 feet above Canterbury, New Zealand.

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Dubai plans to build an entire city under a glass dome


The Simpsons Movie’s plot starts off with Homer adopting a messy piglet he names “Spider Pig”.  The pig, helped a great deal by Homer, made enough waste to fill a silo in just two days, so how does Homer decide to solve this problem? Naturally, being Homer (doh!), he throws away the silo into the lake, causing an environmental disaster in the process. Left with no choice by the EPA,  Arnold Schwarzenegger decides the best course of action is to put a dome over Springfield. Like the Simpsons’ Schwarzenegger, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum thought it’s a good idea to close a whole city inside a glass dome. The only difference is that we’re dealing with reality, instead of fiction this time!

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Appropriately called Mall of the World, the city will cover an area of 48 million square feet and will set new records for various large behemoth structures: the largest indoor theme park in the world (the one actually covered by the dome), the largest mall (8 million sq. ft.), along with 20,000 hotel rooms catering to all types of tourists, and a cultural district with theaters built around New York’s Broadway, Ramblas Street in Barcelona, and London’s Oxford Street. If you ever had any doubt that Dubai has a thing for the ‘big’, here you go…

Take that, Lord of the Rings! Illustration: Dubai Holding

Take that, Lord of the Rings! Illustration: Dubai Holding

The seven-kilometer-long promenades connecting the facilities will also be covered and air-conditioned during summer. The Mall of the World will also come complete with a dedicated 3 million sq. ft. wellness zone catering to medical tourists.

“It will offer a holistic experience to medical tourists and their families, ensuring access to quality healthcare, specialized surgical procedures and cosmetic treatments, wellness facilities, and high-end hospitality options”, according to a Dubai Holding statement.

What’s it all about?

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Illustration: Dubai Holding

It’s not only about satisfying a huge ego — don’t get me wrong, it’s about that too. Dubai natives, the upper class at least, have become filthy rich as a result of their deals with big oil corporations that paid them big cash in royalties in return for permission to drill the sands like there’s no tomorrow. The UAE isn’t stupid though. The government knows that the oil will run out eventually, so they’re massively shifting their eggs into more baskets since apart from oil the country doesn’t really have any commodity it can trade – unless you can count sound.

Illustration: Dubai Holding

Illustration: Dubai Holding

So, the Sheikh and cohort have been starting to invest their (big) money in alternative means of income. One is high technology (they’re planning on building the most well-equipped and leading university in the world), and the other is tourism. The latter is where the Mall of the World fits in, as its investors hope on garnering 180 million visitors annually, joining a synthetic oasis that already is filled with the tallest skyscrapers and biggest shopping malls in the world.

While the entire project is estimated to take a period of at least 10 years to complete, the 8 million square foot mall will be ready in approximately three years. Meanwhile, though, the World Bank is already breathing up the Sheikh’s neck, reminding him of the 2009 debt crisis, snowballed exactly by a situation like this – a real estate bubble.

Kingdom Tower Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower: the world’s soon to be tallest building [amazing photos]

UAE might harbor in its Dubai oasis the world’s current tallest building, its Burj tower, but neighboring Saudi Arabia isn’t keen on showing that it has a smaller ego and is planning on building the world’s tallest building in the world – the Kingdom Tower.

Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture

They don’t intend on adding a few more feet to the top either – the Kingdom Tower will extend one mile upwards; almost twice the height of Dubai’s tallest. Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, head of Kingdom Holding Company recently gave his approval for construction of the giraffe of skyscrapers in the Saudi Arabia’s city of Jeddah.

The building, designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill  (the same architect that designed the Burj), will have its 12 million cubic feet of space structured in several tiers. Office and hotel tiers will each have a couple tens of floors, while most of the inhabiting space will be reserved for residential purpoces – the last tier almost, 100 floors in height, will be spaced for “alternative energy generation”, most likely housing a giant pendulum to keep the building from collapsing (see Taipei’s giant tuned mass damper for reference).

Kingdom Tower’s main attraction will likely be an observation deck on the 157th floor. In total the building is estimated to cost somewhere between 20 and 30 billion dollars.