Environmentally conscious

Jan. 23, 2020

Among the four pillars of Qatar's National Vision 2030 are ambitious goals to develop green urban spaces to protect ecosystems and reduce impacts on the environment. State officials are currently working to expand renewable energy sources that will power cities and smart infrastructure systems, with aims of fostering a more prosperous and sustainable future.

One of Qatar's largest green projects is the Siraj Solar Energy plant, which is expected to produce 700MW of electricity by the end of 2021, according to Saad bin Sherida al-Kaabi, the minister of energy affairs and chairman of Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC). The project is being developed as a JV between QEWC, with its 60% stake, and Qatar Petroleum, with its 40% stake.
The western Qatari town of Al Kharsaah has been chosen to host the solar power plant, and land allocated to the development may one day produce up to 1,000MW of electricity through photovoltaic panels. The first phase of the Siraj Solar energy plant is underway, with an initial investment of USD500-600 million that will produce 500MW, helping the nation diversify its energy sources and move away from carbon-based power generation.
Meanwhile, Qatar University's College of Arts and Sciences is researching new technologies to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, as well as increase efficiency of the existing energy-producing infrastructure using oil-based fuels and natural gas. One such initiative is seeking to develop renewable liquid transportation fuel, with a focus on the aviation industry to create high-density biofuels based on environmentally friendly microalgae for airplanes. Researchers at the university are also working to generate energy from sewage in wastewater treatment plants by burning organically produced methane gas.
These projects are progressing, as urban planners throughout the country continue to emphasize green building practices, by prioritizing constructions with certifications from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Officials with the Qatar Green Building Council aim to have the highest number of green or carbon-neutral buildings in the Middle East and North Africa region by 2030.
Qatar currently has the second most LEED certified structures in the region, behind the UAE. In the coming decade, an array of new projects will boost the nation's standing as new regulations are applied to increase structural energy efficiency through better building insulation, air-conditioning systems, smart water usage, and rooftop solar panel installations.
At the same time, the Green Building Council has been utilizing the Green Key Award to provide incentives for tourism facilities that pursue environmentally friendly development and business models. Like LEED, the Green Key system audits businesses and spaces such as hotels, conference centers, and restaurants to rate their environmental impact and reward sustainable practices.
New legislation is being introduced to plant more trees in urban centers and create more pedestrian-friendly areas that will allow people to walk by foot between residential neighborhoods and their work places.
As Qatar is located in one of the world's hottest areas, engineers have been working to devise a mass cooling system to sustainably reduce temperatures in districts and buildings. In the past, air-conditioning has been primarily used to cool interior spaces, but this method requires high-energy input and is inefficient for the region's prolonged heat waves.
In response, the private company, Qatar Cool, has created a cooling system that uses less energy by cooling districts and buildings through underground cold-water pipes. The system works like a reverse thermostat heating system in which cold water is transported to reduce temperatures, without the high energy loss associated with traditional air conditioning mechanisms.