Here’s a Thought – Solar Umbrellas

Author: Henrietta Poirier  •  Date: June 6, 2014  •  Appears in: Community, News

Here’s a Thought – Solar Umbrellas

Before you say, “What! That doesn’t make sense!” consider this, we’re not talking about umbrellas for rain – ah – now you get it.

Actually, what we are really talking about is the world’s first fully sustainable eco city. Yes, a city, of 40,000 inhabitants and 50,000 commuters.

Seventeen kilometers from Abu Dhabi, Masdar City is rising out of the desert as a progressive, futuristic and realistic way of living on this planet.

Ingenuity in design, engineering and technology are employed in a holistic approach to power and maintain a carbon free city.

How Do You Build a Sustainable City?

British designers, Foster and Partners, integrated solar, renewables and passive design to plan the carbon free city.

They explored ancient Middle Eastern cities to find low-tech ways of keeping streets cool.

Shorter, narrower streets with a wind tower at the end causes turbulence in the airflow that flushes hot air upwards and pushes cooler air through the street, it’s a natural air conditioner and it works!

When it’s 38 degrees in the desert, the streets of Masdar are a comfortable 20 degrees.

In Masdar, energy-guzzling shopping malls are replaced with people-friendly, open plazas where pedestrians can stroll through shaded streets.

And this is where the solar umbrellas come in to play; they line the streets of the city providing shade and a means of gathering solar power.

People who live in Masdar describe it as living science fiction.

Everyone in the Middle East knows the money derived from oil will not last forever.  Investing in the development of a post petroleum city is not a folly, a whim or a marketing ploy: it is a necessity.

The architecture is a unique blend of ancient Middle Eastern design with progressive green technology. Driverless cars on magnetic rails ferry the locals around the city. The streets are quiet, there is an absence of noise from traffic and the air is clean.

The buildings in Masdar have adaptive facades with angles that can offset or optimize solar glare.

Materials on wall surfaces deflect sunlight and insulate the interior of buildings keeping them cool during the day and warm during the cold desert nights.

Roof gardens produce food and gather solar energy.

Reduce, reuse, recycle and recover plans go one step further by converting non-recyclables and hazardous materials into energy, by converting wet recyclables into compost, and establishing a market for dry recyclables like glass and cans.

Water is harvested from dew, fog and the humidity in the air.

Gray water recycling and treated wastewater will irrigate the landscape and reduce water consumption by 60 percent.

No more fumbling in the dark for the light switch, in Masdar movement sensors placed in homes cut electricity consumption by 51 percent, and water usage by 55 percent.

Electric buses, the driverless personal rapid transit pods, or PRTs and solar powered carts replace cars, reducing air pollution and noise pollution.

What Do You Call a Sustainable City?

Masdar means source in Arabic and with an investment of $22-billion, Masdar is envisioned as the Silicon Valley for renewable technology. Masdar is positioned to be the source of knowledge and innovation in renewable energies.

The Masdar Institute of science and technology focuses on alternative energy, environmental sustainability and clean technology. GE Ecomagination has moved into the city as a corporate tenant and many more technological giants are expected to follow.

The naysayers, cynics and pessimists may call Masdar a white elephant, a green washing experiment from dirty oil, or the folly of dreamers.

But there is a quote that resonates so deeply in the Middle East that it has become a popular saying, it goes like this.

"My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel."

Everyone in the Middle East knows the money derived from oil will not last forever.  Investing in the development of a post petroleum city is not a folly, a whim or a marketing ploy: it is a necessity.

All of the ecologically sound solutions for Masdar seem practical and highly do-able, a green light in the drive to build carbon free cities.

Sure Masdar has an abundance of sunlight to tap into, but Masdar shows us that we can do more than harness solar energy.

Sustainable solutions can be found in the strangest of sources.

London is sourcing energy from the Underground’s geothermal heat. Turkey is fueling an eco city with pistachio power, the solutions are endless, and Masdar is the just the beginning. 

Masdar represents the manifestation of moving from thought to action.

Masdar is a blueprint for a future of bright green cities.

Why not take a quick tour of Masdar and see for yourself. 

Henrietta Poirier


Henrietta’s work history includes writing for film, documentary, reality television, children’s television, B2B and B2C communications and more recently, blogging and web copy. Creative works include a feature length film script based in Katanga on the tribal warfare of the Hutus and Tutsis, award-winning documentary work, commissioned by OLN and short film scripts, which have been shortlisted by Alliance Atlantis and the BBC. Henrietta, her husband and two children also owned and operated a small hold farm on PEI, where she raised fifty free range - really free range, couldn’t keep them out of the house – chickens and an assortment of tasty vegetables. She recently moved to Kelowna, BC, where she can indulge in fair-weather urban farming and enjoy an overflowing fruit bowl of local, sun-ripened produce.
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