Abu Dhabi project eyes breakthrough in energy-storage tech

Azelio’s storage device can be charged with thermal energy direct from solar or with electricity from PV or wind power, allowing for renewable power production at all hours of the day (Supplied)
Updated 11 November 2019

Abu Dhabi project eyes breakthrough in energy-storage tech

  • Sweden's Azelio has tied up with UAE's Masdar and Khalifa University for Science and Technology
  • Tests to determine if Azelio's storage solution can be included in renewable energy projects

ABU DHABI: One of the biggest challenges facing humanity as it grapples with global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is how to supply clean, renewable energy at a competitive cost where and when it is needed.

Fortunately, a renewable form of energy such as solar, which is generated only during the day, can now be converted into electricity non-stop. In theory, at least, this opens up the possibility of boundless energy for the 1.2 billion people living in societies along the Earth’s so-called sunshine belt.

Through efficient exploitation of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, coupled with state-of-the-art energy storage systems, many countries can not only power their everyday lives in a way that was impossible before, but can also reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

A small but significant step was taken recently in the Middle East when Azelio, a Swedish solar-energy company, entered into a partnership with the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) and Khalifa University of Science and Technology to run a pilot project evaluating new technology in power storage.

“The technology is important in order to have access to energy, which builds growth and wealth,” Azelio’s CEO, Jonas Eklind, said.

INNUMBERS

  • 1.2 BILLION - People in the world have no electricity
  • 2.4 BILLION - People connected to grid that fails to deliver sufficient energy
  • 27.3 GIGAWATTS - Saudi Arabia’s combined target of solar and wind energy by 2024
  • 40% - Percentage of Kingdom’s electricity produced by burning oil in 2016
  • 400 MEGAWATTS - Capacity of Dumat Al-Jandal, Saudi Arabia’s first and the Middle East’s biggest wind farm

“Without electricity, you cannot be part of the modern world. If you don’t have it and you wait for a centralized solution, you might wait 40 to 50 years. With our solution, you can have it next week.”

The Abu Dhabi unit aims to test and demonstrate Azelio’s Stirling engine systems and “integrated thermal energy storage” solution for projects that use solar energy and wind energy, or projects that provide off-grid solutions.

Testing will determine if the technology can be included in current as well as future renewable energy projects.

“What we are doing is a technology to store renewable energy in a wide sense, and it can be any type of renewable energy coming from any source,” Eklind said.

“We store a lot of energy and then convert that stored energy to electricity on demand. Consumers can then control when they want electricity.”

Azelio said that this “distributed base load” can be built in smaller-sized units close to consumers, which removes the need for a complex national grid system. The company also says that by adding an ingenious storage innovation to its Stirling engine, it makes electricity generated by a renewable source accessible at all hours of the day.

“It can be a local system that services, for instance, one factory, one village, one hotel or one desalination unit with whatever they need, 24 hours a day,” Eklind said. “We have worked with the technology for some years at more of a demonstration level and we have a unit in Sweden.

“We are also providing a reliable way forward for countless enterprises in remote locations around the world. Renewable electricity in its purest form is readily available exactly when it is needed. The opportunity for sustainable growth has never been greater.”




The Stirling engine efficiently converts thermal energy into mechanical movement to generate electricity. (Supplied)

Given that 1.2 billion people still have no electricity today and about 2.4 billion are connected to an electricity grid that cannot provide them with enough power, Azelio’s partnership with Masdar and Khalifa University of Science and Technology could not have been more timely.

“So for all these people, we could be a solution to give them a base load system instead of waiting 35 years for someone to build a national grid,” Eklind said.

As things stand, communities that are not connected to a stable grid are often forced to use generators, which entails burning diesel to generate electricity.

Azelio says that its system can replace a lot of the diesel burning, which benefits the climate and the environment. According to the company, the system is also less than half the price of conventional methods.

The company has installed a verification project of the technology for a state-owned firm in Morocco that is expected to be operating before the end of this year.

The Abu Dhabi unit will be Azelio’s second abroad. 

Yousef Baselaib, executive director of sustainable real estate at Masdar, said: “With Masdar City established as the natural home for innovation in sustainable urban development and clean technologies, we are delighted to be working with Azelio and Khalifa University to help validate the commercial feasibility of their project.”

The pilot will be installed at the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium site on the Masdar City campus of Khalifa University. Power generated from the project will be used to drive the air-conditioning for the project’s office and storage units.

“It’s general verification for the technology, but it is also special because Masdar wants to verify our technology to be a part of their projects. They build a lot of renewable energy projects and they need to have a source, especially in solar, which you don’t have at night,” Eklind said. “So we can essentially deliver solar energy in the middle of the night.”

Khalifa University will provide research support and expertise for the two testing periods, and the data collected by the researchers will be compared with findings from existing “dispatchable technologies.”

“As a research-intensive academic institution, Khalifa University offers one of the most suitable platforms for testing and demonstration of new technologies and solutions, especially in clean energy,” said Arif Sultan Al-Hammadi, executive vice president of the university.

Eklind said that even in the developed countries of northern Europe, electricity grids face challenges as a result of local electricity production with wind and solar.

Residents produce electricity with their own solar panels during the day, then use up the energy at night charging their cars, with no production during that period. “So they have a huge demand on electricity,” Eklind said, adding that the grid systems are not designed to cope with such types of fluctuation.

By contrast, Azelio’s technology builds stability and prepares the grid for new challenges, he said.

Referring to the partnership with Azelio, Al-Hammadi said: “Masdar Institute at Khalifa University will continue to serve as the research location for leading and cutting-edge scientific exploration in clean energy-related areas, including energy storage, biofuels, renewable energy mapping, advanced power and nuclear energy.

“As a research institute, it will continue to set fresh milestones while obtaining new solutions in clean energy and advanced sustainable technologies.”


Battle looms for key Libyan city Sirte

Updated 09 July 2020

Battle looms for key Libyan city Sirte

  • LNA spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said that western Libya is under total Turkish control
  • “We expect an attack on Sirte by Turkey and the militias at any time,” he said

CAIRO: A military buildup around the Libyan city of Sirte has raised fears of a major battle for control of the area’s strategic oil reserves.
The Libyan National Army (LNA), which has occupied Sirte since May, accused Turkey of targeting the oil-rich city and supplying militias in the area with weapons.
LNA spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said that western Libya is under total Turkish control.
He said that Turkey aims to reach Libya’s “oil crescent,” a coastal region home to most of its oil export terminals.
The LNA is closely monitoring Turkey’s moves in Sirte and Al-Jufra, he added.
“We expect an attack on Sirte by Turkey and the militias at any time,” Al-Mesmari said.
His statement was confirmed a few days ago on a social media account affiliated with Turkey, which posted a map of areas under its control as well as the latest developments in Libya. The map showed areas under the control of Khalifa Haftar, LNA commander, and the Government of National Accord (GNA). It also featured arrows illustrating that Sirte and Al-Jufra are the next targets of the GNA, despite a no-fly zone on the area imposed by the LNA.
The developments led UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to warn on Wednesday against a military buildup near Sirte, which is located between the capital Tripoli and Benghazi.
The warning came after LNA troops led by Haftar retreated and GNA troops led by Fayez Al-Sarraj, prime minister of the GNA of Libya, advanced.
In a UN Security Council meeting chaired by Germany via video conference, Guterres said foreign interference in Libya had reached “unprecedented levels.”
He condemned the violation of a cease-fire in place since 2011, which also called for the handing over of advanced military equipment and a declaration of the number of mercenaries involved in the conflict. However, Guterres did not name the parties who violated the cease-fire.
Guterres called on Al-Sarraj and Haftar to engage in political negotiations and agree to a cease-fire.
During the conference, the representatives of Germany, the US and France warned Turkey about its involvement in Sirte.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry indirectly criticized Turkey for sending Syrian militants to Libya.
“The transfer of Syrian extremist militants to Libyan territories by one of the regional parties aggravates the situation in Libya. This issue is a serious threat to the security of the Libyans as well as neighboring Mediterranean countries,” he said.
Shoukry added: “These threats clearly and currently endanger Egypt, and we will not tolerate this type of threats which are close to our borders, at a time when foreign interferences provide those militants with support.”
He said: “Supporting extremism must stop. We have to put an end to the sources of support by regional players who are confirmed to care less about the stability of the Mediterranean region. Solving this problem and resisting such policies is a prerequisite for the success of our efforts to protect the future of our peoples and that of the Libyan people.”
Shoukry expressed Egypt’s concern regarding the deployment of what he labeled “terrorist groups” west of Libya, with Daesh presenting the greatest potential threat. He said he considered such a deployment a threat to the security and stability of Egypt.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi suggested that any violation of Sirte and Al-Jufra will push Egypt to intervene in accordance with international norms and conventions.
Egyptian military expert Samir Farag said that oil is the main reason behind Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s interference in Libya. Farag said that Sirte and Al-Jufra are Erdogan’s two main goals in controlling Libya’s “oil crescent.”
Farag said: “Erdogan knows very well the competence of the Egyptian forces and is afraid of facing them. President El-Sisi said that Sirte and Al-Jufra are red lines.”
He added that if Turkey interferes in those areas, “there will be a strong reply.” He said the Egyptian Air Force is ready and capable of reaching any place which poses a threat to Egyptian national security.
Farag hailed the French role in the Libyan crisis. He said a speech by the French representative during the Security Council meeting on Libya was clear and strong.
“Erdogan faces a difficult situation internally and externally,” Farag said, adding: “Perhaps NATO would adopt resolutions on preventing Turkey from using military coordinates.”
Mohamed El-Ghobary, former director of the Egyptian National Defense College, said Libya has become “an international venue for conflict that is not only regional.”
“The whole world agreed that Sirte is a red line and that whoever crosses that line is an aggressor,” he said.
El-Ghobary added that Sirte is in the middle of Libya and controls the transfer of oil from south to north, and that Turkey aims to deploy there because of this. But Egypt would not allow this, he said.
“Egypt has a development plan that requires it not to slip into any potential losses,” he said.
The Egyptian leadership has a military strategy and political ideology. Any intervention will be “accurately calculated,” El-Ghobary said.