Qatar’s Inspirational Transition to the Solar Era

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Sitting under a tent in the bright, clean sunshine of Qatar, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser listened intently as His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani shared an inspiration with her. It was early 1995, and together the noble couple conceived a plan for the post-carbon, cleantech future of their country. Envisioning a land of greater choice in education, health, and social progress for all of the citizens of Qatar, from that moment forward they set out to accomplish these goals.

Qatar Solar Testing Facility, from

Founded in August of that same year, the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development became the means of turning the loftily conceived inspiration into a reality. Chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the private, non-profit Qatar Foundation is leading the way in the nation’s human, social, and economic development. Utilizing education, science and research, and community development, Qatar Foundation is promoting productive and sustainable change in the region.

Qatar National Vision 2030

Published in July 2008, the Qatar National Vision 2030 outlines how Qatar will use the huge revenues from its vast hydrocarbon resources to transform the nation into a modern, post-carbon, knowledge-based economy. Qatar Foundation is the mandated engine driving the people of Qatar to this clean energy future. The Foundation recognizes education as the key to developing the necessary human resources for a sustained and successful future.

As His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani states, “The new world educational system recognizes that education is a universal right and hence enables students wherever they might be to have access to the means of innovation, creativity, acquisition of knowledge and expertise and the practice of responsibility.”

Representing in microcosm all of the changes that have occurred over the past two decades in Qatar, the Qatar Foundation has now grown into a vast network. Over 80 world-renowned universities and internationally acclaimed organizations focus on everything from international development to community health, and to preserving Qatar’s cultural and architectural heritage. Internationally known as Education City, the 2,500-acre multiversity with nearly 4,000 students of 90 nationalities is the Qatar Foundation Headquarters, and is both literally and figuratively the heart of Qatar.

Entering the Solar Energy Era

Springing from the Qatar Foundation Research and Development wing in Education City, the Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) encourages companies and institutes from around the world to develop and commercialize their clean technology in Qatar. QSTP is also Qatar’s primary incubator for technology development, helping entrepreneurs launch their technology businesses.

Hosting a recent TECHtalk series, featuring high-profile experts from Qatar’s renewable energy sector, QSTP invited Mr. Omran Al Kuwari, Co-founder and CEO of GreenGulf, and Dr. Mohammad Khaleel, Executive Director of Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI).

Founded in 2009, GreenGulf, a successful Qatari startup launched by QSTP, is responsible for 3.5 MW of Qatar’s 4 MW total installed solar capacity. From the country’s first solar photovoltaic (PV) system, installed by GreenGulf on the roof of the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), CEO Al Kuwari noted that solar initiatives have gained momentum and the solar industry is rapidly multiplying.

qf greengulf solar test facility

Al Kuwari also provided an update on QSTP’s and GreenGulf’s solar projects, including:

● QSTP GreenGulf Solar Testing Facility – Submitting the conceptual design of a solar support facility in 2009, the project was approved by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. Launched in 2012, the Solar Test Facility has been gathering valuable data on how 30 different solar technologies perform under specific conditions. In a region with vast solar potential, as well as challenging environmental conditions, the Solar Test Facility is providing the critical support needed by the global solar industry for optimizing solar technology performance.

● Qatar National Convention Center – In partnership with Enviromena, GreenGulf won the bid in April 2010 and completed the project in September 2011. The first major solar installation in Qatar, the QNCC rooftop project is one of the largest rooftop installations in the Gulf. The 667kW PV system provides the building with 12.5% of its electricity needs.

● Qatar Foundation Student Housing – GreenGulf is designing and installing 14 solar energy systems (PV) totaling 800kW in QF Student Housing Complexes.

● Qatar Foundation Bus Shelters – GreenGulf conducted a feasibility study for solar-powered train shelters, and is completing their design, construction, and installation in Education City.

● Qatar Foundation Smart Grid – GreenGulf was commissioned for the design and installation of 0.9 MW of new rooftop solar systems on 4 rooftops in Education City, and 0.8 MW of new solar car park shades in 4 areas of Education City. Along with pre-existing solar installations within Qatar Foundation, these feed in data to a centralized Energy Monitoring Center, allowing monitoring of distributed PV power generation, power quality, energy consumption, and weather data. This project is the first PV project in the country to obtain grid connection approval.

“We are seeing the beginning of a new era of interest in solar energy,” said GreenGulf CEO Al Kuwari, “and we are trying to use this moment to advance the industry and implement clean solutions in Qatar.”

An Oasis For Both Body and Mind

Ever expanding, at the heart of Education City the new 40,000 seat Qatar Foundation Stadium and the surrounding Health & Wellness Precinct is aiming to make Education City into an oasis for both body and mind. With a façade characterized by triangles forming complex geometrical patterns changing color as the sun passes overhead, QF Stadium’s design draws on a rich history of Islamic architecture.

Being constructed to fulfil all FIFA requirements for hosting matches through to the quarter-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, the stadium’s field and the spectator stands will be cooled to comfortable temperatures (24-28 degrees Celsius), allowing for use all year. Solar energy will play a huge part in powering QF Stadium.

Additionally, the Health & Wellness Precinct will include an aerobics and fitness center, aquatics center, climbing and caving center, tennis courts, and two additional soccer fields. Available for use by QF students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community, a health clinic, indoor multipurpose pavilion, and retail outlets are planned for the precinct.

qatar foundation stadium website screenshot

Dynamic and Changing, yet Enlightened by Islam

The design of QF Stadium reflects Qatar, as stated on its website: “The design reflects Qatar. It is a country that is dynamic and changing, yet remains rooted in its culture and Islam.” Islamic principles of avoiding waste and employing good environmental stewardship are guiding principles of the stadium’s design. At least 20% of the materials used for the project will come from sustainable sources. Furthermore, 50% of all wood-based materials will be procured from sources with sustainable forest management practices, and 20% of all materials will be sourced regionally.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and reflective technologies are planned for the stadium’s roof. Not only helping to mitigate global warming by producing enough clean, renewable energy for the stadium, it will also power the indoor multipurpose pavilion and the aquatics center, and provide hot water, as well.

Following the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, the stadium’s capacity will be reduced to 25,000 seats, and the seats in the stadium’s modular upper tier will be used to build stadiums in developing countries. The stadium and precinct will host university sports clubs and local, regional, and international sporting events. The stadium will house the Qatar Women’s National Football (Soccer) team, along with offices of NGOs dedicated to using sport as a tool for sustainable development.

For decades to come, the Qatar Foundation stadium will be a symbol of innovation, sustainability, and progress, helping to achieve QF’s goals of using the power of sport to unlock human potential and harness positive social change.

qatar foundation stadium website screenshot2

Supporting Qatar’s Solar Journey

Speaking at QSTP’s recent TECHtalk, Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) Executive Director Dr. Mohammed Khaleel commented on the promise and critical importance of solar energy. Dr. Khaleel said, “We have a great opportunity to benefit from solar energy in Qatar, and QEERI is committed to supporting Qatar’s solar journey through innovation and creativity. We must work to take advantage of solar energy at this moment, because it doesn’t require massive new infrastructure – just the will and hard work needed to reach what we aspire to.”

Reflecting a full commitment to philosophies of originality and contemporary plurality, Qatar Foundation’s scientific approach to the solar energy era is both unique and innovative. Viewed through a lens focused clearly on Islamic and humanitarian issues, the old fossil fuel-based economy is a gross and scaly dinosaur, endangering the health and lives of Earth and its inhabitants.

Sitting under a shady tent in Qatar with the bright, clean sunlight shining in every direction, the path into the solar energy era couldn’t be more clear. And clearly, Qatar is well along the path into her bright, clean future. Inspired by an ingenious combination of Islamic heritage and modern Arab ingenuity, Qatar’s future cleantech economy is arriving at the speed of light. And if enlightenment is the best state in which to reside, Qatar is clearly occupying a prime piece of real estate.

Go Qatar! Check out that awesome Qatar Foundation Stadium on this Vimeo:

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