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Saudi Arabia to build 100% renewable holiday resort

Saudi Arabia to build 100% renewable holiday resort

The Red Sea Project will be the Middle East’s first tourism destination powered solely by renewable energy as Saudi Arabia to build 100% renewable holiday resort. Billions of dollars are planned to invested in mega tourism projects across Saudi Arabia; could this be the only green one?

Hugo Harrison-Carr on  

Developed by The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), the Red Sea Project, is a luxury tourism destination located along 28,000 km2 of Saudi Arabia’s west coast. The development, due for completion in 2030, will consist of 50 hotels and around 1,300 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites.

The ACWA Power consortium has been awarded a public-private partnership (PPP) contract to design, build and operate the renewable power, potable water, wastewater treatment, solid waste management and district cooling for the 16 hotels, international airport and infrastructure that make up phase one of the project. 

Energy will be generated via solar panels and wind turbines to meet an initial demand of 210MW with the ability to expand in line with the development. 

In total, development is expected to generate up to 650,000 MWh of 100% renewable energy, which TRSDC believes will save 500,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions yearly. It will also have the world’s largest battery storage facility of 1000MWh, allowing the resort to remain entirely off-grid 24/7.

Three seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plants will also be constructed to provide clean drinking water, plus a solid waste management centre and a sewage treatment plant that will enable new wetland habitats to be created to supplement irrigation water for landscaping.

TRSDC chairman, John Pagano said: 

“This is a pivotal moment for us as we seek to build a new kind of tourism destination in Saudi Arabia, aligned with Vision 2030. We’re committed to pushing the boundaries of what it means to be sustainable and investing heavily in renewables is helping us to set new global standards in regenerative tourism”.

ACWA Power chairman, Mohammad Abunayyan said: “Powering the Red Sea Project and all utility services exclusively with clean, renewable energy sources is a commendable strategy, and enabling it through a public-private partnership contract underlines TRSDC’s groundbreaking approach which sets a new benchmark in sustainability and environmental stewardship.”

Abu Dhabi-based Future Rehabilitation Centre

Abu Dhabi-based Future Rehabilitation Centre

Project Management Articles and News published on 11 November 2020 this story on Masdar, FAB full retrofit mission for Abu Dhabi-based Future Rehabilitation Centre written by Hassan Eliwa in what is internationally known as Masdar City is a project that combines passive and intelligent design to demonstrate how an urban environment can accommodate denser populations more efficiently.

 So, here is PROJECT MANAGEMENT ARTICLES AND NEWS thoughts on how the First Abu-Dhabi Bank (FAB) is helping the Masdar City project to endure as it were the present downturn.

In Masdar, FAB full retrofit mission for Abu Dhabi-based Future Rehabilitation Centre

Renewable vitality firm Masdar has introduced the completion of an vitality and water-saving retrofit mission for the Abu Dhabi-based college for Individuals of Willpower.

The Future Rehabilitation Centre in Mohammed bin Zayed Metropolis is benefitting from vitality reductions of over a 3rd and water financial savings of almost 30% as a direct result of the retrofit, based on a press release from Masdar.

The mission was accomplished in collaboration with First Abu Dhabi Financial institution (FAB), and funds from a  particular co-branded, biodegradable bank card had been used to finance the retrofit. This adopted an intensive audit of the Future Rehabilitation Centre by Masdar’s Vitality Providers crew and contractor Smart4Power.

Masdar added that the intensive vitality conservation mission included the set up of an on-grid rooftop photo voltaic photovoltaic system offering 30 kWp capability, a sophisticated air flow and air-conditioning management system, numerous water-saving gadgets, particular soil components, LED lights, and thermal coatings on the college’s roof to scale back warmth acquire. A monitoring system has additionally been put in to confirm the achieved financial savings.

Commenting on the mission, Yousif Al Ali, government director for Clear Vitality at Masdar, stated: “The UAE and Abu Dhabi are dedicated to tackling the numerous problem of lowering building-related carbon emissions, which account for almost 40% of whole emissions globally. Masdar is proud to be supporting the UAE authorities’s mandate by leveraging its experience in retrofitting to ship vital vitality and water-savings for the Future Rehabilitation Centre.”

“We’re honoured to have the ability to make a optimistic contribution to the unimaginable work of the Future Rehabilitation Centre, which is devoted to supporting younger Individuals of Willpower.”

Masdar added that the conservation measures recognized as a part of the retrofit mission had been put in on the 5,500 sqm. purpose-built facility by Smart4Power, who’re additionally answerable for monitoring the ability’s ongoing operations.

In the meantime, Dr Mowfaq Mustafa, director of the Future Rehabilitation Centre, stated that they had been delighted to be awarded this vitality saving mission.

“As we anticipated, this mission gives our college students and employees a greater setting with improved air high quality and visible acuity, making a optimistic impression. The mission delivers significant financial savings on our utility payments and permits us to redirect funding towards new expertise and growth of our academic programme for the scholars,” he added.

Masdar additional acknowledged that the retrofit is advancing the school-wide vitality conservation program in help of the UAE Imaginative and prescient 2021 and Vitality Technique 2050, and the United Nations Sustainable Improvement Objectives.

A Seven-storey, 177m tall pillar-less Building

A Seven-storey, 177m tall pillar-less Building

Project Insight: The Museum of the Future is a seven-storey, 177m tall pillar-less Building with a facade comprising 1,024 robot-made pieces. It is yet another miracle in the UAE as most will be inclined to say.

The Museum of the Future is considered an engineering miracle at 30,000 square meters and 77 meters in height.  The building consists of seven floors and characterized by the absence of columns inside, making its engineering design a milestone in urban engineering. The Museum is also linked by two bridges, the first extending to Jumeirah Emirates Towers, with a length of 69 meters, and the second linking it to the Emirates Towers metro station, with a length of 212 meters. The building is powered by 4,000 Mega Watts of electricity produced through solar energy by a new station connected to the Museum. The station was built in collaboration with Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), making the Museum upon completion, the first Museum in the Middle East to obtain a Platinum certification from LEED, the highest rating for green buildings in the world. The park surrounding the Museum of the Future contains 80 species of plants, equipped with a state-of-the-art intelligent and automatic irrigation system.

The facade of the Museum consists of 1,024 pieces entirely manufactured by robots. The facade panels are produced using automated robotic arms. Each plate consists of four layers, and each layer has been created after following 16 process steps. The installation period of the external facade lasted for more than 18 months, and each of the panels installed separately. The facade area is 17,600 square meters. The facade, which extends over more than 17 thousand square meters, is illuminated by 14 thousand meters of lighting calligraphy. The writings are inspiring quotes of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai “May God protect him” in Arabic calligraphy.

The Arabic calligraphy was designed by the Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej. Among the quotes of His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid engraved on the external walls of the Museum are: “We may not live for hundreds of years, but the products of our creativity can leave a legacy long after we are gone. “The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it, and execute it… The future does not wait… The future can be designed and built today.”

International Awards
The Museum of the Future is considered an unparalleled urban icon around the world. It won the Tikla International Building Award as a unique architectural model. There is no other building in the world constructed on superior technologies, thereby distinguishing it from other landmarks. Autodesk Design Software stated that the Museum of the Future is one of the most innovative buildings in the world.  The building was designed by Engineer Sean Keila to offer visitors an interactive experience that is the first of its kind. The Museum of the Future is a real engineering miracle, as is evident after the completion of its external façade. It floats without foundations, pillars, or columns, thanks to the use of the latest technologies. In the design of its iconic exterior, meticulous engineering calculations were used through advanced software on giant computers with ultra-fast processors to calculate the best, most durable, and responsive curve formulas to design its foundations, solid metal structure, and its unique external interface.

Contrary to the usual concept of traditional museums based behind closed windows displaying eras of the past, masterpieces, and encounters, the Museum of the Future is distinguished by being an incubator for innovative ideas, technology, and future projects. It is a global destination for inventors and entrepreneurs. The Museum also provides its patrons with a set of immersive experiences. It enables them to learn about future technology that will change people’s lives.

A Seven-storey, 177m tall pillar-less Building

Unique design style
The Museum of the Future, with its unique design in the flow of Arabic artistic calligraphy and the luster of liquid metal, is one of the most famous, modern, and urban designs in the world. It is most distinctive in terms of architecture and in the unique elements designed using exceptional engineering employing the latest advanced technologies in the design and construction processes. The Museum’s engineering infrastructure was developed in cooperation between “BAM International,” the main contractor, and “Borough Happold Engineering Consultants,” which designed the engineering structure. An immersive experience, the Museum has seven floors that employ the latest technologies of virtual and augmented reality, big data analysis, artificial intelligence, and human-machine interaction to provide immersive experiences for visitors answering several pressing questions related to the future of humanity, cities, human societies, and life on planet Earth.

Sustainability
The Museum’s design is a model of sustainability in future creative design. Its exterior façade was designed from advanced glass manufactured with new technologies to improve the quality of interior lighting and external thermal insulation. The use of energy-saving LED light bulbs extending into the exterior panels of 14 km long gives the facade of the Museum of the Future an attractive appearance, even more so at night. The Museum also provides an integrated infrastructure to supply electric vehicles with clean energy. The building generates its renewable energy from sunlight through an independent station for the Museum to collect solar energy.  The lighting systems can be fully controlled, adding an aesthetic touch to the Arabic calligraphy design and enhancing the splendor of the exterior design from various sides.  With complete fluidity and unprecedented advanced technology, the structure of the Museum of the Future is unique in a whole flow in which the glass facades, thermal, air, and water insulation systems and the metal structure merge as a single homogeneous mass like a giant shiny drop of the metal mercury.

Future technologies
During the construction of the Museum of the Future, futuristic technologies were used in various stages of design, foundation, construction, and cladding. The requirements for completing the internal structure were calculated using advanced mathematical algorithms to include 2,400 crossed steel pieces and thousands of triangular pieces that enhance the durability of the external structure.

Eye on the future
The Museum of the Future is situated in a strategic location in the very heart of Dubai.

With an eye on the future, the Museum is situated at the “Dubai Future District” that includes the Emirates Towers, the 2071 area of ​​the Dubai Future Foundation, the Dubai World Trade Center, and the Dubai International Financial Center.

It is an area that is the largest in the region committed to exploring the future.

Content supplied by The Museum of the Future

Aluminium: Combatting construction’s carbon footprint

Aluminium: Combatting construction’s carbon footprint

Today we use Aluminium in external facades, windows and doors and numerous other applications in the construction industry throughout the world. But could Aluminium: Combatting construction’s carbon footprint be the answer with its virtually maintenance-free and lighter weight be that easier, faster and much more convenient to use really in a building? And could “Reducing the carbon footprint of concrete production” be applicable to Aluminium as well?

Here is Specifier Review‘s article on the subject.

With the aim, laid out by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), to make all buildings Net Zero by 2050, the construction industry must make changes — starting with material choice. Here, Nick Cowley, managing director at exterior cladding and outdoor living product supplier Endurawood, explains why aluminium plays an important role in making the construction industry more sustainable.

Innovation organisation InnovateUK states that construction, operation and maintenance of the built environment account for 45 per cent of total UK carbon emissions. By 2031, it’s predicted that the United Kingdom’s population will exceed 70 million. With a rising population, and an increasing need for buildings and homes, it’s imperative that the industry takes action to reduce its carbon emissions.

Carbon construction

Common building materials such as concrete and timber are harmful to the environment. Concrete is the most commonly used man-made material on Earth, and is used in a variety of construction applications including interior and exterior cladding.

However, concrete is also responsible for up to eight per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — only coal, oil and gas are greater sources of greenhouse gases. The majority of CO2 emissions are produced during the making of cement clinker, a nodular material that is produced by heating ground limestone and clay at a temperature of up to 1,500 degrees Celsius (°C). These nodules are then ground up to a fine powder to produce cement.

Using wood as a building product does not directly emit greenhouse gases like the production of concrete, but deforestation for this purpose is also detrimental to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to these materials that can support sustainable resource management while still delivering on quality.

Aluminium benefits

Aluminium possesses many benefits that make it an ideal building material. Its high ductility allows it to be formed into many different shaped profiles, without weakening. Furthermore, aluminium is nearly as strong as and is lighter than steel, which makes it more manageable on site. Compared to other metals, aluminium is corrosion resistant as its surface is naturally protected by a layer of aluminium oxide — reducing the frequency of maintenance on a building.

From an environmental perspective, perhaps the most significant benefit of using aluminium lies with its recyclable and sustainable possibilities. Although there are sustainable options such as timber, straw and compressed earth, which can be used in the construction industry, these materials do not offer the required strength needed for a buildings structure.

Sustainable construction

Although 40 per cent of the UK’s annual aluminium production is used in the construction industry, the equivalent of 150,000 tonnes, steel is still the most used metal.

aluminium benefits

Like all metals though, aluminium production is not a hazard-free process. Aluminium is chemically extracted from bauxite, an ore that must be mined. This is known as alumina, which is then smelted to form pure aluminium. While aluminium production is still impactful on the environment, these effects can be counteracted by the metal’s circularity potential.

It’s thought that around 75 per cent of all aluminium produced remains in circulation, in some form or another. Aluminium can be melted and reused without any impact on its mechanical properties. This means that aluminium products can be manufactured over and over again to the same high standard.

Aluminium applications

The benefits of aluminium make it an ideal building material as it can be applied to different areas of a build including roofing, wall panels, windows and doors. Aluminium can also be used as an alternative material to replace concrete and timber exterior cladding and batten systems. Cladding and batten systems can be used to enhance the appearance of a building, as well as for structural reinforcement.

Depending on the design of the build, the aesthetic of aluminium is not always desired. Endurawood is available in a range of powder coat and woodgrain coatings, which replicate the look of natural wood. In addition, these coatings are volatile organic compound (VOC) and lead free, which also contributes to the environmental benefits of aluminium.

Lastly, although aluminium is highly durable, when it’s time to replace the cladding and battens, they can be recycled and reused for another building product — ensuring minimal waste.

While there are a number of steps that must be taken to achieve Net Zero emissions in the construction industry, considering a material such as aluminium could make a significant impact. If the industry wants to reduce its carbon footprint, harnessing the benefits of a lighter weight, sustainable material could help to make this possible.

For more information about Endurawood’s products and their benefits, go to www.endurawood.co.uk. Telephone: +44 (0)330 1340290

A New Solar and Lighting technology

A New Solar and Lighting technology

Sam Stranks, University of Cambridge describes “How a new solar and lighting technology could propel a renewable energy transformation”. This will undeniably come to some help those countries that have opted strongly for renewables, such as Tunisia.

The demand for cheaper, greener electricity means that the energy landscape is changing faster than at any other point in history. This is particularly true of solar-powered electricity and battery storage. The cost of both has dropped at unprecedented rates over the past decade and energy efficient technologies such as LED lighting have also expanded.

Access to cheap and ubiquitous solar power and storage will transform the way we produce and use power, allowing electrification of the transport sector. There is potential for new chemical-based economies in which we store renewable energy as fuels, and support new devices making up an “internet of things”.

But our current energy technologies won’t lead us to this future: we will soon hit efficiency and cost limits. The potential for future reductions in the cost of electricity from silicon solar, for example, is limited. The manufacture of each panel demands a fair amount of energy and factories are expensive to build. And although the cost of production can be squeezed a little further, the costs of a solar installation are now dominated by the extras – installation, wiring, the electronics and so on.

A New Solar and Lighting technology
Two workers with white gloves work on a solar panel.
Workers in a factory of a Chinese solar panel maker in Hangzhou, China. EPA/STR

This means that current solar power systems are unlikely to meet the required fraction of our 30 TeraWatt (TW) global power requirements (they produce less than 1 TW today) fast enough to address issues such as climate change.

Likewise, our current LED lighting and display technologies are too expensive and not of good enough colour quality to realistically replace traditional lighting in a short enough time frame. This is a problem, as lighting currently accounts for 5% of the world’s carbon emissions. New technologies are needed to fill this gap, and quickly.

Halide perovskites

Our lab in Cambridge, England, is working with a promising new family of materials known as halide perovskites. They are semiconductors, conducting charges when stimulated with light. Perovskite inks are deposited onto glass or plastic to make extremely thin films – around one hundredth of the width of a human hair – made up of metal, halide and organic ions. When sandwiched between electrode contacts, these films make solar cell or LED devices.

Amazingly, the colour of light they absorb or emit can be changed simply by tweaking their chemical structure. By changing the way we grow them, we can tailor them to be more suitable for absorbing light (for a solar panel) or emitting light (for an LED). This allows us to make different colour solar cells and LEDs emitting light from the ultra-violet, right through to the visible and near-infrared.

Despite their cheap and versatile processing, these materials have been shown to be remarkably efficient as both solar cells and light emitters. Perovskite solar cells hit 25.2% efficiency in 2019, hot on the heels of crystalline silicon cells at 26.7%, and perovskite LEDs are already approaching off-the-shelf organic light-emitting diode (OLED) performances.

These technologies are rapidly being commercialised, particularly on the solar cell front. UK-based Oxford Photovoltaics has built a production line and is filling its first purchase orders in early 2021. Polish company Saule Technologies released prototype products at the end of 2018, including a perovskite solar façade pilot. Chinese manufacturer Microquanta Semiconductor expects to produce more than 200,000 square meters of panels in its production line before year-end. The US-based Swift Solar (a company I co-founded) is pioneering high-performance cells with lightweight, flexible properties.

A New Solar and Lighting technology
Coloured perovskite light-emitting inks that can be cast down into thin films. © Sandeep Pathak, Author provided

Between these and other companies, there is rapid progress being made.

Solar windows and flexible panels

Unlike conventional silicon cells, which need to be very uniform for high efficiency, perovskite films are comprised of mosaic “grains” of highly variable size (from nano-meters to millimeters) and chemistry – and yet they perform nearly as well as the best silicon cells today. What’s more, small blemishes or defects in perovskite films do not lead to significant power losses. Such defects would be catastrophic for a silicon panel or a commercial LED.

Although we are still trying to understand this, these materials are forcing the community to rewrite the textbook for what we consider as an ideal semiconductor: they can have very good optical and electronic properties in spite of – or perhaps even because of – disorder.

A New Solar and Lighting technology
Light emitted from mosaic grains in a perovskite film
Light emitted from mosaic grains in a perovskite film. Dane deQuilettes/Sam Stranks

We could hypothetically use these materials to make “designer” coloured solar cells that blend in to buildings or houses, or solar windows that look like tinted glass yet generate power.

But the real opportunity is to develop highly efficient cells beyond the efficiency of silicon cells. For example, we can layer two different coloured perovskite films together in a “tandem” solar cell. Each layer would harvest different regions of the solar spectrum, increasing the overall efficiency of the cell.

Another example is what Oxford PV are pioneering: adding a perovskite layer on top of a standard silicon cell, boosting the efficiency of the existing technology without significant additional cost. These tandem layering approaches could quickly create a boost in efficiency of solar panels beyond 30%, which would reduce both the panel and system costs while also reducing their energy footprint.

These perovskite layers are also being developed to manufacture flexible solar panels that can be processed to roll like newsprint, further reducing costs. Lightweight, high-power solar also opens up possibilities for powering electric vehicles and communication satellites.

For LEDs, perovskites can achieve fantastic colour quality which could lead to advanced flexible display technologies. Perovskites could also give cheaper, higher quality white lighting than today’s commercial LEDs, with the “colour temperature” of a globe able to be manufactured to give cool or warm white light or any desired shade in between. They are also generating excitement as building blocks for future quantum computers, as well as X-Ray detectors for extremely low dose medical and security imaging.

Although the first products are already emerging, there are still challenges. One key issue is demonstrating long-term stability. But the research is promising, and once these are resolved, halide perovskites could truly propel the transformation of our energy production and consumption.

Sam Stranks, Lecturer in Energy and Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Great Missed Opportunity in the Fight against Climate Change

Great Missed Opportunity in the Fight against Climate Change

MIT Technology Review‘s CLIMATE CHANGE advises that Soaring AC demand will threaten our power grids and accelerate global warming – unless we begin making major changes soon and that Air conditioning technology is the great missed opportunity in the fight against climate change.

By James Temple on September 1, 2020.

As record-breaking heat waves baked Californians last month, the collective strain of millions of air conditioners forced the state’s grid operators to plunge hundreds of thousands of households into darkness.

The rolling blackouts offered just a small hint of what’s likely to come in California and far beyond. Growing populations, rising incomes, increasing urbanization, and climbing summer temperatures could triple the number of AC units installed worldwide by midcentury, pushing the total toward 6 billion, according to the International Energy Agency’s Future of Cooling report.

Indeed, air conditioning represents one of the most insidious challenges of climate change, and one of the most difficult technological problems to fix. The more the world warms, the more we’ll need cooling—not merely for comfort, but for health and survival in large parts of the world.

But air conditioners themselves produce enough heat to measurably boost urban temperatures, and they leak out highly potent greenhouse gases too. Plus, those billions of energy-hungry new units will create one of the largest sources of rising electricity demand around the world.

Without major improvements, energy demand from cooling will also triple, reaching 6,200 terawatt-hours by 2050—or nearly a quarter of the world’s total electricity consumption today.

Great Missed Opportunity in the Fight against Climate Change
California’s Death Valley may have established the highest temperatures ever reliably recorded, amid blistering heatwaves last month. AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER

Despite the magnitude of the mounting challenges, there has been relatively little funding flowing into the sector, and few notable advances in products in the marketplace. Aside from slow gains in efficiency, the basic technology operates much as it did when it was introduced nearly a century ago.

“The fact that window AC use continues to increase while the product largely looks and works the same as it has for decades speaks for itself,” says Vince Romanin, chief executive of San Francisco–based Treau, a stealth cooling startup developing a novel type of heat pump. “I think a lot of folks are excited for something new here, but there has only been incremental progress.”

There have been far larger improvements in costs and performance across other energy technologies in recent decades—like solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles—driven by public policies, dedicated research efforts and growing demand for cleaner alternatives. Treau is one of a number of startups and research groups now trying various ways to achieve similar advances for cooling.

But even if the global stock of AC units do become much more efficient, the projected leaps in usage are so large that global electricity demand will still soar. That will complicate the already staggering task of cleaning up the world’s power sectors. It means nations don’t just need to overhaul existing electricity infrastructure; they have to build far larger systems than have ever existed—and do it all with carbon-free sources.

Billions of new air conditioners

Perpetually cooling the vast volumes of hot air that fill homes, offices, and factories is, and always will be, a massive guzzler of energy.

The problem isn’t merely that more air conditioners will require ever more electricity to power them. It’s also that they’ll particularly boost the amount that’s needed during peak times, when temperatures are really roasting and everyone’s cranking up their AC at the same time. That means we need to overbuild electricity systems to meet levels of demand that may occur only for a few hours of a few days a year.

In Los Angeles County, rising temperatures combined with population growth could crank up electricity demand during peak summertime hours as much as 51% by 2060 under a high-emissions scenario, according to a 2019 Applied Energy study by researchers at Arizona State and the University of California, Los Angeles.

That adds up to about 6.5 additional gigawatts that grid operators would need to be able to bring online at once, or the instant output of nearly 20 million 300-watt solar panels on a sunny day.

And that’s just for one of California’s 58 counties. The world will see far larger increases in AC demand in nations where the middle class is rapidly expanding and where heatwaves will become more common and severe. Notably, the IEA projects that India will install another 1.1 billion units by 2050, driving up AC’s share of the nation’s peak electricity demand from 10% to 45%.

Cleaning the grid

The most crucial fix needs to occur outside the AC industry. Transitioning the electricity grid as a whole to greater use of clean energy sources, like solar and wind, will steadily reduce the indirect greenhouse-gas emissions from the energy used to power air-conditioning units.

In addition, developing increasingly smart grids could help electricity systems deal with the peak-demand strains of AC. That entails adding sensors, control systems, and software that can automatically reduce usage as outdoor temperatures decline, when people leave spaces for extended periods, or when demand starts to bump up against available generation.

The world can also cut the direct emissions from AC by switching to alternative refrigerants, the critical compounds within cooling devices that absorb heat from the air. Manufacturers have largely relied on hydrofluorocarbons, which are highly potent greenhouse gases that can leak out during manufacturing and repair or at the end of a unit’s life. But under a 2016 amendment to the Montreal Protocol, companies and countries must increasingly shift to options with lower warming impacts, such as a class of promising compounds known as HFOs, certain hydrocarbons like propane, and even carbon dioxide (which at least has less of a warming effect than existing refrigerants).

Alternative refrigerants could reduce emissions by the equivalent of around 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the coming decades, according to the high-end estimate from a Project Drawdown analysis. (The world emitted nearly 37 billion tons total last year, according to the Global Carbon Project.)

There are also clear ways to ease the electricity loads required for cooling buildings, including adding insulation, sealing air leaks, installing window coverings or films, and applying reflective colors or materials on rooftops. Creating such “cool roofs” across 80% of the nation’s commercial buildings could cut annual energy use by more than 10 terawatt-hours and save more than $700 million, according to an earlier study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Avoiding the ‘cold crunch’

But ultimately, the growing number of AC units operating in homes and buildings around the world need to become far more energy efficient to avoid what’s known as the coming “cold crunch.”

One of the most powerful tools for bringing about those improvements is public policy. The IEA notes that the best technology available is more than twice as efficient as the average of what’s actually in use around the world, and three times better than the most inefficient products on the market.

The problem is that most people and businesses aren’t going to pay a lot more for more efficient systems just to help achieve global climate goals, particularly in poor parts of the world. But with mandates, incentives, or subsidies, nations can help ensure that more of the units being produced and sold are higher-efficiency models.

The projected increase in cooling-related energy use shrinks 45% by midcentury under the IEA scenario that includes such policies (and doesn’t assume any technological advances).

Even then, however, AC energy demand would still leap about 70% higher by midcentury. That beats tripling. But achieving significant additional gains could require more radical changes.

Radical change

A number of startups are trying to push things further.

Transaera, cofounded by MIT energy professor Mircea Dincă, is attempting to significantly improve efficiency by tackling the humidity in air as a separate step.

In addition to cooling ambient air, conventional AC units have to dedicate huge amounts of energy to dealing with this water vapor, which retains considerable heat and makes it feel much more uncomfortable. That requires bringing the temperature down well beyond what the dial reads, in order to convert the vapor into a liquid and remove it from the air.

“It’s just incredibly inefficient,” Dincă says. “It’s a lot of energy, and it’s unnecessary,”

Transaera’s approach relies on a class of highly porous materials known as metal-organic frameworks that can be customized to capture and cling to specific compounds, including water. The company has developed an attachment for air-conditioning systems that uses these materials to reduce the humidity in the air before it goes into a standard unit. He estimates it can improve overall energy efficiency by more than 25%.

Transaera is a finalist in the $3 million Global Cooling Prize, a contest designed to accelerate advances in air conditioning to reduce the climate impacts. The company is currently testing prototypes in India in partnership with a division of Chinese home appliance giant Haier.

Meanwhile, SkyCool Systems of Mountain View, California, has developed essentially high-tech mirrors that can cast heat into the cold expanses of space, taking advantage of a natural phenomenon known as radiative cooling.

The materials are designed to emit radiation in a narrow band of the light spectrum that can slip past water molecules and other atmospheric compounds that otherwise radiate heat back toward the planet.

Placed on rooftops, the materials can replace or augment traditional building cooling systems. The company estimates the technology can reduce the energy used to cool structures by 10 to 70%, depending on the configuration and climate. SkyCool is in the process of installing the materials at its fourth commercial site.

Other startups are exploring ideas like geothermal heat pumpssolid-state technology that avoids the need for refrigerant gases, and new twists on evaporative cooling, which usually relies on water-soaked pads to reduce air temperatures.

The good news is that some money is starting to flow into heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning. The research firm CB Insights tracked just eight financing deals worth nearly $40 million in 2015, but 35 totalling around $350 million last year. (This includes loans, venture capital investments, and acquisitions.) And there have already been 39 deals worth around $200 million this year.

But the bad news is that the increased level of funding is tiny compared with the tens of billions pouring into other energy and technology sectors—and minuscule relative to the scale of the problems to come.

This story was updated to add current information about SkyCool Systems, and correct the city in which it’s now based. MIT Technology Review © 2020