Masdar's little laboratory

Masdar City is no more than the sum of its parts

Florian Neuhof.
Florian Neuhof.

Sometimes it takes reminding that great things are no more than the sum of their parts. Masdar’s grand vision of an eco-city in the harsh, inhospitable conditions of the Arabian desert shrubland is also a bold one, requiring bold steps and the occasional helping hand.

Siemens’ decision to move its regional headquarters to Masdar City is more the latter than the former, despite all the fanfare. But while moving a regional office is a fairly standard procedure for a global conglomerate such as Siemens, the boost for Masdar’s morale, and Masdar City’s prestige, is significant.

Having been forced to rethink its master plan, which resulted in an extended timeline for the completion of the City, welcoming Siemens on board as a confirmed tenant is a welcome bit of positive PR.

The city’s only other fully signed up tenant is GE, the world’s largest company, and the other giant power generation equipment supplier active in the region.

As far as big names go, Masdar City is doing well for itself.

Siemens and GE are, of course, equally benefiting from the exposure to the Masdar brand, which promises to become ever more prominent in the renewables sphere.

And in a country that hosts nine percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, it doesn’t hurt to ingratiate oneself by contributing to the development of a showcase project, heavily invested with pride.

Yet for all the spin, Masdar City is more than just a statement. Siemens will be developing the city’s energy grid and install smart building technology, and use the city as a platform for continuous R&D of energy efficient buildings.

The company will also team up with Masdar to research energy efficiency and carbon storage and capture. Similarly, GE’s Ecomagination Centre at Masdar City will help the development of energy efficient products in the region.

But still there is more to the place. With big names and visions flying about, it is easy to overlook the real strength of Masdar City.

Even now, with only the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST) completed and operational, (another pairing of Masdar and a big name, in this case the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT), a concerted research drive is underway.

MIST actually boasts a functioning concentrated solar power plant, which its students use for practical learning and to explore the optimal application of the technology in the region.

Masdar is also experimenting with geothermal energy, having drilled two wells 2.5 kilometres into the ground, and developed a solar thermal plant on site, both of which can be used to provide energy for district cooling. Other examples of research into cutting edge eco-technologies abound.

Welcome to Masdar’s little laboratory, a multitude of test sites scattered in the desert sands in close proximity of the institute, itself a state-of-the-art example of green architecture.

It is the aggregation of such small scale pilot and research projects that will make a name for Masdar City in the long run, and leave a lasting impact in the quest for a sustainable future.


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