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Masdar Boosts Global Impact Even Wider with Antarctica Solar Project

By Leon Kaye
Abu Dhabi's Masdar recently deployed what it says is the first solar power system at an Australian Antarctic station.

Abu Dhabi's Masdar recently deployed what it says is the first solar power system at an Australian Antarctic station.

We’ve long covered Masdar here at TriplePundit, and rightfully so. Several of us here at 3p have visited Abu Dhabi’s strategic initiative, which tackles a bevy of challenges. Masdar's work varies from the development of smart-cities technology to funding clean energy initiatives in nations where safe access to energy has long been lacking. Now moving ahead into its second decade, Masdar demonstrates thought-provoking ideas to oil-dependent economies on how they can transition to a 21st-century, low-carbon economy.

The company’s most recent project is a partnership with the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) to deploy what they say is the first solar power system at an Australian Antarctic station. Masdar and AAD claim the new installation will generate up to 30 kilowatts of clean power for the Casey station, one of Australia’s three research sites on the continent’s Vincennes Bay. The region is one of Antarctica’s coldest and, in recent years, has been the subject of scientists’ concern over its rapidly accelerating ice melt due to climate change.

The project exemplifies Masdar’s continued interest in Antarctica, which includes a United Arab Emirates university’s research project that focuses on finding ways to improve monitoring shifts in the Antarctic sea ice. In addition, an internship program sends young Emirati professionals to visit the Casey station, where they work as interns.

Masdar touts the project’s solar PV panels, sourced from the German company Aleo Solar, as being built to withstand extreme weather conditions in the Antarctic. Wind speeds in the world’s southernmost continent can roar to almost 187 miles an hour (300 km/hour), and the average temperature hovers from -14 degrees to -76 degrees Fahrenheit (-10° to -60° Celsius), depending on the time of year. The Casey project station, hence, could also serve as a test case for how next-generation solar panels could perform in places where extreme weather is the norm.

The Antarctica project dovetails with other ongoing projects at Masdar, including renewables investments in the Caribbean and continued waste-to-energy research. Meanwhile Masdar is touting its complex of smart buildings near Abu Dhabi’s international airport as an up-and-coming global technology and startup hub.

Masdar, along with its various projects and eponymous city, have long been subjected to criticism. Complaints about Masdar especially piled on during its early years, when the initial ambitious plans had to be scaled back after Abu Dhabi was compelled to offer a financial lifeline to Dubai during that neighboring emirate’s fiscal crisis of 2008-2009. Its planners also missed out on some early opportunities that could have nipped all that harping in the bud.

The building of hotels (as long as they followed sustainable building standards, of course) to accommodate passengers in transit at the nearby airport, for example, would have helped spread valuable word of mouth about the ambitious project arising out of the desert. At its origins, Masdar conducted a welcoming and transparent visitors’ program, which unfortunately led to press reports of an empty city. That’s no longer the case, as the city is now full of restaurants as it emerges as the entertainment district of Abu Dhabi’s outer suburbs—and it could only grow due to its proximity to Dubai. The opening of more residential complexes will also show that Masdar City can thrive 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nevertheless, while naysayers keep saying it can’t be done, Masdar keeps achieving and humming along, defying the odds.

Image credit: Casey Research Station/Facebook

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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