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French Version

Solar power: The underrated resource?

Bahrain and countries with hot climates in the region are wasting one of their most important energy resources - solar power, said visiting alternative-energy experts. Technical University of Munich professors Thomas Herzog and Gerhard Hausladen say the technology is available to replace fossil-fuel consumption with solar power to provide energy for buildings.

Herzog said Middle Eastern countries require more energy during the summer because of the heat and less energy during winter.

"This is very fortunate because it means that during the hot months, more solar power reaches the earth which can be used for cooling buildings," he said.

"In the winter the sun isn't as prominent but that doesn't matter because less energy is required anyway."

Herzog said the case was different with lower temperature European climates, which use energy more for heating than for cooling. "In Europe more power is needed during the winter so the technology used has to have the capability for more storage."

Hausladen said solar heat could be used to power chillers within buildings containing water. He said this is then circulated around the building to cool it.

Herzog has been conducting research in the area of alternative energy sources for over 30 years and Hausladen for over 25. The university and its various partners have by far the largest area in the Intelligent Building Middle East exhibition, which was opened by Works and Housing Minister Fahmi bin Ali al-Jowder.

The three-day event is organized by the Bahrain Convention and Exhibition Bureau in association with German-based NŸrnberg Global Fairs and the Bahrain Society of Engineers.

Herzog and Hausladen say solar-powered buildings are currently not in use in the Middle East but that a handful exist in Europe. "They can be built using the same budgets as normal buildings but at the moment they take a little longer.

"Architects must not look at building construction the same way as vehicle manufacturing.

"Vehicles have to work in all climates because they are mobile but buildings stay in one place so more consideration should be taken to tailor-make them to suit their locations."

Herzog said an obvious example of how this rule is not being followed in this part of the world is the spread of steel and glass buildings. "Glass can be used if it is treated properly and is the right shade," he said.

"But if you use just any glass you create the greenhouse effect and this requires more fossil fuels to be burned." The experts said this results in power wastage.

"Solar radiation that reaches the earth's surface is 10,000 times more powerful than all the energy used by all of man-kind in a day," they explained.

Jowder said modern methods of architecture is important for Bahrain's many commercial, sports, recreational and residential projects under design or construction.

"The challenge is to embrace technology as a liberator in terms of comfort and economic development," he said.

"However, as architects and engineers involved in the design our future built environment, we must not forget our search for elegant simplicity in the application of new technologies in our buildings.

"Excessive complexity will defeat the purpose in our search for energy efficiency."

Beirut,12 12 2005
The Daily Star
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