Technologies in the buildings of Arabian Gulf Countries

renewable energy technologies in the buildings of Arabian Gulf Countries

In the literature regarding the Middle East and the utilization of renewable energy there is a great deal of evidence of interest and even application. This is despite the region’s critical interest in fossil fuels as a resource for change, as oil has been for the last 20 or so years for some countries and longer for others. (Cordesman 1997) Over 80% of the natural oil reserves are found in the Middle East. (Borowitz 1999)

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It seems that renewable energy, and especially photovoltaic technology and wind energy, partly as outsiders have been a big part of modernization in many Middle Eastern nations as a result of relatively new found wealth, allowing infrastructure building in the public and corporate realms, and the historical fear of the potentially fatal rate of decline of oil reserves in any one region. (Cordesman 1997) European and American educators, corporate leaders and in some cases even foreign military have had an impact on the need for Middle Eastern nations to start right, in a sense, as a model of sustainable energy and resources to ensure against future potential failure, from to much emphasis on oil money, if the oil situation changes dramatically, which it has in the past and likely will in the future. (Tapper and Mclachlan 2003) (Belgrave, Ebinger, and Okino 1987) (Castle and Price 1983) country rich in current income still can be poor and underdeveloped. Industrialized countries have masses of capital — the infrastructure of transportation networks, acquired skills, trained workers and public works — that yield current services but do not show up in any set of social accounts. The current income of newly rich nations is poured into building that which our forebears left to us. (Castle and Price 1983)

It is this state where oil rich nation in the Middle East such as Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman are all in a state of growth based upon the emphasis of oil monies, and they are in a state of perpetual growth of infrastructure, especially in building. Therefore according to most advocates of renewable energy resources they are nations that are ripe for development of new technologies in sustainability and would be well served to treat the infrastructural growth as an opportunity to develop buildings and infrastructures that are supported only partly by oil money and oil energy consumption. As the Middle East has seemed to rely heavily on the lessons of other nations, when oil prices and availability due to conflict affected the ability of the U.S. And the UK to obtain oil at prices consumers could barely afford to pay.

A nothing about the oil price shocks altered this situation. They simply brought greater awareness of the need to plan ahead and, for a while, greater willingness to act. Indeed, as suggested above, the increase in oil prices stretched out the availability of conventional energy sources and hastened the introduction of alternatives. Consequently, other things being equal, optimal levels of social investment in the energy future fell, not rose, with the extraordinary price increases of the 1970s. (Castle and Price 1983)

The Middle East is ripe for the expression of the need to develop sustainable energy projects and programs as they have learned through past experiences of themselves and others that fluctuation and even political and religious strife will create changes in the economic climate that can either help or hurt them in the short run and this must be countered with balanced energy consumption, including an emphasis on renewable energy resources (Hoffman and Dienes 1985) and especially wind and solar energy sources and technology as both are plentiful in the Middle East and technology needs to be expanded and applied to its utilization. (Ghosh and Morrison 1984)

Photovoltaic cells depend on properties of semiconductors to convert radiant energy into electricity. Conversion efficiencies have a theoretical maximum of 23%; commercially available cells reach 15%. This is an important matter, for it governs the space requirements of photovoltaic systems and their ability to meet relatively concentrated energy demands with solar electricity. A square foot in New York City receives about 130 kilowatt hours of Blackburn 1987:45)

Wind energy is used to generate electricity, to provide mechanical drive (as in pumping water), or to propel vessels. The latter two technologies have been in use for thousands of years, the former for a century. Most recent efforts have been directed toward improving technologies for wind electricity…Wind electricity from small machines has long been cost-effective in remote locations. Machines in the 30-100 kilowatt class are nearing unsubsidized competitiveness for supplying the grid. Electricity is produced at costs of 12-15¢ per kilowatt hour when the effects of tax benefits are removed. The equipment is still being manufactured in a manner similar to automobiles in the days before Henry Ford introduced mass production assembly lines. Large machines, which have received virtually all of the federal research support, have not yet operated successfully for long periods. Further engineering is required, but there seem to be no insuperable barriers.

Blackburn 1987:47)

One example of the utilization of renewable energy, in a big way is the multi-use complex in Bahrain the Bahrain World Trade Center, recognized as one of the first and hopefully not the last large scale project that is utilizing renewable resources, and especially wind to produce energy for the very large buildings that make up its very recognizable twin towers.

The complex is considered one of the first of its kind, not only in the Middle East but also all over the world in its immediate preplanning emphasis on balanced energy utilization, including renewable wind energy as a core source of power for the building. The building, in construction at this time, will utilize three strategically placed wind turbines, that will be put into place, if all goes well in January of 2007 and will be tested and operational by open date, a few months later. The wind turbines, supported by the bridges between the two large towers will supply between 10 and 15% of the energy to the SMART building. (Bahrain WTC website, Press Release, December 4, 2006) Though this is not to say that renewable energy is the only emphasis of the Bahrain WTC or the middle east, as most proponents of energy evolution emphasize that renewable energy has been sorely neglected, in an almost inexcusable fashion over the last 50 or more years in all nations and the call for change is urgent, and most call attention to economics and political efforts to maintain the status quo as the source of the problem, as many people seek economic benefit from the sale and utilization of non-renewable energy sources and are afraid, despite the countless political and economic troubles energy allocation causes, to lose the financial benefit from non-renewable energy profits. (Clark 1991) The Middle East being often at the source of this concern in regards to oil sales, can and have historically created a resistance to the goal of creating a web of renewable energy sources globally, and reduce dependence on non-renewable sources. (Clark 1991) It seems that the most significant spurn to create and expand renewable energy technologies has come about because of instability and security fear, rather than the hard and fast old school call for conservation and environmental concerns as the economic and political ebbs and flows have frequently challenged such efforts. (Shojai 1995) The diverse political relationship between the United States and the Middle Eastern countries collectively known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which is comprised of representatives form Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, will likely continue in the future to effect the manner in which the Middle East develops its energy infrastructure, as will of coarse the influence of other nations, as the need for energy diversification intensifies in the coming years. (Anthony 1997) (Zunes 1993) (Williams 2005) the Middle East is as concerned for the environment as any other region of the world. For example, two years ago Dubai, MEE05’s host emirate, which produces close to 2.5m barrels of crude oil a day, set up a dedicated department within the country’s Ministry of Electricity and Water. The new entity, the Department of Renewable Energy, is responsible for a national programme to assess new projects, disseminate technologies and conduct awareness programmes. (Williams 2005)

Solar energy and wind energy are at the core of the current middle eastern interest in renewable energy, as such resources are foundationally available in the majority of the region, and show the greatest promises in scale for their ability to provide energy resources, that do not harm the environment or create undue political and economic burden on an ever fluctuating social and cultural environment. (Williams 2005) (Richards and Waterbury 1996)

Over the last few years, solar cell production has registered annual growth of some 40%. That the earth receives enough energy from the sun in one minute to supply the world’s energy needs for a year is just one of the statistics that illustrate the huge potential of this renewable energy source — potential that the Middle East region appears determined to fully exploit. (Williams 2005)

The foundation of the Middle East region, is as dependant upon the realization of a balanced energy system, as is the rest of the world, for the same and differing reasons. The opportunity for a smart start is ripe and with the rational guidance of the technology available, and its experts as well as their own desire to create independence in real and figurative ways will be realized only when such a realization is put into action. In the core the individuals and governments in the Middle East are aware of such a need and opportunity and will likely create a model for change in the future.


Anthony, J.D. 1997, The U.S.-GCC Relationship: a Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full?. Middle East Policy, 5(2), pp. 22-41.

1984. Appropriate Technology in Third World Development (D. E. Morrison & P.K. Ghosh, Ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Bahrain WTC website, December 4, 2006 “Bahrain World Trade Center Moves Towards Launch of Kingdom’s First World-Class Office and Commercial Complex

Belgrave, R., Ebinger, C.K., & Okino, H. (Eds.).1987, Energy Security to 2000. Aldershot, England: Westview Press.

Blackburn, J.O. 1987, The Renewable Energy Alternative: How the United States and the World Can Prosper without Nuclear Energy or Coal. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Borowitz, S. 1999, Farewell Fossil Fuels: Reviewing America’s Energy Policy. New York: Plenum Trade.

Castle, E.N. & Price, K.A. (Eds.). 1983, U.S. Interests and Global Natural Resources: Energy, Minerals, Food. Washington, DC:

Clark, J.G. 1991, The Political Economy of World Energy: A Twentieth-Century Perspective. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Cordesman, A.H. 1997, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE: Challenges of Security. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Hoffman, G.W., & Dienes, L.,1985, The European Energy Challenge: East and West. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Richards, A., & Waterbury, J.1996, A Political Economy of the Middle East. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Shojai, S. (Ed.). 1995, The New Global Oil Market: Understanding Energy Issues in the World Economy. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Tapper, R. & Mclachlan, K. (Eds.). 2003, Technology, Tradition and Survival: Aspects of Material Culture in the Middle East and Central Asia. London: Frank Cass.

Williams, S. 2005, March, Green Generation Forges Ahead: Visitors to This Month’s Middle East Electricity Exhibition and Conference 2005 (MEE05), Taking Place 6-9 March at Dubai’s International Conference Centre (Formerly DWTC), Will Notice the High Importance Given to the Renewable Energy Sector. The Middle East pp.42.

Zunes, S. 1993, The U.S.-GCC Relationship: Its Rise and Potential Fall. Middle East Policy, 2(1), pp. 103-112.

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