Wild and crazy Dubai is hardly known for sensible conservation of scarce resources, but CEO Ahmad Bin Shafir could change all that with a radical new approach to keeping cities cool. His rapidly growing company Empower already cools Dubai’s most efficient new buildings with district cooling.
Far more efficient than air conditioning, district cooling uses water that has been cooled once in a central plant and then distributed through a network of piping systems to individual customer buildings. It achieves economies of scale because it uses centralized plants instead of duplicating the energy used with individual cooling units in each building.
Along with district heating, district cooling has been widely used in the greenest nations globally, such as Sweden, to minimize energy use and achieve carbon neutral buildings.
In Dubai, Empower has grown by leaps and bounds: in 2010 the company had a 37 percent increase in its signature district cooling plants, and as a result – it added 34 employees. Many CEOs, faced with that kind of success, would just keep doing things the same way, regardless of the fact that Dubai, like all the MENA nations, has extreme water scarcity, which will get worse over the next decades with climate change.
But Empower CEO, Ahmad Bin Shafir appears to be an unusual CEO. He plans an innovative solution to Dubai’s water scarcity. Instead of wasting freshwater, circling endlessly inside the cooling pipes of his district cooling projects, Empower has just begun to substitute recycled waste water to do the same work.
“The purpose of district cooling is to save energy” he says. “As we lead by example, we have adopted this new technology. Most real estate projects in Dubai are equipped with district cooling services which require a huge amount of water. Using sewage or recycled water represents a huge step in water conservation.”
Using waste water in place of fresh water is even more crucial in Dubai. The arid nation uses energy to desalinate water to make drinkable freshwater. It makes little sense to then waste that energy that has already been expended, by simply pushing that desalinated water around in contained pipes to cool buildings, negating the energy savings of district cooling.
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