IRENA unveils sustainable HQ in Abu Dhabi



The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has opened its new headquarters in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, which the organisation's director general has described as a “paragon of sustainability”.

The permanent global HQ for the agency was inaugurated yesterday. The futuristic-looking building features a 1,000 metre square rooftop PV array, which can produce an estimated 350,000kWh of electricity per year, as well as a solar water heating system designed to meet around 75% of the building's hot water needs, with an annual output of around 27,850kWh. 

On balance, this will mean the renewable energy facilities will provide over 10% of the HQ's total energy demand.

Additionally, the building features passive design and smart energy management systems. It also meets the criteria to earn 'four pearls' under the Estidama sustainability programme of Abu Dhabi, which the emirate's urban planning council calls an “inspired vision for governance and community development”. This includes benchmarks for air tightness, with IRENA claiming the Masdar HQ building is “twice as airtight” as the programme requires. 

Air conditioning, another energy intensive application in the region's hot climate, is also part-sustainable at the centre – 75% of energy released as exhaust air is recycled by the building's air conditioning system to cool fresh air as it comes in. 

Masdar City itself is a centrally masterplanned city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which was designed with sustainability in mind, powered by renewable energy where possible. It is also linked with Masdar, the vertically integrated renewable energy company and has been backed by Abu Dhabi's government. The chairman of Masdar, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is also a minister of state in the UAE, spoke at the inauguration event yesterday, where he called it “the perfect setting for IRENA’s mission to advance the deployment of renewable energy worldwide”. Al Jaber also noted that with permanent residence in Masdar, IRENA is the first intergovernmental organisation headquartered in the Middle East.

In addition to the support of local authorities and Masdar City's appropriately sustainable planned structure, there are other reasons why IRENA may have thought the area suitable. Another UAE emirate, Dubai, recently became host to the world's lowest priced solar power project, while a recent IRENA report found that solar and wind could already be the cheapest sources of new energy in the UAE. Solar costs in the region have apparently fallen by 80% since 2008.

IRENA, which earlier this month reported that as of 2014, there were 7.7 million people working in the renewable energy industry worldwide, was founded in 2009 and the organisation saidit hopes the new HQ will help allow it to “lead by example”.

“We are delighted to finally be home in our new global headquarters, an extraordinary building that is a paragon of sustainability throughout the region. Its advantageous location in Masdar City, and in Abu Dhabi, positions the headquarters as a nerve centre for renewable energy action and knowledge for the future,” Adnan Z Amin, director-general of IRENA said yesterday.

Energy storage roadmap

In other news, IRENA will be launching its techhnology roadmap for the adoption of electricity storage next week at Intersolar Europe in Munich. The project intends to set out a pathway to double global renewable energy capacity by 2030. In a recent interview with PV Tech Storage, IRENA analyst Ruud Kempener said the document was put together with representatives of over 140 IRENA member states “to create consensus on [the] next steps for international cooperation to support electricity storage for renewable energy”.

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