With temperatures in the Gulf exceeding 50 °C in summer, it is no surprise that cooling is one of the biggest issues the region faces. Rapid economic development in the Middle East has created the need for broader and smarter technologies for cooling. In peak summer more than 70 % of the region's energy demand is for cooling capacity. This provides the Middle East with a challenge that covers everything from the temperature of individual buildings to capacity of power generation, accurate timing, grid reliability, and the continuing need to build sustainability and efficiency into every new project, regardless of size or usage.
District Cooling is a perfect alternative to power-hungry conventional cooling methods, since the cooling capacity is generated in an effective and efficient manner. A central district cooling plant generates cool water and distributes it through a network of piping system to individual customer buildings.
District cooling is not a new technology, or even a new concept; centralized production and distribution of temperature control has been in commercial use since the 19th century. District cooling was first implemented in the Middle East in the 1970s as part of Dubai Airport, but it wasn't until the real estate boom of the late 1990s that the technology began to enjoy wider commercial adoption.
The principle behind district cooling is simple: Water chilled at a central location is delivered by pipelines to numerous demand for energy in many regions, especially during peak summer periods, is running very close to the maximum generation capacity. In summer between noon and 5 pm, a 40 % increase in demand for power was estimated, which is largely cooling related. Statistics also show 70 % of power generation in the region is used for cooling, meaning efficiency is paramount to ensure that power generation and associated infrastructure is not strained beyond reliable operating capacity.
Also driving the adoption of district cooling in the region is its softer environmental impact; every ton of district cooling capacity installed can save one ton of CO² emissions. With the envisioned district cooling potential of the Middle East region estimated to be 2.9 million tones by 2015, implementation of the technology could reduce CO² emissions by around 2.8 million tones!
A district cooling plant can meet the cooling needs of many buildings, using electricity or natural gas for power and also utilizing freshwater, seawater or recycled water as the cooling agent. The centrally located model of district cooling also means developers benefit from reduced capital and operating costs, less-frequent maintenance, space savings, and lower power usage over more traditional air-conditioning systems. This ensures an increasingly sustainable cooling model for a region that needs to be smart about its energy production and use.