Solar proves common thread among Zayed Sustainability Prize winners


The Masdar-hosted Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) commenced with a celebration of grassroots action in the sustainability space in the shape of an award ceremony for the Zayed Sustainability Prize (ZSP).

Established in 2008, the $3 million ZSP recognizes organizations and high schools that can demonstrate real-world impact through innovative sustainability solutions in the fields of health, food, energy, water and global high schools. Each winner receives $600,000. One consistent feature among many of the diverse group of nominees and winners of the 2023 ZSP was the utilization of solar.

The top award in the energy category was taken by Jordan-based Neurotech, a company that develops AI-based algorithms with a blockchain-based transaction system, in order to better manage energy access in refugee camps. A Neurotech spokesperson told pv magazine that prior to its smart energy management intervention, more than 10,000 Syrian refugees in Azraq, Jordan, were limited to a maximum of 13 hours of energy access daily.

“Our solution has now enabled 24-hour energy access and can be replicated at other remote sites in a tailored fashion,” the spokesperson said.

By optimizing the energy coming into the camp from PV and from the grid, Neurotech reduced pressure on the camp's medical facilities during the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically enabling the 24/7 respiratory section.

Neurotech's ZSP-winning solution has also prioritized energy management for lay people. Neurotech's spokesperson said the technology solution provides simple informational cues to help people uneducated in moderating electricity consumption better moderate their usage.

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, left, and a Neurotech representative

Ryan Carter / UAE Presidential Court

Solar schools 

It is no secret that younger generations are adapting to a sustainability mindset much easier than older generations. Among the innovative schools to receive 2023 ZSP awards are Kamil Muslim College in Fiji and Romain-Rolland Gymnasium in Germany.

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Students from Kamil Muslim College told pv magazine their school's 14 kW rooftop solar installation is the basis of community-wide benefits. The school's system is capable of operating both on and off the grid, making it a hub for the local community in times of need.

Thanks to the school's reliable solar power, the student-led program enables, among other things, an onsite nursing infirmary. The students are now looking at using the ZSP prize money to expand solar capacity, add a solar water pump featuring an “air to water converter,” and potentially invest in energy storage, but also a hydroponics system so food can be produced for school lunches. The school hopes to generate 219 MWh of solar power annually in the near future.

The Romain-Rolland Gymnasium in Berlin is just as forward thinking. The school proposes to build a working student-built and solar-powered electrolysis based hydrogen fuel cell. Student representatives told pv magazine they want their school to become an “innovation hub where students will be able to see how these technologies work.”

By expanding this project the school hopes to boost their renewable energy usage from 2% to 10%, while inspiring students to research in the fields of renewable energy generation.

UAE minister of industry and advanced technology, chair of Masdar and director general of the ZSP, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, said that “as the UAE prepares to host COP28 later this year, the Zayed Sustainability Prize stands as a critical reminder of the UAE’s commitment to accelerating practical solutions needed to help societies mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

The author attended Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week as a guest of Masdar.

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