According to two experts, the reason for the slow uptake of photovoltaics in the Gulf is due to a combination of payback period, lack of working case studies and regional mindset.
The dusty and humid conditions in the Gulf are also an obstacle for the current technology, despite the region’s abundance of sunlight.
Hermito Fernandes, territory sales manager for Schott Middle East, stated: “As well as providing architectural glass we also supply PVs in all formats including facade systems. But unfortunately they have not yet taken off in the region. In many cases they have been specified but they are value engineered out.”
Graeme Fisher, partner at architecture firm GAJ, added: “I think [the clients’ reticence] comes down to the payback period.”
Fernandes conceded that the payback for photovoltaics could be up to 15 years. He explained: “The payback period is stated at 12 to 13 years for the region. But there other factors that people don’t mention when they give that figure – over here we have haze, humidity and dust, so you have to add on another two or three years.”
He added that an increase in working examples of photovoltaic arrays, such as Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, will encourage more clients to embrace the technology.
Yet Fisher believes that a big obstacle in the Gulf is the mindset. He adds: “There’s no point in having vast solar arrays if the mindset stays the same. For instance, I’ll go to the cinema in my shorts and T-shirt and I’ll be cold. It’s ludicrous. It goes beyond the design and architecture of a building – it goes to the way that people live.
“This region could help itself by just addressing things like temperature, water consumption and waste disposal. It’s more about education.”