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The cause of climate change is a hot topic. From carbon output to single-use plastic waste to energy consumption, the list goes on. But in the UAE, where temperatures hit 50 degrees in summer, the sun’s heat and subsequent cooling requirements are an environmental conundrum. Now technology is helping the country harvest its more than 4,400 hours of annual sunlight to tip the scales in favor of the planet.

Global heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) giant GREE, known in the market for its investments in research and development, announced at the COP28 in Dubai the launch of its solar-powered technology in the UAE through its business partner, NIA. The technology is variant refrigerator flow (VRF), and it is quick, responsive and adaptable. It also uses less energy than conventional air-conditioners.

NIA is engaging key decision-makers that enable sustainable change for the communities in the UAE by promoting solar-powered air-conditioning adoption,” says Imad Hseino, NIA’s head of HVAC solutions.

GREE, headquartered in China and founded in 1991, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of HVAC solutions.

The system won multiple awards, including the British RAC Cooling Industry Award, the International Quality Innovation Award, the GENEVE International Invention Gold Medal and the China Patent Gold Award.

The units look like traditional systems, but inside is a whole host of carbon-reducing goodness.

CAPTION: Imad Hseino, head of HVAC solutions-NIA IMAGE: NIA

The units harness and use direct solar power without the use of a solar inverter, eliminating the typical 15 to 22 percent loss of energy that occurs during the transmission process.

Typically, energy from solar panels goes through an inverter and a transformer that outputs it as air-conditioning. But GREE’s technology can accept DC energy directly from the solar panels at 99 percent power efficiency.

That’s a big number, but what does it mean?

Whenever there is an inversion process, a certain amount of energy is lost in the form of heat. Since no inverter is required, the GREE solar VRF operates at a maximum, the company says. With minimal environmental impact.

VRF, an extremely conducive and multifaceted form of cooling technology, allows for variance of the flow of cool air to individual spaces. Eliminating the need for an inverter reduces materials (and therefore cost), ensuring higher efficiency and fulfilling its purpose with zero-carbon output, zero electricity bills and zero wasted energy.

That’s a lot of zeros in a region where 80 to 85 percent of an average building’s energy usage goes to cooling.

And the designs are suited for both residential or commercial settings, with simple and cost-saving installation of up to 20 percent compared with other solutions. Units can be installed on a rooftop or ground floor.

Garden-variety VRF systems require not only an inverter but a human to manage them. GREE’s product, however, uses AI to do the work.

“It (the system) incorporates advanced monitoring and control technologies, including the GREE Energy Information Management System for real-time energy-flow monitoring and a self-developed AI algorithm for maximizing efficiency,” Hseino tells KUST Review.

Concerned about the monitoring of energy flow? Just check your phone.

Launching new technology in a new region often comes with challenges, and the UAE is no exception.

DEWA, the Dubai Energy and Water Authority, put the solar VRF through rigorous approval processes, particularly in the inverter category.


“This involved the submission of comprehensive test certificates that demonstrated the system’s performance and safety compliance,” Hseino tells KUST Review. “The primary challenges were to meet the high sustainability standard of the related authorities and obtain the necessary approvals from regulatory authorities.” Now DEWA hosts the product on its website.

It all sounds positive, but what happens when the sun is gone for the day but it’s still too hot to turn the air-conditioning off?

The system has a hybrid connection. During sunlight hours, it’s feeding off the solar energy.

But once the sun sinks, the connection automatically shifts to the power grid.

If you prefer to continue solar-energy use during sundown hours, however, GREE also offers varying capacities of storage solutions to box up that energy and store if for a rainy day. This means flexibility to maintain sustainable cooling 24 hours a day.

And as the planet heats up, cooling has become a necessity. In the UAE and all over the world.

The United Nations Cool Coalition addresses the provision of sustainable but necessary cooling and met in Denmark in 2019 to discuss environmental protection amid mounting heat.

Rachel Kyte, chief executive officer of Sustainable Energy for All, says in a United Nations Environmental Programme press release, “In a warming world, cooling is a necessity, not a luxury. … Hundreds of millions of people at risk today from extreme heat need protection and we must protect them in a way that also protects the planet from increased carbon emissions.”

The UAE has set itself an aligned, aggressive goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050 in its Clean Energy Strategy 2050.

The GREE Solar VRF system is estimated to save 11,130 kilograms of CO2 annually, in a typical house.

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