If you asked me two years ago where Abu Dhabi was, I might have guessed it was in the United Arab Emirates but I am certain I could not have placed it on a map. Oh how the last year has increased my knowledge of maps! I spent a week in Abu Dhabi for an awesome solar conference. Notwithstanding the embarrassing fact that we all traveled from very far places, contributing significantly to our annual air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, it was a really worthwhile renewable energy conference.
Below: Random short stretches of bike path existed in places along the many-lane paved roads meant for high end cars whose names I don't even know.
The conference must have been partly sponsored by the locals government (think oil money) because we were lavishly fed and sheltered. At lunch I took quick breaks to nap on the beach or in front of one of the four pools at the ridiculous hotel.
We did head into the less developed part of the desert. First for a 30 minute bus drive down a sandy road to a tourist site complete with camels and sand-boarding on the sand dunes. Here we were offered camel rides (I didn't accept; had heard that MERS is possibly connected to camels).
At the end of the week we took an even longer ride into the desert to see a real-life concentrating solar plant. THIS IS MY JAM YA'LL! My research is on ways to provide cooling for these type of solar plants, which are super awesome but as of yet fairly rare in the world.
Below: me in front of just a portion of the parabolic trough solar collectors. One downside is that this type of power plant does require a lot of land.
Below: We also met some non-tourist type camels on this trip. They were being loaded into a truck with a crane.
Otherwise the whole experience was very good. I got to see a whole different part of the world and have some interaction with a completely different culture. Though actually the UAE is over 80% foreigners, so in fact I wasn't that out of place. But, you know, it wasn't Madison, Wisconsin.
Above: We toured Masdar City, an aspiring sustainable city in the desert. Right now it is just an oddly desolate sustainable campus.
Above: A scale model of the hopes for Masdar City.
Above: One thing that has been completed is the first few stops on the driverless car system. My advisor and I took a ride. It wasn't that exciting, but kind of novel at least.
Above: I had dinner my last night at the Emirates Palace, which I think claims to be a 7-star hotel or something.
Above: The dramatic entrance area to the Emirates Palace hotel.