Bahrain Propels Wind Energy to Urban Future

Bahrain World Trade Center
Bahrain World Trade Center under construction in Manama, Bahrain.
Photo by Christian Bering via Flickr

The first oil field developed in the resource-rich Persian Gulf region was the Awali oil field in Bahrain, discovered in 1932, several years before the Saudis began pumping their own oil. Today, 75 years later, Bahrain’s economy remains highly dependent on oil and natural gas. But the country is also helping to pioneer the way toward a renewable energy future. It recently installed its first utility-scale wind turbines on a new commercial development—the Bahrain World Trade Center (BWTC)—in the financial district of Manama, the nation’s capital.

When the BWTC is completed, likely in early 2008, the building’s three 29-meter diameter wind turbines will produce enough power to meet 11 to 15 percent of the needs of the two 50-story office towers—or an estimated 1,100 to 1,300 megawatt-hours of clean electricity each year. The massive 225 kilowatt turbines were lifted into place in March 2007 and are supported by three bridges that span the distance between the two towers.

The structure’s sail-shaped towers were designed to maximize the potential of the wind turbines by funneling and accelerating breezes from the nearby Persian Gulf. They were inspired by Arabian wind towers, or Al Barajeel, which rest atop the main rooms of traditional mosques and houses to provide natural ventilation.

This project is the product of three years of intensive research and development by architects and engineers with the global design firm Atkins and its Danish partners Ramboll and Norwin. According to Atkins senior project manager Simha LytheRao, the effort marks the first time wind turbines of such a scale had been installed at this height or between buildings, creating new challenges for installers.

In addition to the wind turbines, the BWTC incorporates several other features that are intended to reduce its potential carbon footprint, including a heat recovery system, windows that can be opened to allow for natural ventilation, grey-water recycling, solar photovoltaic (PV)-powered outdoor lighting, and shading on the external glass façade.

Atkins believes the project sets a precedent for sustainable architecture around the world. Already, the BWTC is inspiring the integration of renewable energy in commercial buildings elsewhere. Atkins is now designing a 400-meter-high tower in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates that will incorporate wind turbines and solar PV, while Ramboll and Norwin is working on a residential building in London that will include three smaller wind turbines.

Janet L. Sawin is a senior researcher and the director of the Energy and Climate Change Program at the Worldwatch Institute. For photographs and more information: Bahrain World Trade Center Web siteState of the World 2007: Our Urban Future (in particular Chapter 5, “Energizing Cities”)

The first oil field developed in the resource-rich Persian Gulf region was the Awali oil field in Bahrain, discovered in 1932, several years before the Saudis began pumping their own oil.