Astana Expo 2017, energy for the future at a glance

Astana Expo 2017, energy for the future at a glance

Simone Cantarini (Agenzia Nova)
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Alternative energy will be the absolute protagonist of the international exposition, a great opportunity for the Eurasian country to show the world the ambitious goal of producing 50% of electricity from renewable resources by 2050

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Introducing a series of sustainable solutions for the future of the energy sector: from hydrocarbons to renewable resources, but also energy generated directly by sea waves and plants. This is one of the goals of Astana Expo 2017, which officially opened on June 10 this year and will be held until September 10. One month after its opening, nearly one million people have already visited the international exposition. According to the organizers, in the last three months citizens of 55 countries booked tickets to visit Expo 2017. Such data confirms the expectations of a successful international exposition for Kazakhstan, a country in full economic development between the Eastern and Western trade routes.

A drive towards renewable energy

A constant feature of the international Exposition is its special attention to alternative forms of energy and to the importance of the so-called "green economy". As President Nursultan Nazarbayev stated on several occasions, renewable energy is the absolute protagonist of the international exposition, which is a great opportunity for the Eurasian country to show the world the ambitious goal of producing 50% of electricity from renewable resources by 2050. The Eurasian country is a major producer of hydrocarbons, but it is also trying to emerge internationally as an experimentation center for sustainable development. In 2016, Kazakhstan produced approximately 43 billion cubic meters of gas, whereas oil production held steady at an average of 1.7 million barrels of oil per day. The title of the exposition, "Future Energy", goes hand in hand with the geographic context and timing, and with the energy sector, which has been undergoing a major change for over two years: in terms of fossil fuels, the hydrocarbons sector is in crisis due to the collapse of oil prices. As for alternative energy, the Paris climate agreement of 2015 is encouraging countries and companies to increasingly invest in renewable resources and low-emission products.

A large-scale Exposition

The approach to a "sustainable" future starts with the architectural choices and contents of the pavilions at Astana Expo 2017. The layout of the Expo is circular, with the "Nur Alem" (sphere of light) at the center, i.e. Kazakhstan's pavilion, to date the world's first and largest "full sphere" building with a diameter of 80 meters and a height of 100 meters. The "Nur Alem" is surrounded by facilities hosting the pavilions of the exhibiting countries and other buildings linked to Expo, for a total of 113 countries and 22 international organizations. Defined by the organizers as the new "Eiffel Tower", Kazakhstan's pavilion is a must-see when touring Expo 2017, not only due to its futuristic architecture - the sphere is also able to produce energy through solar panels and wind turbines - but, above all, for its content, since the Kazakh authorities have planned to convert the "Nur Alem" into a museum center for new technologies once the exposition is over. 

The eight floors of the "Nur Alem" represent a large cognitive route, combining references to Kazakh history and culture with the theme of Expo 2017. The route starts from Kazakhstan's past, with a special focus on the various myths related to the forces of nature, typical of the ancient populations of Central Asia. The remaining seven floors, which are also similarly structured, introduce the various sources and forms of energy - kinetic, water, wind, biomass, solar – summed up on the seventh floor with a futuristic presentation of the "big bang" and of the cosmos. The last floor of the "Nur Alem" is entirely dedicated to the concept of eco-sustainable city for the future development of Astana. Each floor has two goals, which are to explain, on the one hand, the forms and energy resources in an educational way - each element corresponds to its "mythological" history and scientific explanation - and, on the other hand, to showcase the great technological achievements in recent years. Visitors can take part in small, interactive scientific experiments, some of which are particularly impressive, such as the wind tunnel with gusts up to 120 kilometers per hour, along with the presentation of the latest technological findings for every form of energy: high-efficiency solar panels, biomorphic structures for optimizing wind power generation, energy generators through wave motion, hydrokinetic turbines and ecological fuels.

The contribution of other countries

Following the example of Kazakhstan's pavilion, the other exhibiting countries have focused on the relationship between history, technology and eco-sustainable future. The Italian pavilion is no exception. Covering a surface area of 900 square meters, the exhibition space comprises a route with slight changes in height and "squares" dedicated to the many protagonists of Italian science, from Leonardo da Vinci to Enrico Fermi, including the history of Eni. Here, videos, holograms and real objects are used extensively to illustrate themes linked to energy, natural resource conservation, engineering and art.

According to the organizers of Expo 2017, since the opening of the international exposition, the three most visited foreign pavilions are the Russian, Uzbekistan and Indian ones, as well as the space dedicated to the African continent and its resources, called "Plaza de Africa". Specifically, the space dedicated to Russia, Kazakhstan's historic partner, is one of the largest at Expo Astana 2017, covering over 1,000 square meters, with an extensive use of multimedia projections and virtual reality. The Russian pavilion presents the theme of national energy potential, focusing in particular on the resources of the Arctic region and on the development of the nuclear energy sector. Innovative technologies were also used for the design of the foreign pavilions, which was one of the goals of the Kazakh government and of the organizing partners of Astana Expo 2017. In fact, Kazakhstan's pavilions will be converted into scientific laboratories for the development and adoption of new technologies. The site will also host an international center entirely dedicated to "green technology" investments and the offices of the Astana International Finance Center.