So­lar power to light up the en­ergy in­dus­try

We look at how the power of the sun will bring jobs and clean en­ergy

7 Days in Dubai - - SPECIAL REPORT - By Shoshana Ke­dem @B_Shosh

Aplanned so­lar ar­ray in the Dubai desert that will de­liver elec­tric­ity at some of the cheap­est rates in the world marks a shift in the way en­ergy is supplied.

This week, Mas­dar, the Abu Dhabi en­ergy com­pany, was appointed to lead a con­sor­tium to de­liver the first phase of DEWA’s Mo­hammed bin Rashid Al Mak­toum So­lar Park.

Mas­dar and two Span­ish firms won the bid af­ter stat­ing they could build a plant that could pro­duce en­ergy for as lit­tle as 2.99 cents a kilo­watt-hour.

This would be the cheap­est so­lar en­ergy ever pro­duced, about 15 per cent lower than a pre­vi­ous record in Mexico in April.

Here, we take a look at how much en­ergy will be gen­er­ated and what it means for res­i­dents in the UAE.

How much of the plant has been built al­ready?

Phase one was built and fin­ished in 2013 at a cost of Dhs50 bil­lion and is about the size of 33 football pitches.

It com­prises an ar­ray of pho­to­voltaic pan­els shim­mer­ing in the desert sun off the Al Ain Road that pro­duce 13 megawatts of so­lar en­ergy per month.

This pow­ers 600 homes and ben­e­fits the en­vi­ron­ment to the equiv­a­lent of tak­ing 2,000 cars off the road.

What will hap­pen next?

The sec­ond phase for a 200 megawatt ex­ten­sion will be com­pleted by April 2017 and the third phase, by Mas­dar, will be an 800 MW ex­ten­sion that aims to be fin­ished by 2020, CEO of DEWA Mo­hammed Al Tayer said at the Mas­dar an­nounce­ment on Mon­day.

“The 200 megawatt so­lar park phase is go­ing to be com­mis­sioned next year. So in Dubai we are not just speak­ing but we are ac­tu­ally im­ple­ment­ing projects,” he said.

The park will even­tu­ally pro­duce 5,000 megawatts by 2030.

Why so­lar?

As fos­sil fuel sources de­cline and the UAE di­ver­si­fies its econ­omy, there is a re­newed need for clean and re­new­able sources of en­ergy. The boom is also ex­pected to cre­ate thou­sands of jobs.

Will the so­lar power plant make our elec­tric­ity bills cheaper?

Even­tu­ally, yes, DEWA says, al­though it’s not clear by how much. DEWA says that by 2020, when 7 per cent of our en­ergy mix comes from so­lar, the eco­nomic im­pact will be small, but when re­new­ables pro­vide 75 per cent of en­ergy by 2050, it will be greater.

Will so­lar even­tu­ally power the city? That’s the plan. The park will have a total ca­pac­ity of 10,000 megawatts by 2050. By way of com­par­i­son, DEWA’s cur­rent ca­pac­ity for the city is 8,000 megawatts.

Is the Mo­hammed bin Rashid So­lar Plant the first project of its kind in Dubai?

Ear­lier this month DEWA launched a scheme that will al­low home­own­ers to in­vest in so­lar pan­els and con­nect their homes.

This scheme can be more di­rectly linked to lower bills. Oryx, one of the firms con­nect­ing so­lar-pow­ered homes to the grid, said own­ers can save be­tween 1550 per cent on bills. Prices start from about Dhs20,000.

Out­side of Dubai, Mas­dar also de­vel­oped the 100 megawatt Shams 1 so­lar project in the Abu Dhabi desert at a cost of $600 mil­lion.

Who has so­lar pan­els on their roofs so far? Not many at this stage. Vil­las in the Mo­hammed bin Rashid Al Mak­toum Foun­da­tion hous­ing project have been con­nected to the grid and de­vel­op­ments such as Sus­tain­able City are al­ready press­ing ahead with their own so­lar ini­tia­tives.

Will so­lar pan­els on roofs meet all of our en­ergy needs?

No, we’ll need some other sources too. But as more and more build­ings and res­i­dences are added to the DEWA grid, more en­ergy will be stored in the grid when it is not be­ing used.

Will the so­lar boom bring job op­por­tu­ni­ties? Many. The UAE is on track to cre­ate 160,000 “green col­lar” jobs in the re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor by 2030, boost­ing the na­tion’s GDP by 4 to 5 per cent in the process, ac­cord­ing to Al Tayer, so a lot of us could be look­ing for new op­por­tu­ni­ties in the fu­ture.

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