UAE’s so­lar am­bi­tions burn bright

▶ Ma­jor CSP plant boosts Dubai’s green en­ergy plans

The National - News - - BUSINESS | IN DEPTH -

When the Dubai Elec­tric­ity and Wa­ter Au­thor­ity (Dewa) in June an­nounced the record low bid of 9.45 cents per kilo­watt-hour (kWh) for its prospec­tive 200 megawatts (MW) of con­cen­trated so­lar power (CSP) plant, it was her­alded as a mile­stone for the tech­nol­ogy and the so­lar in­dus­try in gen­eral.

Not only would it pro­duce a sig­nif­i­cant amount of elec­tric­ity cheaply, the plant would be able to store elec­tric­ity af­ter the sun went down for up to 15 hours, mean­ing it could be ef­fi­ciently in­te­grated into the coun­try’s power grid.

Yes­ter­day, howver, Dewa and Dubai went one bet­ter; the util­ity said that the new CSP plant, rep­re­sent­ing the fourth phase of the Mo­hammed bin Rashid Al Mak­toum so­lar park, would in­stead have a ca­pac­ity of 700egawatts (MW), by far the largest of its kind in the world, with power be­ing de­liv­ered at the cheaper price of 7.3 cents per kWh.

CSP is emerg­ing as a trans­for­ma­tive re­new­able power tech­nol­ogy, es­pe­cially in the Mena re­gion. The fall­ing cost of equip­ment, to­gether with ever-longer elec­tric­ity stor­age pe­ri­ods, means that the tech­nol­ogy is able to com­pete in many mar­kets with tra­di­tional en­ergy sources such as nat­u­ral gas.

The UAE has pi­o­neered the use of the tech­nol­ogy, be­gin­ning in 2013 with Abu Dhabi’s 100MW Shams 1 so­lar plant, the re­gion’s first util­ity scale so­lar project in the Mid­dle East.

Work is also cur­rently un­der­way on a 150MW CSP plant in Morocco, while a pro­posed scheme in Tu­nisia prom­ises to lever­age the tech­nol­ogy to ex­port gi­gawatts of power to Europe via un­der­sea ca­bles.

Dewa’s new 700MW plant, to be built by Saudi Ara­bia’s Acwa Power and China’s Shang­hai Power at the cost of Dh14 bil­lion, is a ma­jor step in Dubai’s am­bi­tion to gen­er­ate 25 per cent of its en­ergy needs from re­new­able sources by 2030, even­tu­ally grow­ing to 75 per cent by 2050.

There are few more po­tent sym­bols of the UAE’s ef­forts to trans­form its econ­omy than the coun­try’s em­brace of so­lar power.

Once viewed as solely reliant on oil, pi­o­neer­ing projects such as Abu Dhabi’s Shams and Dubai’s Mo­hammed bin Rashid Al Mak­toum so­lar park sym­bol­ise the coun­try’s fear­less em­brace of the new re­al­i­ties of a fu­ture where fos­sil fu­els will play an ever-di­min­ish­ing role.

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