Plans to develop the world’s largest solar power plant in the deserts of the Gulf have been given the go-ahead, with the authorities in the UAE awarding the project to a multinational consortium on July 26.
The state-owned Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC) has awarded the contract for the 2GW plant to Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa), another local firm Masdar, French utility company EDF and China’s JinkoPower. As ratings agency Standard & Poor’s noted, EWEC is a subsidiary of ADQ, which also holds a stake in Taqa.
The total cost of the project at Al Dhafra, some 35km from Abu Dhabi city, has not been revealed. However, when bids for the scheme were submitted earlier this year, Abu Dhabi Power Corporation (ADPower) said it had secured the world’s lowest tariff for a solar power plant, with a bid of 1.35 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), on a levelized cost of electricity.
Abu Dhabi is already home to one very large solar power plant, the 1.2GW Noor Abu Dhabi which started commercial operations in April last year. Also run by Taqa, it claims to be the world’s largest operational single-project solar PV plant.
Neighbouring Dubai has a different but similar claim to fame for its mammoth solar power development, the Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which it says is thelargest single-site solar energy project in the world, It is being developed over multiple phases and is designed to have a total capacity of 5GW of renewable energy by 2030.
Race for renewables
Gulf governments are committing ever more resources to the development of renewable energy sources, in part to allow them to earn more revenue by exporting greater quantites of their oil and gas to international customers. Hence the rush to develop large solar schemes and, more controversially, nuclear power plants.
However, not all schemes are progressing as hoped. Earlier this month, the Kuwaiti government cancelled the Al Dabdaba solar plant, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The $1.4bn project, which was due to be developed by the Kuwait National Petroleum Company, had already been severely delayed.
Assuming Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra plant moves ahead as planned, it is expected to provide enough energy to power 160,000 households and reduce Abu Dhabi’s carbon dioxide emissions by some 2.4 million tonnes a year, equivalent to taking 470,000 cars off the road.
The two local companies, Taqa and Masdar, will together hold 60% of the company, with the remaining 40% shared between their international partners, EDF and JinkoPower. Financial close is expected in the third quarter of this year, with the first power due to come on-stream in the first half of 2022.