Dubai Awards Contract for Phase 4 of Massive Solar Park

Dubai’s government on September 16 said its state energy utility has awarded a $3.9 billion contract for construction of a 700-MW solar power plant at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The government said the project includes an 850-foot-tall tower that will receive focused sunlight, the world’s tallest such structure in a solar park.

The contract was awarded to a consortium of Shanghai Electric and Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power. A spokesperson for ACWA Power in an email to POWER said the new plant is the fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which ACWA says is the largest single-site concentrated solar power (CSP) facility in the world, with plans to produce 5 GW of solar power by 2030. The first phase of the solar park, a 13-MW solar farm built by First Solar, opened in October 2013. The second phase, a 200-MW solar plant built by ACWA Power and Spain’s TSK, began operations in March 2017.

The third phase is an 800-MW solar plant being built by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar). It is scheduled to be commissioned in 2020.

The ACWA Power spokesperson told POWER said the phase 4 project will provide “renewable baseload electricity at 7.3 cents per kilowatt hour,” which ACWA says is “a global record for the lowest levelised cost [for such power] in an IPP [independent power producer] tender without benefit of any subsidy, including any carbon credit.”

ACWA says the plant is part of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which was launched in late November 2015 and includes projects designed to produce at least 7% of the country’s power from renewable sources by 2020, at least 25% by 2030, and 75% by 2050. The country has said total investment in the plan will be about Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) 50 billion, or just more than $13.6 billion. The United Arab Emirates earlier this year unveiled a similar plan with a goal of 50% of the UAE’s power from non-hydro renewables and nuclear power by 2050.

The solar park uses a central tower and parabolic trough CSP technologies. The parabolic trough is a solar thermal collector; the troughs will collect heat, and store it in a molten salt medium, enabling a supply of electricity on demand both day and night. The first part of the new plant is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2020. The solar array, including the tower, mirrors and a field of troughs, is expected to cover more than 9,600 acres, according to ACWA.

In a news release, ACWA Power Chairman Mohammad Abunayyan said “The confirmation of our 700-MW CSP bid at an investment cost of AED 14.2 billion [$3.87 billion U.S.] for the Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Solar Park represents a pivotal moment for the solar industry and the efforts in the region to reach a clean energy future.”

Paddy Padmanathan, president and CEO of ACWA Power, in a news release said “This project is a game changer in our quest to decarbonize electricity generation by making available renewable energy at a price that competes with fossil fuel-generated electricity without subsidy not just when the sun is shining but at any time of the day and night.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)