Qatar’s energy minister on Jan. 19 said the country will build an 800-MW solar power project that will push the country far beyond its announced goal for solar energy. That goal of 100 MW of solar generation was established when Qatar in December 2010 was awarded rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup tournament.

France energy giant Total, along with Tokyo, Japan-based investment group Marubeni, signed an agreement with Qatar to build the Al Kharsaah plant near Doha, Qatar’s capital. The project’s cost is estimated at 1.7 billion riyals ($467 million). It’s the latest in a string of projects bringing solar power to the Middle East.

“Today is the commencement of the project itself and we expected by the first quarter of 2021 to have half of the [plant’s] capacity up and running,” said Saad al-Kaabi, Qatar’s energy minister, in a news conference Sunday. “It will generate about eight times the size of the solar energy Qatar had pledged to build, helping the organization of a carbon-neutral event,” referring to the World Cup event.

Al-Kaabi said the plant could provide as much as 10% of the country’s current power demand. Total and Marubeni will own 40% of the plant, with the remaining 60% stake held by Siraj Energy, a joint venture of Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Electricity and Water Co. (QEWC, also known as Kahramaa). Marubeni will have 51% of the minority stake, with Total holding 49%.

The project will have a 25-year power purchase agreement with QEWC.

Total’s Largest Solar Project

Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne in a statement said the project will be the largest solar plant built to date by the company. He said about 350 MW of generation capacity could be online in 2021 before the plant reaches full capacity in 2022.

“We are proud to pioneer the development of the first large-scale solar power plant in Qatar and support the country’s assertive commitment to developing renewable energy,” Pouyanne said in a statement released Monday. “Together with our partners, we will bring the best of our expertise and technical know-how to deliver one of the most competitive projects in the world.”

Pouyanne added: “Al Kharsaah, Total’s largest solar project to date, will contribute to our ambition to deploy 25 GW of renewables by 2025. This project further strengthens our long-term partnership with Qatar in oil, natural gas, refining and petrochemicals and expands it to include renewable energy. It is a very clear symbol of the strategy of Total to become a global energy company.”

Marubeni’s Second Project in Qatar

Marubeni in a statement released Monday said the solar plant will be its second power project in Qatar. The company earlier built the 2-GW Mesaieed gas-fired combined cycle plant, a facility in operation since 2010.

Marubeni has investments in more than 11.5 GW of power generation projects in 19 countries, including the 1,177-MW Sweihan solar plant in the United Arab Emirates, and the 105-MW Amin solar project in Oman.

The company in 2018 said it would expand its development of renewable energy projects as it also sells off at least half of its 3 GW of coal-fired generation assets by 2030. The company in a statement said “As a general principle, Marubeni will no longer enter into any new coal-fired power generation business,” although it also said it “might consider pursuing projects that adopt BAT [Best Available Technology],” noting that could include facilities that use “USC [ultrasupercritical steam generating technology] and are compliant with the policies and measures of the Japanese government and any country in which the project will be executed (e.g. energy supply stability, poverty and employment measures and economic growth policies).”

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