Record-Low Solar Prices Drive Middle East Projects

Abu Dhabi Power Corp. (ADPower) in late April announced what it called the lowest-ever cost-competitive tariff for a solar photovoltaic (PV) project, a few months after a project in Dubai made that claim for the latest phase of another large solar power installation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). ADPower on April 29 said the tariff for the 2-GW Al Dhafra Solar PV project was set at 1.35 cents/kWh. That announcement came just hours after Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), along with a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power, and including the Gulf Investment Corp. (collectively known as Shuaa Energy 3), signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the fifth phase of the world’s largest single-site solar park. That agreement confirmed a tariff of 1.6953 cents/kWh that was first announced in November 2019. A project in Qatar publicly announced in January, awarded to France’s Total and Japan’s Marubeni, said it had a tariff of 1.6 cents/kWh, which at that time was considered the lowest for a solar project. The 800-MW Al Kharsaah solar development in Qatar will use more than 2 million bifacial solar modules, making it one of the largest bifacial projects in the world. It is expected to be online in time for the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament, hosted by Qatar.

1. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai will have more than 5 GW of generation capacity when complete. Phase 3 of the installation (shown here), developed by Shuaa Energy 2 in three stages beginning in 2017 and ending this year, has 800 MW of capacity. Courtesy: Shuaa Energy 2

The Al Dhafra project, once operational, will lift Abu Dhabi’s total solar power generation capacity to about 3.2 GW. DEWA’s agreement, a 25-year PPA, is for the fifth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (Figure 1). That park in Dubai, when completed, will have capacity of more than 5 GW, at an estimated total construction investment of $13.6 billion. The fifth phase of the project is valued at $570 million.

Jasim Husain Thabet, CEO of ADPower, said of the Al Dhafra project in the UAE capital: “Abu Dhabi has illustrated a remarkable step-change in the way the emirate generates power through an enhanced focus on sustainability and renewable technologies. The water and electricity sector intends to play a critical role in meeting the target of having 50% of Abu Dhabi’s energy needs served from renewable and clean energy sources by 2030, as well as the reduction of the generation system’s average carbon intensity by more than 70%, compared to 2015. The Al Dhafra Solar PV project will play a critical role in delivering these ambitions, and we look forward to working with our partners to deliver this landmark project.” The Al Dhafra project will include the financing, construction, operation, and maintenance of the solar plant, including installation of solar PV modules, inverters, connection to the transmission network, and associated facilities.

The fifth phase of the Al Maktoum solar park is expected to enter commercial operation in the second half of 2021, and will bring the park’s generation capacity to 2,863 MW. The project will help support Dubai’s Clean Energy Strategy 2050 by increasing the share of clean energy in Dubai’s total power output to 75% by that year. The Al Maktoum project will use the latest bifacial PV solar panels, which capture sunlight on both sides of the panel. The system produces power with an advanced solar tracking system to increase generation efficiency.

HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, CEO and managing director of DEWA, during a virtual, online ceremony to mark the signing of the PPA said, “This pioneering national landmark is the largest single-site solar park in the world. The UAE has proved that it has always been proactive and ready for all changes and conditions. The recent developments in the oil industry have proved the importance of the UAE’s track to bid farewell to the last barrel of oil and diversify the energy mix.” Al Tayer in a statement said the park’s current operational capacity is “1,013 MW from photovoltaic solar panels. We have 1,850 MW under construction from photovoltaic and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), with future phases to reach 5,000 MW by 2030.”

The first phase of the solar park came online in 2013, with 13 MW of generation capacity. The second phase, developed by ACWA Power, came online in 2017, with capacity of 200 MW. The third phase, developed by Shuaa Energy 2 in three stages beginning in 2017 and ending this year, has 800 MW of capacity. The 950-MW fourth phase—known as Noor Energy 1—is under construction.

Mohammed Abunayyan, chairman of ACWA Power, said at the signing of the PPA for the fifth phase: “The signing of today’s agreement is a testament of the robust strategic partnership we have established with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, which we are immensely proud of. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Solar Park is the most ambitious and largest project of its kind worldwide, that aims to reduce the carbon footprint in Dubai and transform Dubai into a global model for clean energy and the sustainable green economy.”

The $467 million project in Qatar is 40% owned by Total and Marubeni, with the remainder owned by Siraj Energy, a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Electricity & Water Co. Qatari national power firm Kahramaa has signed a 25-year PPA for the project’s electricity. The first 350-MW portion of the project is expected to be operational in 2021, with the full project set to come online in 2022. The World Cup is scheduled to begin in November of that year.

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

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