Politics has long slowed the adoption of more solar in Egypt. This week, a milestone.
This week, Spain’s Iberdrola pulled the switch on Egypt’s first combination solar and gas power plant, a 150 MW Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plant in Kuraymat, Egypt, one of just four that was selected worldwide for funding by the World Bank – way back in 1999.
The Kuraymat plant is among the world’s first power plants to combine gas and solar energy to make steam to run turbines.
It will operate at night as a conventional combined cycle gas power plant producing approximately 110 MW of natural gas fueled energy. During the day it will transform the energy captured by a 1,900 square meter solar thermal field into steam-powered electricity, reaching 150 MW during peak hours. As a result, the facility’s energy performance will reach 67%, approximately 10 percentage points more than the most modern cycles in existence.
Iberdrola was awarded the $220 million contract to build this hybrid combined cycle plant by the Egyptian government’s New Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) in September 2007 after an international public tendering process, and the company began work on building the plant on uninhabited desert land 95 km south of Cairo, in close proximity to the power grid in 2009. In 2010, the first tours were offered during MENASOL, and this week it has begun operations.
Because it is powered by a combination of renewable and fossil fuels, as an ISCC power plant it was progressive enough to get partial funding by the World Bank (to the tune of a $50 million grant) while at the same time, because nearly all of its energy is actually produced by gas – it is also panders to the domestic fossil fuel industry, which is anything but progressive.
Although solar would seem to be the obvious future of the sun-drenched Middle East – oil and gas is its past; and so it has taken more than ten years from the time that the World Bank agreed to bankroll an ISCC plant in Egypt for it to be up and running.