Frank Wouters of Masdar Power at Abu Dhabi’s World Future Energy Summit.
With its first large scale solar farm expected to be operational by August, Masdar is now about to construct its second utility-scale solar project in the UAE, the 100 MW Nour 1. The first, Shams 1, used concentrated solar-thermal power (CSP) technology, that drives a steam turbine with a solar-heated liquid. The second, Nour 1, is to use solar PV panels, that convert sunlight into electricity directly with photo-voltaics (PV).
But the companies that have bid to help build its second large-scale solar power plant must source half of their panels from Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s own clean-energy company.China’s Suntech, the leading solar PV manufacturer globally, is among the half a dozen bidders for Nour 1. Fourteen companies had been pre-qualified in July.
Spain’s Abengoa Solar is now completing the 100 MW solar CSP Shams 1, “on budget and on schedule” using Abengoa’s solar themal CSP technology, at a cost of $700 million (Dh2.57 billion).
However, the companies bidding to build the next project must source about half the panels with Masdar itself. Masdar does own a solar manufacturing firm in Germany, as well as being a half partner in Torresol, which has just built the world’s first baseload solar project in Spain: Gemasolar.
“The economics of Nour 1 look fantastic,” said Suntech CCO Andrew Beebe. “That bid was put together very professionally and with great management of it and the timing happened to be such that it was probably the most fiercely competitive bid that we’ve seen in a long time.”
Certainly, Abu Dhabi is going with the world’s best firms for constructing these plants. Both Suntech (in PV) and Abengoa (in CSP) are the leaders in their respective sectors of solar energies. Suntech also supplied half the panels for a much smaller 10 MW installation in Masdar City.
But it appears that by insisting on sourcing half of the panels from their own PV factory, Masdar is using this project as a way of checking its own PV solar quality against the best in the world. Or perhaps they simply need to use up unsold inventory. Solar panel manufacturing is a fiercely competitive industry, with rapid price drops putting many companies out of business.
The emirate passed a target to get 7% of its power from renewable energy by 2020, which would require building one 100 MW plant per year. With last year’s 100 MW Shams 1 breaking ground, and this year’s 100 MW Nour 1 – this year – it looks as if Abu Dhabi is on track to meet its surprisingly pedestrian goal.
If the UAE’s Abu Dhabi is becoming the go-to spot in the MENA region for renewable energy; Abu Dhabi’s Masdar is increasingly at the center of large scale solar development in the region, as the host for the World Future Energy Summit, and the builder of the world’s first carbon neutral city.
Given this leadership, a mere 7% renewable by 2020 is an unambitious goal for a nation with such solar-wealth – and with such forward looking renewable ideas otherwise – the equally sun-blessed California is going for 33% by 2020.
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