Dubai Opens 13 MW Solar Plant, The Largest PV Plant in Mideast

dubai solar energy plant

In an attempt to diversify its energy balance, Dubai has just turned on a 13 MW solar energy plant. The oil wealthy nation is an OPEC member, and one of the first to make a bold statement away from oil. This makes it the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in the Middle East North Africa. 

The $34 million plant, marking the first phase of Dubai’s Dhs12 billion Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, was built by First Solar of the United States: “This is the first part of Dubai’s plan to develop a solar park with 1,000 megawatts of power by 2030,” as Reuters quoted  Saeed Al Tayer, chief executive officer of Dubai Electricity & Water Authority.

It will generate 24 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. It’s the largest of its kind (a PV plant) but not the largest installation in the Middle East in solar energy. That “prize” still goes to Abu Dhabi and Shams solar thermal at 100MW. Israel is going to take the lead soon enough with BrightSource and a 131 MW solar thermal plant planned for Israel.

First Solar said that the plant will displace around 15,000 metric tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to removing about 2,000 cars from the road every year.

“This plant represents an important step in the implementation of the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 to diversify Dubai’s energy mix,” said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, vice chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy.

“For the first time, we are harnessing the sun to power growth and prosperity in the emirate, which is a significant achievement,” he added.

Jim Hughes, First Solar’s CEO, said: “Solar PV, with its price and operational efficiencies, is the right fit for the Middle East’s energy generation needs.”

Dubai’s Solar Park is expected to eventually cover 40 square kilometers and produce 1,000MW of green energy for the national grid. It will use both PV and solar thermal technology. No protests yet about the wildlife that the projects will impact in the desert. Likely because activism is not encouraged in the Gulf region where environmental awareness is also quite low.

BrightSource on the other hand, building massive solar thermal power plants in the US in California, can’t move a muscle without environmentalists breathing down their backs.

Dubai currently owns 6 percent of the world’s oil reserves and it is looking to move away from the unsustainable natural gas that fuels its power plants.

Dubai has developed the Dubai diversification plan, and according to it Dubai expects to generate a mere 5 percent of its energy from renewable energy by 2030. Some 12 percent comes from coal, 12 percent from nuclear reactors being planned in neighboring Abu Dhabi, with the remaining 71 percent of its energy needs coming from natural gas.

Dubai’s neighbor Abu Dhabi launched the Shams1 Concentrated Solar Plant (CSP) in March 2013. Shams, impressively, at 100 megawatts, is the largest solar installation in the Middle East. Green Prophet visited Shams earlier this year and you can see pictures here. This installation will contribute to the Emirate’s plan to derive seven percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

The United Arab Emirates is the most progressive in nuclear energy in the Middle East with four units to be built in the near future. A new US $20 billion project is expected to produce 5,600 megawatts of energy, which would provide up to a quarter of the Emirate’s electricity needs. The first activity is in the “Barakah” area to be run by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., with the construction work for the first two units contracted out to the Korean company, KEPCO: “They have laid the foundations, and have installed the containment liner plates on Unit 1. They are well underway,”  Jack Shillito, a senior analyst for Nuclear Energy Insider told Green Prophet.

Foundations are being laid for a second unit, and sites 3 and 4 are up for licensing: “So there are business opportunities there,” Shillito points out. Major US vendors such as Westinghouse and CH2M Hill are involved to support supply chain needs.

Within the next six months Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) will open bids for a private partner to help them build a 51-49 stake solar plant of 100 MW. They want this built in the next 3 years.

Meanwhile Israel plans to break ground on what will overtake Dubai as the largest solar plant in the Middle East, with a 131 MW solar thermal plant which will break ground early 2014, according to what the company’s Israeli CEO Israel Kroizer told me about a month ago.

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