Dewa showcases new solar plant that can store electricity

The 110 kilowatt pilot solar project uses a new technology deployed for the first time in the region.

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The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) is in talks with companies to generate electricity from a new type of solar technology after unveiling a pilot scheme.

The 110-kilowatt demonstration project is based on Stirling concentrated solar power (CSP) technology from Sweden’s Cleanergy, which has been deployed for the first time in the region.

Built by the contractor Al Futtaim Carillion, the plant uses 10 mirrored dishes that track the sun to produce power for longer, and is said to be twice as efficient as traditional solar photovoltaics, or PV.

Unlike traditional units that heat water to drive the turbines that generate electricity, the CSP system heats and cools gas to provide continuous pressure to generate electricity.

The company said the technology seems suited for desert conditions where there is a lack of water.

The emirate has been focused on solar PV up until this point, but Jamal Shaheen Al Hammadi, Dewa’s vice president of special projects, said that there could be more CSP projects in the near future.

“We are negotiating for another [CSP] power project,” he said adding that Dewa was far along in its decision-making. Dubai has been exploring other solar technologies to help meet its electricity diversification target which includes 15 per cent of the energy mix to come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

However, the cost competitiveness of the project compared to solar PV remains unclear.

The difference between PV and CSP is that PV technology must immediately feed the power it produces into the grid, while CSP has storage systems.

This means that, typically, CSP costs twice as much to generate electricity as that of PV.

Bo Dankis, the chairman of Cleanergy, said that the cost per kilowatt hour would depend on the quality of the sunlight, and Dubai often suffers from hazy conditions.

Cleanergy hopes to eventually produce electricity at 5 euro cents, which would place it in line with Dubai’s price of solar PV, but the company declined to give a target as to when that figure would be reached. “We are much less [in costs] than current CSP technologies that average around 23 US cents per kWh. We’re more in line with PV,” said Mr Dankis.

Vahid Fotuhi, founder of the Middle East Solar Industry Association, said that CSP was not viable for Dubai. “It’s all about the cost of electricity, and solar PV is the name of the game right now,” he said.

lgraves@thenational.ae

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