Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park shatters world record again

Abu Dhabi’s clean energy company, Masdar, will spearhead Dubai’s third phase of its mega-solar park after a record low bid.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai. The contract for the third phase has been awarded. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Abu Dhabi’s clean energy company, Masdar, will spearhead Dubai’s third phase of its mega-solar park, shattering global records.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) announced on Monday that a Masdar-led consortium won the contract for the 800 megawatt phase for the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park. Masdar will team up with Spanish firms, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) - an Abdul Latif Jameel company, and Gransolar Group.

“The selection of the Masdar-led consortium to develop this project is a testament to the company’s experience and track record over the last decade,” said Sultan Al Jaber, chairman of Masdar, said that the announcement reinforced “Abu Dhabi and Masdar’s growing contribution to the development of the renewable energy industry, both domestically and internationally”.

The park will be the largest single-site solar project in the world with a planned capacity of 5,000MW by 2030. This is enough to power 800,000 homes with a total investment of Dh50 billion.

The Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabian consortia beat four contenders for the third phase at a record breaking bid of 2.99 US cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). This follows the second phase, which totalled 200MW - and also saw a then world record broken at 5.84 cents per kWh from Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power and its Spanish partner TSK.

Dewa managing director and chief executive, Saeed Al Tayer, said that the project had attracted “huge interest”.

“Dewa received several offers from international solar energy companies, reflecting the trust and interest from investors in large projects adopted by the Dubai government,” he said, adding that the emirate had favourable existing regulations and legislation that permitted private sector partnerships.

The utility has increased the capacity of the park twice from its initial 1,000MW plan given that the price to generate solar energy has steadily fallen. While there are various components to pricing electricity, one big factor is that the cost of solar PV panels has dropped by 75 per cent in the five years to 2014 and further reductions are expected.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), headquartered in the capital, released a report last week that showed the technology costing, on average, between 5 to 10 cents per kWh in Europe, China, India, South Africa and the US. The organisation said that with these costs continuously dropping, solar energy could meet up to 13 per cent of global power needs by 2030.

“Recent analysis from Irena finds that cost reductions for solar and wind will continue into the future, with further declines of up to 59 per cent possible for solar PV in the next 10 years,” said Irena director general Adnan Amin. “This comprehensive overview of the solar industry finds that these cost reductions, in combination with other enabling factors, can create a dramatic expansion of solar power globally. The renewable energy transition is well underway, with solar playing a central role.”

Earlier this month, Dewa released another tender for advisory firms for the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park - this time looking to deploy concentrated solar power (CSP). The utility plans to see 1,000MW of the solar park to house CSP - which has storage capabilities unlike PV.

Dubai is looking to have 7 per cent of its total power output from clean energy sources in the next four years, followed by 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050.

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