Abu Dhabi opens one of the world's largest solar projects ahead of Cop28

Two-gigawatt site will support the country's ambitious energy transition plans

Mega solar power plant is inaugurated in Abu Dhabi

Mega solar power plant is inaugurated in Abu Dhabi
Powered by automated translation

Abu Dhabi has inaugurated the two-gigawatt Al Dhafra solar power plant, one of the world's largest solar projects, as it moves ahead with plans to expand its renewable energy capacity and achieve its net-zero targets.

The project has been developed by Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, better known as Taqa, in partnership with clean energy company Masdar, France’s EDF Renewables and China's JinkoPower, the Abu Dhabi Media Office said on Thursday.

The Emirates Water and Electricity Company will procure the electricity supplied by the plant.

It will power 200,000 homes and is expected to reduce Abu Dhabi's carbon dioxide emissions by more than 2.4 million tonnes a year, equivalent to removing about 470,000 cars from the road.

It utilises about four million solar panels with bi-facial technology that captures sunlight on both sides for maximum yield.

The project, said to be the world's largest single-site solar power plant, will raise Abu Dhabi’s solar power production capacity to 3.2 gigawatts.

“As the UAE prepares to host Cop28, this pioneering project reflects the country’s ongoing commitment to raising its share of clean energy, reducing its carbon emissions and supporting the global efforts on climate action,” said Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, Deputy Ruler of Abu Dhabi.

“We are witnessing, day after day, project after project, that the UAE is at the global forefront of developing and adopting innovative clean energy solutions,” he said.

The UAE is “proceeding with its strategic plans to enhance its energy security by implementing a diverse range of flexible energy generation that is contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions, while also advancing the economy”, Sheikh Hazza said.

Taqa owns 40 per cent of the project, Masdar owns 20 per cent while the remaining partners, EDF Renewables and Jinko Power, own a 20 per cent stake each in the project.

The project, located 35km from Abu Dhabi and spread across more than 20 square kilometres in the desert, generated 4,500 jobs at the peak of its construction. It was built in a single phase.

Al Dhafra project demonstrated “remarkable” progress in solar power efficiency, innovation and cost competitiveness, setting a new “record-low” tariff, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President-designate, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and chairman of Masdar said.

“With just days to go before the start of Cop28, I will be asking the world to unite and deliver the energy transition by tripling renewables capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030. Al Dhafra is an example of the scale of the ambition needed around the world.”

The project, which was first announced in 2020, initially had a highly competitive solar power tariff at Dh4.97 fils per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which improved to Dh4.85 fils/kWh upon financial close.

The UAE, the first country in the Mena region to announce a target of net zero by 2050, has been investing heavily in building renewable energy plants.

The host of the Cop28 climate conference beginning this month, the Emirates approved an updated version of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 in July.

As part of the plan, the country plans to invest up to Dh200 billion ($54 billion) by 2030 to ensure energy demand is met while sustaining economic growth.

The UAE also aims to produce 1.4 million metric tonnes of hydrogen annually by 2031 and 15 million metric tonnes every year by 2050.

Meanwhile, the emirate of Abu Dhabi also announced its Climate Change Strategy for 2023-2027 in July. It aims to reduce emissions by 30 million tonnes by 2027, from 135 million tonnes in 2016.

“The project contributes to creating opportunities for sustainable economic and social growth, while simultaneously achieving a balance between sustainable development and mitigating the impacts of climate change,” said Awaidha Al Marar, chairman of the Department of Energy in Abu Dhabi.

“It will also promote the creation of a knowledge-based economy, harness clean technology, and create a diversified mix of energy sources.”

Last month, the UAE launched its first wind programme, with Masdar announcing a 103.5 megawatt landmark wind project across four locations in Abu Dhabi.

The project is expected to power more than 23,000 homes a year, displacing 120,000 tonnes of CO2.

Masdar, established in 2006, is working towards a renewable energy portfolio capacity of at least 100 gigawatts by 2030 and an annual green hydrogen production capacity of up to one million tonnes by the same year. It is currently active in more than 40 countries.

The Emirates is also building the five-gigawatt Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park in Dubai, which will cut 6.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually when it is fully completed in 2030.

The UAE currently ranks second globally in terms of per capita solar energy consumption, according to data from The Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy.

Meanwhile, this week Taqa said it aimed to achieve 150 gigawatts of gross power generation by 2030, significantly higher than its previous target of 50 gigawatts.

The company, which is one of the largest listed integrated utilities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, plans to have renewable power sources account for about 65 per cent of its power generation portfolio by the end of this decade.

Renewable energy is expected to make up about half of the global electricity mix by 2030 under current policies, but stronger measures would be required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the International Energy Agency said in a report last month.

By the end of the decade, there will be 10 times as many electric cars on the road worldwide, with the share of renewable energy in power generation rising to 50 per cent from 20 per cent now, the Paris-based agency said in its World Energy Outlook.

ALSO READ: Green energy is a necessity – and a business opportunity

Updated: November 22, 2023, 6:09 AM