Jordan races Abu Dhabi for solar kudos


, the Jordanian renewable energy developer, has taken the first step towards realising one of three solar projects planned for the Maan Development Area in Jordan's southern desert.

It has teamed up with the US engineering firm

to launch a feasibility study for a utility-scale concentrating solar power plant (CSP) proposed for the Maan Industrial Estate.

The study would be funded by the US Trade Development Agency and would address the plant's technical and economic viability,

. It would also define an implementation strategy in partnership with Jordan's government and other organisations.

CSP uses arrays of mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a boiler, producing steam to drive turbines that in turn generate electricity.

Although the technology has been proved on a commercial scale, only 679 megawatts of capacity had been installed worldwide last year, but  another 2,000mw was under construction. Not much of that was in Jordan, or anywhere else within the Middle East.

"While Jordan's abundant solar resources make it a prime location for the development of solar energy capacity, few projects have been developed to date in the country," Millennium and CH2M said.

Nonetheless, Amman has a master strategy for the country's energy sector that includes developing


Last November, Mohammad Turk, the president of Maan Development, the administrator of the development zone, said the company had

of understanding with three investors each planning to develop a 100mw solar facility costing about US$500 million (Dh1.84bn). Maan Development would provide the projects with land and intrastructure.

The potential developers include Millennium, Jordan's Badr Investments and a consortium of Jordan's Kawar Energy and the Italy's Solar Venture.

In May, Kawar and Solar Venture

to build a 100mw photovoltaic array at Maan to come into service in 2012.

That would match the 100mw Shams-1 CSP project under development in Abu Dhabi's desert, which also is supposed to start generating electricity in 2012.

The project would be the first utility-scale solar power development on the Arabian Peninsula. If it beats Kawar's team to the finish, it could also be the first such project in the Middle East.

It will the interesting to see whether the wealthy Gulf emirate or the less developed kingdom wins race.

So far, the Abu Dhabi project is in the lead. Last month, the Abu Dhabi state-owned clean energy company Masdar

to the French energy group Total and Spain's Abengoa Solar to build the UAE plant.

Pic courtesy of afloresm via Wikimedia