First Solar, Enel and EDF among elite bidders for Abu Dhabi solar project

The Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority has pre-qualified 34 companies for its 350-megawatt photovoltaic park in Sweihan.

First Solar, Enel and EDF are among the elite group of developers approved to bid for Abu Dhabi's new solar plant.

Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (Adwea) has pre-qualified 34 companies for its 350-megawatt photovoltaic (PV) park in Sweihan, without disclosing in which of the three bidding categories the companies had each been listed.

According to industry sources, Category A, for companies able to bid on the entire project as a single entity, is made up of eight of the most experienced companies, such as Italy’s Enel and EDF of France. This includes First Solar of the United States, the company that completed the 13MW first phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park in Dubai.

The next group, Category B, is the largest. The 19 contenders include the Spanish companies Acciona and TSK as well as Chinese entrants Jinko, China State Construction Engineering and Golden Concord Holdings. These companies can bid for the role of technical adviser in charge of the engineering, procurement and construction phase.

Category C has seven companies, including Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, which can become the project’s managing member.

Adwea will hold a 60 per cent stake in the Sweihan project, which is about 120 kilometres east of the city of Abu Dhabi. It is structured as an independent power producer (IPP), similarly to Dubai’s solar park.

“The presence of Enel, which was the low bidder in tenders in Peru and Mexico recently, Acwa Power, Mainstream and other major solar developers suggest that it will be another very competitive process with razor-sharp bidding,” said Jenny Chase, the solar insight manager of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Last year, the UAE shattered world records for the lowest price for solar power with Acwa’ s successful bid of 5.84 cents per kilowatt hour for the 200MW second phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park. Rates are expected to drop further this year.

The contest for the remaining 40 per cent of Sweihan is likely to result in new partnerships and consortiums emerging.

Companies in categories B and C will need to either partner together or with a group in category A to stay competitive. To help drive down project costs, developers could seek to tie up with a solar panel manufacturer, for example. A source close to the matter who did not want to be named said that new consortiums would probably not be formed until after next week.

Although Adwea has completed 10 IPP and independent water and power producer projects since 1999, Sweihan marks the first time that the emirate’s utility has undertaken the development of a renewable energy project.

Adwea’s procurement arm, Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company (Adwec), said on Monday that the plant would reduce some of the reliance on natural gas used to meet domestic power demand. Adwec’s managing director, Mohammed bin Jarsh, said that this would improve the economic performance of the water and electricity sector.

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