Kuwait fires up its first solar power plant as electricity demand grows

Country begins operating the first such facility to be built there to power Umm Gudair oilfield and to address increasing public requirements.

Kuwait is joining the global league of solar power producers, such as China, with its new plant. Here, employees carry panels at a plant in Aksu, China  Courtesy Reuters
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Kuwait has started operating its first-ever solar power plant at the Umm Gudair oil field, a landmark for the country as it seeks to diversify its sources of energy to meet fast-rising local demand.

The 30-million Kuwaiti dinar (Dh363.6m) project, Sidrah 500, will produce 10 megawatts of electricity, half of which will be supplied to the public electricity network.

The other half will be used to supply the oilfield itself, which is owned by the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), a subsidiary of the state-run Kuwait Petroleum Corporation IPO-KUWP.KW (KPC).

Kuwait announced plans last year to generate 15 per cent of its energy needs via renewable sources by 2030.

Consumption of electricity is rising rapidly in Kuwait. The country’s electricity and water minister estimated last year that demand would reach 30,000MW per day by 2030.

In a speech at the project launch, the KOC chief executive Jamal Ja’afar said Sidrah 500 represented the country’s first step toward that goal.

“We hope that by 2020 we can make 20 per cent of the electricity which will be needed to run KOC from alternative energy,” he said.

The opening of the plant follows increased interest in renewables in Kuwait and across the Arabian Gulf region in recent years, as the scale of the consumption challenge has become clear.

The Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research signed a contract last year with Spain’s TSK to establish the country’s first solar thermal energy plant, with a planned production capacity of 50MW.

The institute’s Shaqaya initiative is also planning solar and wind projects in the north-west of the country.

Abu Dhabi’s green energy firm Masdar has invested more than US$1.7 billion in renewable energy projects since it was established a decade ago.

* Reuters


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