The contract to build and run the largest solar energy plant in the world in Abu Dhabi is to be awarded within months, it has been confirmed.
Bids are currently being scrutinised for the Al Dhafra facility, which will cover around 20 square kilometres, and it is hoped will be producing power by mid-2022.
It will be significantly larger than the Noor solar plant, which is currently running in Abu Dhabi and began commercial operations last year, and is the largest single-site facility of its kind globally.
The new solar plant will be built around 50km south of Abu Dhabi city.
“We always have a lot of interest from the market,” said Adel Al Saeedi, director of the privatisation at Emirates Water and Electricity Company. “We are under the process of evaluating and comparing all the bids. We are expecting to sign the agreement by the first quarter of this year and financially close by the second quarter.
“The project company will be developing, financing, designing, engineering, construction and commissioning.”
The new plant, along with a new nuclear power station, is seen as essential in helping the UAE hit its target of generating half of its energy from clean sources by 2050.
Solar power has rapidly become more cost efficient over recent years. When it opened, Noor provided the lowest price in the world for non-subsidised solar.
The new plant in Al Dhafra will produce up to almost double the power of Noor, offering a capacity of two gigawatts. The successful company will own 40 per cent of the new plant, with the majority stake owned by Abu Dhabi Power Corporation.
Significantly, the tender for the new plant also includes specifications around battery storage systems.
“It was actually in the beginning not an easy decision but we wanted to test the market, to see if this technology is economically feasible,” Mr Al Saeedi said. “Luckily, we have got very good proposals on this.
“It’s important for us to have the lowest competitive bid [in terms of price] but at the same time it has to be compliant with our requirements and deliverable.”