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| 22 January, 2018

Abu Dhabi plans up to four new solar power plants

The photovoltaic plants to be built to help reach the ambitious target of 5.7 gigawatts by 2026

Image for illustrative purpose. Solar rooftops in Dubai.

Image for illustrative purpose. Solar rooftops in Dubai.

Abu Dhabi's government is likely to develop three or four major new solar photovoltaic (PV) plants in order to reach a target of generating 5.7 gigawatts by 2026, an official from Abu Dhabi's Water and Electricity Association (ADWEA) has told Zawya.

Speaking at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week last Tuesday, ADWEA's acting director of privatisation, Adel Al Saeedi, said it would announce "a big solar project" this year.

"I know that we are planning to have a huge PV project," Al Saeedi said.

"What we are working on now is Noor Abu Dhabi solar plant, which is in Sweihan. It is, at the moment, the biggest solar plant in the world. And we will make (a) few of these very soon," he added.

Last week, Reuters reported that bids were likely to be submitted by the middle of this year for a solar plant that would have a capacity that will be similar to, or larger than, the Noor Abu Dhabi plant - an $872 million installation which will have a capacity to produce 1,177 megawatts of power.

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This would be the first utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) plant to be completed in Abu Dhabi. Currently, the emirate has about 110 megawatts of installed solar capacity – 100MW of which comes from the Shams 1 Concentrated Solar Plant completed in 2013, while there is also a 10MW solar photovoltaic plant within Masdar City, according to the website of Abu Dhabi’s utilities regulator, the Regulation & Supervision Bureau.

"What we have now, the plan is to have around 5.7GW by 2026," Al Saeedi said.

When asked how many solar plants this would require, Al Saeedi said “three, four of those plants”, but added that the number built would depend on several factors, including the availability of land.

"That depends on the sites, areas, approvals of the government," he said.

"It takes a lot of land to build such a project and now we are working on selecting the right locations where it's close to the transmission substations so the overall investment is as minimum as possible."

Al Saeedi said that producing power from solar “now is cheaper than the conventional way”.

“It’s not only environmentally valid, it is very feasible and economically justifiable,” he added.

Al Saeedi also said that the huge new RO (reverse osmosis) desalination plant for which it requested expressions of interest from potential private sector developers earlier this month would be "considerably cheaper" and offer greater flexibility than existing thermal desalination plants that are linked to power stations.

Decoupling water and power plants

The Independent Water Plant (IWP) will be capable of producing 200 million gallons - around 20 percent of Abu Dhabi's current desalination capacity of 960 million gallons - once it completes in late 2021.

Although it already uses RO within three of its existing desalination plants, Al Saeedi said that "now, actually, it's the right time to have such a huge project".

He explained that many of the existing combined power and water plants use steam generated from power plants as part of a thermal desalination process but are coming to the end of their purchase agreement periods, and that an RO plant using membranes only requires electricity as a source, allowing for a more efficient use of power.

"We have some nuclear power units coming on line very soon where the nuclear units will be having a base load - in summer and winter, the same capacity," he explained.

"And we would have a problem in the winter if we are going to depend on conventional desalination. Because producing water depends on producing power and in winter, we don't need that much power,” he said.

In a separate interview at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Miguel Sanz, the president of the International Desalination Association and a director of strategic development at French waste and water company Suez, told Zawya that about 90 percent of the region's water comes from desalination plants.

However, in the Gulf region, most of this is still generated via conventional plants. He argued that virtually all new proposals from private sector developers are now for osmosis plants because they cater for differing levels of demand for power and water.

"Now, the majority of the cases are going for an IWP only," said Sanz. "Those are the things they are passing now in the Emirates and in Saudi Arabia as the main markets. The others are more or less following this trend."

(Reporting by Michael Fahy; Editing by Anoop Menon and Shane McGinley)

(michael.fahy@thomsonreuters.com)

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Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. The content does not provide tax, legal or investment advice or opinion regarding the suitability, value or profitability of any particular security, portfolio or investment strategy. Read our full disclaimer policy here.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles



Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. The content does not provide tax, legal or investment advice or opinion regarding the suitability, value or profitability of any particular security, portfolio or investment strategy. Read our full disclaimer policy here.

© ZAWYA 2018