In the past decade, the UAE has launched several significant initiatives to ensure sustainable progress in the country, with clean energy generation being the primary focus. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (also known as Dubai Solar Park) is one such initiative that is putting the UAE on the map when it comes to promoting sustainability. Today, MyBayut takes a closer look at the one-of-a-kind Dubai Solar Park facility and its accomplishments!
WHY WAS THE MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM SOLAR PARK ESTABLISHED?
In 2012, the UAE launched the Green Economy initiative for sustainable developments to make the country a global leader in the green economy, products and technologies. The establishment of the DEWA Solar Park in Dubai is in line with this initiative and is part of a larger commitment to sustainable development projects across the UAE.
Meanwhile, the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 has the ambitious goal of achieving an energy mix largely based on renewable and clean energy sources. The goal of the strategy is to have 75% of the emirate’s energy come from clean sources by the year 2050, which amounts to 42,000 MW (megawatts).
HOW DOES THE MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM SOLAR PARK CONTRIBUTE TO THIS STRATEGY?
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (MBR) is one of the main pillars of this new age strategy and was launched in 2012 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The development of the solar park will further boost Dubai as a global leader in the clean and renewable energy sector.
The Dubai Solar Plant is the largest single-site solar energy project in the world, based on the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model. It has been implemented by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). By 2030, the Dubai Solar Park is expected to produce around 5,000 MW with a total investment of AED 50 billion! One of the interesting facts about the MBR Solar Park is that it is expected to reduce 6.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually when complete.
The solar park will also house an Innovation Centre, a Research and Development (R&D) Centre, and a 3D-printed lab.
DEVELOPMENT PHASES OF THE DUBAI SOLAR PARK
Let’s take a look at the various phases of development and energy production that the MBR Solar Park has reached so far.
FIRST PHASE (13MW USING PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR PANELS)
The first phase became operational in October 2013, with a capacity of 13 MW. Its annual output was 28 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity using photovoltaic technology. The first phase led to a reduction of 15,000 tons of carbon emissions each year.
SECOND PHASE (200MW USING PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR PANELS)
The 200MW photovoltaic phase was launched in 2017 and was the first such project in the region based on the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model. This phase has a capacity of 200 MW and will provide energy to 50,000 homes in the emirate. This translates to a reduction of 214,000 tons of carbon emissions per year, one of the many interesting facts about MBR Solar Park.
THIRD PHASE (800MW USING PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR PANELS)
The third phase of the solar park was inaugurated in December 2020. Using photovoltaic solar panels, the new plant has the capacity of 800MW. This translates into clean energy for 240,000 Dubai homes. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) in partnership with a consortium led by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) and EDF Group (subsidiary EDF Énergies Nouvelles) built the third phase spending almost AED 3.47 billion during the process.
The facility is unique, especially in the region; it uses single-axis solar tracking to enhance energy production. Similarly, it uses innovative methods like robots for cleaning photovoltaic panels and increasing the plant’s efficiency.
DEWA set the world record by obtaining the lowest cost for photovoltaic solar power. The Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) was only 2.99 dollars per kilowatt per hour. A new company was formed called Shuaa Energy 2 and DEWA owned 60% of the stakes. EDF Énergies Nouvelles has a 24% share, and Masdar’s share stands at 24 %.
HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company stated that the third phase’s inauguration is a significant milestone:
“Inspired by the vision of the UAE leadership, the inauguration of the third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park marks a significant milestone in the journey towards achieving the UAE’s target of having 50% of its power coming from clean energy by 2050.”
FOURTH PHASE (950MW OF CSP AND PV)
The ambitious fourth phase of the Dubai Solar Park was launched in 2017. For this phase, three technologies will be used to produce clean energy at Dubai Solar Park. 600 MW is to be produced with a parabolic basin complex, 100 MW from a concentrated solar tower and 250 MW from photovoltaic panels.
There are some unique aspects to this developmental phase of Dubai Solar Park. Soon, Dubai will be home to the world’s tallest solar tower at 260 metres. The project will also have the largest thermal energy storage area with a capacity of 15 hours and will also allow energy to be available throughout the night, too.
FIFTH PHASE (900MW USING PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR PANELS)
A fifth phase using photovoltaic (PV) solar panels was announced in 2019. The project will have a capacity of 900MW and will become operational in phases starting from Q2 of 2021. The two companies working in unison on the fifth phase are Chinese Shanghai Electric Group and ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER PROJECTS OPERATIONAL AT MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM SOLAR PARK?
The Dubai Solar Park has a water desalination plant, as well as a Research and Development Centre:
DUBAI SOLAR PARK DESALINATION PLANT
The water desalination plant is powered by solar energy and uses Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology. The production capacity is 50 cubic metres, which is around 11,000 gallons a day. The UAE Water Aid Foundation (Suqia) is a partner in this innovative project to provide clean water to the needy in other countries through various initiatives.
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT CENTRE
The Research & Development Centre at Dubai Solar Plant spans across 4,400 sq. m. and has various labs, workshops and testing facilities.
Dubai Solar Park’s R&D Centre focuses on the development of the following four areas:
- Electricity production from solar power and other clean energy technologies
- Integration of smart grids
- Energy efficiency
The centre is also home to a 3D-printed lab, which is the first-of-its-kind in the world! While the park already has two solar testing facilities, DEWA is also working to build an innovation centre.
HOW WILL DUBAI SOLAR PARK HELP CONTRIBUTE TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS IN THE UAE?
The Dubai Solar Park project will contribute through three main aspects, with the first being the environmental factor. With energy being generated using natural resources, dependency on carbon will reduce significantly. This will help in making this city a healthy and safe place to live in. It also supports the government’s social initiatives. All projects adhere to the good governance model and work ethics guidelines.
Lastly, the economic benefits are substantial. A large number of the population is already employed in the energy sector and with each project the number rises. Furthermore, businesses in the region will undoubtedly benefit from reduced energy costs. Overall, this means that Dubai is supporting the global effort of attaining a sustainable growth model.
WHAT ARE THE OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES THAT DUBAI SOLAR PARK FACES?
The Dubai landscape brings its own set of challenges for management. Dust accumulation on modules can adversely impact the capacity of power generation. To combat this, panel coating is applied to the modules.
In the long run, temperature fluctuations could speed up the degradation process of the photovoltaics. During summers, Dubai sees temperatures as high as 50 degree Celsius and as low as 15 degree Celsius at night, which can increase the cost of the project.
WHERE IS DUBAI SOLAR PARK LOCATED?
Dubai Solar Park is located in Seih Al-Dahal region, around 50 km south of Dubai.
In the past few years, there has been a push from the government to move towards cleaner energy sources for residential homes, too. Now, Dubai residents can become more sustainable by powering their home by solar energy with the Shams project by DEWA. Similarly, DEWA has also opened up electric car charging stations as a way of encouraging the use of such vehicles in the emirate.
All these projects are in line with the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the best thing is that many businesses and real estate developers are also jumping on the bandwagon. There are many eco-friendly neighbourhoods in Dubai. Sustainable City Dubai is one of the leading examples.
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