Dubai to be home to world largest single-site solar energy park


The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is striving to harness the potential of renewable energy. As part of these plans, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (MBR Solar Park) was launched in 2012. Future developments at the plant will see solar energy generation capacity increasing to 1000 MW by 2020 and 5000 MW by 2050 – half of Dubai’s entire installed capacity at the end of 2016 – at an expected cost of Dh50bn ($13.6bn), making it the largest single site solar energy park in the world. The complex uses photovoltaic (PV) and, as of the fourth phase, concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies to generate clean energy for Dubai. Also housed in the complex are research and development centres, testing facilities and a solar powered water desalination plant.

Phased In

So far, four different build-and-development phases are at various stages of construction and operation, with a fifth stage on the way. The first phase came on-line in October 2013 with 13 MW of capacity. It involved the installation of 153,000 PV cells over 280,000 sq metres, connected to 13 transformers located in inverter buildings. The resulting output generates around 28m KWh of electricity. Officials calculate that this output reduces carbon emissions by 15,000 tonnes per year. Phase two added a further 200 MW of capacity, with DEWA using the independent power producer (IPP) model to contract a private sector consortium led by ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia and TSK Solar of Spain at a cost of Dh1.2bn ($326.6m). This phase involved installing 2.3m PV panels over a 4. 5-sq-km area, allowing for the provision of electricity to 50,000 homes in Dubai and cutting the emirate’s carbon emissions by 214,000 tonnes per annum.

The third phase also followed the IPP model with a consortium led by UAE company Masdar Clean Energy and French renewable energy group EDF Energies Nouvelles. Selected in mid-2016, the team will add a further 800 MW of capacity. This phase was itself broken down into three sub-phases. In the first of these, a total of 200 MW came on-stream in May 2018, with the latter two expected to be completed in 2019 and 2020.

Embracing Innovation

In March 2018 work began on the fourth phase, which introduced CSP technology to the complex and will also include molten salt for thermal energy storage. This method allows energy to be stored for up to 15 hours, meaning electricity from solar power can be pumped into the grid at night. Also included in this phase will be the world’s largest solar tower, at 260 metres, which is to be constructed in stages starting in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Work is being carried out by a consortium led by ACWA Power, the Chinese state-owned Silk Road Fund, and Chinese multinational Shanghai Electric, which is acting as the lead contractor. The consortium managed to submit a bid with the lowest levelised cost of electricity anywhere in the world in 2017, set at $0.73 per KWh.

The Dh14.2bn ($3.9bn) fourth phase was originally set to add a total of 750 MW of capacity; however, in November 2018 DEWA said it had amended the contract with the ACWA Power-led consortium to add a further 250 MW, taking the fourth phase’s capacity to 950 MW. The addition raised the total investment cost of the phase to Dh16bn ($4.4bn). A fifth expansion phase is also in preparation. In August 2018 various IPP consortia submitted initial bids for the 300-MW PV solar plant. In a connected development in April 2018 DEWA placed a $90m order with ABB to build a 400-KV substation to integrate power from MBR Solar Park onto Dubai’s electricity grid. This was the second substation built by Swiss-Swedish ABB for the solar park.

The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 raises the renewable target from 4% of total electricity generation in 2018 to 25% by 2030 and 75% by 2050. Despite ambitious targets, stakeholders believe this is achievable. Phases three and four of MBR Solar Park should lift solar’s share to around 13%, while by 2030, with all phases completed, the solar park would be supplying 25% of total electricity use, according to industry media.

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The Report: Dubai 2019

Energy chapter from The Report: Dubai 2019

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