All you need to know about Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park

Upon completion, Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will become the largest single-site solar development on the planet. Paromita Dey outlines everything you need to know about the enormous project.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will produce 1,000MW by 2020 and 5,000MW by 2030. With a total investment of $13.6bn (AED50bn), it will help Dubai to achieve an annual reduction of approximately 6.5 million tonnes of carbon.

The solar park includes an innovation centre, worth $136m (AED500m), which will host a number of research and development laboratories for clean energy.

The solar park, one of the world’s largest renewable energy projects, is based on an independent power producer (IPP) model. It will be developed across three phases, which will consist of solar farms that employ photovoltaic (PV) technology. The development will also include a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant.

The solar park is being implemented by Dubai’s Supreme Council of Energy (SCE), and will be managed and operated by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) as part of the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030.

Here’s everything you need to know about the mammoth solar development.

1. The first phase of the solar park became operational in 2013

The first phase of the solar park – in Seih Al-Dahal, about 50km south of Dubai – was a 13MW solar farm, which was constructed by US-based First Solar Inc in 2013. It uses 152,880 FS-385 black CdTe modules and generates approximately 24GWh per year. This power plant generates enough energy to meet the average annual electricity needs of more than 500 local households. On average, electricity generated by the power plant is expected to displace more than 14,000 tonnes of CO2 annually – equivalent to removing 1,600 cars from the road every year.

2. Phase 2 to become operational by April 2017

The $326m (AED1.2bn) Phase 2 of the solar park, to be built over an area of almost 4.5km2, will begin operations in April 2017. In January 2015, DEWA announced that the production capacity of the this phase of the development was to be increased twofold, from the initially planned 100MW to 200MW.

DEWA has selected a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and Spain’s TSK as the preferred bidder, based on its proposed levelised cost of energy (LCOE). More than 2.3 million solar PV panels will be installed during Phase 2, producing enough energy to power 30,000 homes. A project company, Shuaa Energy 1, has been formed to complete the phase. DEWA is the majority shareholder at 51%, with Acwa and TSK sharing the remaining 49%.

3. Phase 3 has been awarded to a Masdar-led consortium

The solar park’s 800MW Phase 3, which will be operational by 2020, will also be based on the IPP model. The selected bidder for this portion of the project is a Masdar-led consortium, which includes two Spanish firms: Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) and Gransolar Group.

Phase 3 is to be developed over a period of three years; year one will see the implementation of 300MW, year two will also see the implementation of 300MW, and year three will see the implementation of 200MW.

With the lowest bid of $0.0299 per kWh, the Masdar-led consortium was selected over four rivals. This price broke the then-world record set by Phase 2 of the same project, for which the ACWA-led consortium quoted $0.0584 per kWh.

4. The solar park’s R&D laboratories will be 3D printed

Under the umbrella of its research and development (R&D) centre, the solar park will feature 3D-printed laboratories. These labs will explore the possibility of using drones to further enhance the performance of PV panels. The research will be conducted in a bid to improve the efficiency and credibility of the technology, and reduce the associated costs.

DEWA has been using drones for the last three years to monitor its electricity and water production, transmission, and distribution systems. The solar park’s four main labs will focus on the fields of electronics, software, mechanical, and prototyping. The project will also include an outdoor testing facility, which will feature a landing area equipped with sensors, and a power, water, and data line. This area will allow the testing of sensors, actuators, and other systems.

5. A Solar Innovation Centre will be built within the park

The Solar Innovation Centre has been designed with sustainability in mind, and will support the overarching objectives of the solar park. Its design celebrates the identity of the development, reinforcing Dubai’s status as a leading example of sustainable development, both regionally and internationally.

The facility will offer a platform to showcase the latest energy technologies, enabling DEWA to demonstrate its achievements within the fields of renewable energy and sustainability. In addition, it will be used to highlight the green strategies of Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030.

The centre will also house a museum and exhibition area dedicated to solar and renewable energies, which is expected to attract tourists, students, and corporations. As a permanent convention centre for events and conferences, business meetings, training, and gatherings related to solar, renewables, and other green initiatives, the centre will target sustainable energy producers and developers.

Hadeed Emirates Contracting Company has been appointed as the main contractor for the facility, and Ted Jacob Engineering Group is the project consultant. The Solar Innovation Centre is scheduled to complete in Q1 2017.