Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) projects — involving the use of mirrors in place of photovoltaic (PV) panels in the electricity generation process — will be part of a sizable portfolio of utility-scale renewable energy schemes envisaged for development in the Sultanate in the coming years. According to a key official of Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP) — the single buyer of electricity and desalinated water output under the Sector Law —CSP is being looked at as a technology option in harnessing renewable energy resources for Oman’s growing energy requirements.

“With respect to CSP, we are very interested in the potential for that technology,” said Brian Wood, Planning and Economics Director —OPWP. “We are carefully monitoring what is going on (in the CSP space) in other parts of the world. As we are in the first stages of the development of our renewable energy plan, we are not making any technology-type commitments in the plan at this stage.”

According to experts, Concentrated Solar Power plants produce electricity by converting the sun’s energy into high-temperature heat using various mirror configurations. The heat is then channelled through a conventional generator to produce electricity.

Oman’s first utility-scale grid-connected renewable energy project will be a 500MW capacity project based on solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and will come up in Ibri in Dhahirah Governorate by 2023. The next is the series — a 500-1,000 MW capacity solar project due in 2024 — will also be based on solar PV technology.

“At some point, we will do a CSP project; CSP will be an important part of our energy mix,” said Wood, noting in this regard to need for storage solutions to become more economical and viable before CSP based projects can be contemplated for implementation here in Oman.

“I think in these early stages, if we build up a few thousand megawatts of renewable energy at the size of the system that we have, we are not limiting or creating problems for us on a dispatch basis. This is where storage has to come into play at some point, so I think we don’t want to make big experiments; we want to develop projects so we are taking that approach — watching carefully what’s going on in how the costs are changing in that technology.”

OPWP aims to procure more than 2,600 MW of renewables based power generation capacity by 2025, in line with a commitment to ensuring that renewables account for at least 10 per cent of total generation capacity.

New solar-based capacity additions are planned at yearly intervals via a succession of procurements, each sized at a minimum of 500 MW, for commercial launch in 2023 and 2024.

Also envisioned is a pair of large-scale wind power schemes, each of around 200 MW, to be brought into operation in 2023 and 2024 respectively.

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) — the nation’s largest oil and gas producer — is developing the Sultanate’s first CSP-type solar project at Amal in support of its Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) operations.

The 1 gigawatt (GW) Miraah project features parabolic mirrors that, instead of producing electricity, support the generation of super-heated steam that is pumped into Amal’s heavy oil reservoir.

More recently, Occidental of Oman announced plans for an even larger 2GW solar thermal energy plant that will utilise large mirrors to concentrate sunlight and boil oilfield water into steam to facilitate the production of heavy oil from the Mukhaizna field in central Oman.

US-based GlassPoint Solar is the technology provider behind both Miraah and the proposed Mukhaizna scheme. As captive energy projects, these will not be connected to Oman’s electricity grid.