Dubai has set out to grab another solar pricing record at its Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) managing director and chief executive, Saeed Al Tayer, said on Thursday that the utility would build the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world. The utility has released a tender for international CSP advisory companies for the first 200MW phase out of a total 1,000MW.
“There will be a thermal storage capability that will store energy for up to 12 hours on a daily basis,” Mr Al Tayer said adding that the new phase will be based on CSP tower technology.
The previous phases of the solar park, which is planned to reach a total capacity of 5,000MW by 2030, have all used solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. Phase two set a world record low price and the 800MW third phase has already seen further record-breaking bids submitted.
Switching gears from PV technology to CSP creates another opening for Dubai to lead the solar world and expand its local solar manufacturing sector.
While the cost of solar PV panel has dropped by 75 per cent over five years to 2014 with further reductions expected, CSP remains a more expensive choice. The lowest bid so far submitted in the region for CSP is for Morocco’s Noor II and III projects at 15.67 US cents per kilowatt hour – over five times higher than the lowest submitted price for PV in Dubai. Mr Al Tayer said he expects said that Dubai will achieve CSP prices at nearly half that level at about 8 US cents per kilowatt hour.
However, unlike the cheaper technology, CSP offers storage capabilities which means solar power can be utilised at night.
CSP is already being deployed at the 100MW Shams solar plant in Abu Dhabi, spearheaded by Masdar, Spain’s Abengoa and Total of France.
Frank Wouters, former director of Masdar Clean Energy and former chairman of Shams Power, said people have been focused on the price tag of solar which leads them to choose solar PV.
“It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario: if you don’t do things, you can’t get the cost down,” he said pointing to a lack of CSP projects globally.
Dewa taking this step also offers the chance to scale up local manufacturing. Mr Wouters said that 60 per cent to 80 per cent of CSP components can be sourced locally.
“It’s easier to achieve a very high share of local content. It’s difficult to make the receiving tubes and parabolic mirrors – but the central tower – that’s all flat mirrors that are being used in the automobile industry. The rest is steel and cement,” he said.
The UAE has a favourable climate for solar investment including free land and stellar credit ratings. As a result we could see more industry records broken, said Mr Wouters.