The UAE’s solar energy sector is witnessing steady growth and is expected to account for almost 8 percent of total power capacity by 2026, according to new research.

On September 16, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) announced it had awarded the development of 700MW (megawatt) of concentrated solar power capacity to a consortium comprising Shanghai Electric and Acwa Power.

The contract marked the start of the fourth phase of the Muhammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar farm, and was the latest in a series of positive developments in the UAE solar sector over the course of 2017, BMI Research said in its latest paper.

With the addition of this 700MW, BMI said it forecast solar capacity to expand by an annual average of 55 percent between 2017 and 2026, meaning the segment would account for 7.9 percent of total power generating capacity in the UAE by then.

This marks an improvement in BMI’s earlier forecast of the sector accounting for 5.9 percent of total capacity by that date.

BMI’s report urged the UAE to work on developing solar power storage capability in particular. It said: “The ability to store power will mean that Dubai can access a more reliable source of solar power – with the potential of sourcing power from the CSP [concentrated solar power] facility both at night and during days of little or no sun.

“As such, we stress that the primary advantage of developing CSP technology is the technology’s ability to mitigate solar intermittence by storing power generation excesses and plug power generation deficits.”

The report said this would play a key role in helping Dubai to meet its target to source 7 percent of its power supply from clean energy by 2020, and 75 percent by 2050.