The Middle East & North Africa region (MENA) has the world’s best conditions for both CSP and PV projects. It has an abundance of sunshine, low precipitation rate, plenty of Greenfield flat land close to road networks and transmission grids. In order to run such projects in MENA competitively, a portfolio of different support schemes is needed such as finance to also include the Independent Power project (IPP) model, concessions, national incentives like long-term power purchase agreements (PPA), feed-in tariffs, among others.
MENA has already become home to this new industry with considerable solar energy resources. Investments in renewable energy could benefit from significant power supply to satisfy growing demand and would also benefit the sector globally from increased volume and thereby lower costs in equipment manufacturing.
Water-heating from solar thermal collectors is also commercially available but its use is currently limited to large installations mainly hotels, new building construction and government-funded housing in the UAE.
Solar power has been the key focus of UAE’s efforts to date with the commissioning of the 100 MW Shams 1 CSP plant – the largest-ever renewable energy project in the Middle East | first phase of Dubai’s 13 MW solar PV plant was awarded to a US company, First Solar and commissioned in 2013, the second phase of 200 MW PV plant awarded to ACWA Power in 2015 is presently underway and due to be completed in mid-2017; the third phase of 800MW PV plant is in bidding stages with the contract to be awarded in 2016.
Over 10 MW of rooftop PV is also scattered across the country and may expand further with new metering regulations in Dubai and approval of wiring regulations in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE is also looking at solar power for desalination using highly energy-efficient membrane technologies to produce around 1500 cubic meters of water a day. If the pilot projects are successful, it will pave the way for similar projects at the municipal scale.
Given that the UAE receives over 10 hours of daily sunlight on average, over roughly 350 sunny days per year – the total solar energy received is about 6.5 kWh/m2 /day and direct normal solar radiation is 4-6 kWh/m2 /day, depending on location and time of year. Some challenges in deploying large-scale solar plants in the Middle East are dust particles and humidity that compromise the efficiency as stated below:
(1) Significant reduction in the direct normal irradiance (DNI) affecting operations in CSP plants.
(2) Soiling of panels and mirrors requires frequent cleaning.
Most plant operators, including Shams I in Abu Dhabi have found ways to address soiling through cleaning. Ongoing research to improve both cleaning processes and the surface-resistance to dust accumulation is being done by Masdar Institute’s Research Center for Renewable Energy Mapping and Assessment to address these obstacles. The two main types of solar technologies popularly used are: Photovoltaic (PV) and Concentrated Solar Panel (CSP).
Our next post will dive deeper into the different types of solar energy: Photovoltaic and Concentrated Solar Power.
Until we rendezvous again,