How solar is powering UAE towards sustainability

 UAE envisions cleaning three-quarters of its energy before 2050

By Bhaskar Sinha
Published: Wednesday 21 September 2022

What will you do if you have huge football grounds at your disposal? Probably play and remain fit. If you are business-oriented, you would form a league and call the best talents and spectators for the game.

But in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), massive football ground-sized plots are being utilised for installing solar panels.

This blog will elaborate on technologies employed by the UAE in harnessing solar energy and how the oil and gas giant is preparing itself to remain an energy superpower.

The energy resources a country possesses determine its position in the international arena. The UAE is in an excellent place to secure an energetic future. Though the country relies heavily on fossil fuels to drive top-tier economic growth and prosperity, it has been investing in clean energy for quite some time.

The country has already understood that nothing is permanent in life and neither is oil and gas. The UAE envisions cleaning three-quarters of its energy before 2050.

Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is the world’s largest solar park, with a planned capacity of 1 gigawatt. It is being built in phases.

The first phase started with 13 megawatts photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2013, the second phase in 2017 with 200 megawatts PV capacity, the third phase in 2020 with 800 megawatts PV capacity.

The fourth phase was operationalised in the last quarter of 2020 with 250 megawatts of PV and 700 megawatts of concentrated solar power (CSP) capacities.

PV systems use semiconductor-based PV cells to convert sunlight directly into electricity. CSP uses reflective elements like troughs or mirror panels to produce heat, which is later converted into electricity.

This site hosts the world’s tallest solar tower of 260-meter height. The overall size of this solar park is 40 square kilometres, or roughly equivalent to the size of 7,474 football fields. 

Huge size matters and this is an important requirement for solar power generation. No roof is big enough for this requirement and the ground installations are easier to maintain. By 2030, the solar park’s energy capacity will increase by 5,000 megawatts. This park may offset 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. 

This park also helped to bring down the Levelised Cost of Electricity or the average net present cost of electricity generation for a generator over its lifetime. UAE has also significantly reduced global energy costs by promoting renewable energy sources.

UAE bestowed around 600 billion Dirhams till 2050 to meet the energy demand and promote sustainability. It is not only a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement but also serves as the headquarter of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Abu Dhabi is developing a 2 gigawatt Al Dhafra Solar Photovoltaic plant — the largest in the world when operational. It aims to power around 160,000 households. It has a target of offsetting 2.4 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to pulling 470,000 cars out of the roads.

Apart from photovoltaics, the UAE is also home to concentrated solar power and is placed at the third position. 

Shams 1 in western Abu Dhabi is the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant, operational since 2013 with a capacity of 100 megawatts. It powers 20,000 households and offsets 175,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The area covered by this concentrated solar power is 2.5 square km or roughly equalent to the size of 467 football fields. 

Unlike photovoltaics, concentrated solar power system has an inherent thermal storage capacity which is very beneficial during cloudy days and suitable for a hybrid operation. Following the path of Abu Dhabi, Dubai has also installed a concentrated solar power plant in Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.

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