Dubai set for world’s cheapest night-time solar power

World Environment Day featured record-low solar bids submitted for Dubai’s upcoming project that will allow the sun to power thousands of homes at night.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) announced yesterday the prices from four consortiums for the 200-megawatt fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park.

The lowest bid for the concentrated solar power (CSP) project came in at 9.45 US cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), nearly 40 per cent below the previous world-record low price for electricity generated from this technology. The three other bids ranged from 10.58 cents to 17.35 cents per kWh.

“The UAE’s focus on renew­able energy generation has led to a drop in prices worldwide and has lowered the price of solar and wind power bids in Eur­ope and the Middle East,” said Saeed Al Tayer, the managing director and chief executive of Dewa.

The utility will now review the bid submissions to determine the project winner, a process that usually takes a month.

Solar Project
Consortiums include Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power and China’s Shanghai Electric, followed by the Abu Dhabi clean energy company Masdar with partners EDF of France and Abengoa of Spain.

Masdar and EDF confirmed their participation, but said in a joint statement that this was an “active bid, with the technical and commercial proposals under evaluation by Dewa”.

Power China, Engie of France and Solar Reserve of the US also submitted bids as well as the Chinese firm Suncan with Al Fanar of Saudi Arabia.

Florence Fontani, Engie regional executive vice president of strategy, said that the company would continue to bid for UAE projects for both gas and solar tenders. “Our low carbon strategy remains well-aligned with the capacity-adding plans in the UAE, so our group will continue to position for upcoming projects,” she said

The latest phase was announced last summer as the utility looks to not only diversify its energy mix to include more renewable sources, but also to use different technologies.

The 800MW third phase – utilising solar photovoltaic (PV) technology – was won by Abu Dhabi’s Masdar at a bid price of 2.99 cents per kWh. CSP remains a more expensive choice than PV, but it has its own advantage in the form of energy storage. This will mark the first time that Dubai will use a solar thermal technology that includes up to 15 hours of storage – which means solar power can be pumped into the grid even with little to no sun shining.

Paddy Padmanathan, chief executive of Acwa Power, said it was exciting to see CSP technology with storage “offering dispatchable solar energy – day and night, competing with fossil fuel-based alternatives”.

The fourth phase is the first of a planned total of 1,000MW using CSP tower technology, which has mirrors beaming light to a tower that creates steam to generate electricity.

The solar park will have a total capacity of 5GW by 2030, in line with Dubai’s clean energy strategy of generating 75 per cent of electricity from clean energy by 2050.

Currently the solar park is generating 213MW of PV power, with another 800MW under construction.