Al Dhafra: aiming to be the biggest single-site PV project18 November 2020
The Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC) has announced the contract award for the development of what it believes is currently the world’s largest single-project solar power plant project. The contract was awarded to a consortium led by Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) and Masdar, with partners EDF and JinkoPower. The plant is the 2 GW Al Dhafra solar PV IPP (independent power producer) project, which will be located approximately 35 km from Abu Dhabi city. The project’s 30 year power purchase agreement (PPA) and shareholders’ agreement were signed with EWEC. EWEC says the “rigorous procurement process” leading up to the contract award resulted in one of the most cost-competitive tariffs for solar PV energy yet, set at AED 4.97 fils/kWh (USD 1.35 cents/kWh) on a levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) basis.
Above: Currently the world’s largest operating single-site solar project, Noor Abu Dhabi (aka Sweihan) entered commercial service in April 2019. Noor in Arabic means light. Located at Sweihan in Abu Dhabi, it covers an area of about 8 km2 and features 3.2 million JinkoSolar mono solar panels. The 1.2 GW project was awarded to a consortium of Marubeni and Jinko Power in 2017. At the time of bid submission, the proposal recorded what was then the world’s most competitive PV tariff, 2.42 c/kWh
Othman Al Ali, CEO of EWEC, said: “We are delighted to work with our partners and sign a PPA with a record low tariff for solar power. We are working to secure long-term energy supply and reinforce solar power’s integral role in meeting current and future energy needs. Combined with key technological advances, the Al Dhafra solar PV project will have a significant impact on diversifying the approach to our current electricity supply, and drive our strategic plan to further contribute towards the sector’s transformation in water and electricity production, as we develop a low-carbon grid in the UAE.”
The project is a public–private partnership, with 60% owned by a consortium comprising TAQA and Masdar (both government entities), while the remaining 40% will be owned by EDF and Jinko Power. The project’s financial closure is expected to be achieved shortly, enabling initial power generation in H1 2022 and full generation by H2 2022. The plant will increase Abu Dhabi’s solar power installed capacity to approximately 3.2 GW.
Jasim Husain Thabet, group CEO and managing director at TAQA, said: “The Al Dhafra solar PV plant is a benchmark project for our nation and the global energy sector. The project’s low tariff and utilisation of best-in-class technology further demonstrate the feasibility of utility-scale renewable energy projects that are accelerating our nation’s progress to meeting the ambitious energy objectives outlined in the UAE Energy Strategy 2050.”
The new plant will be significantly larger than TAQA’s existing 1.2 GW Noor Abu Dhabi solar PV facility, which is currently the world’s largest operational single-site solar PV plant.
“We are excited to be working...to realise the world’s largest single-site solar power plant,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, CEO of Masdar, “building on our existing portfolio of world-class projects in the UAE, including Shams in Abu Dhabi, and the third phase of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park in Dubai.”
Bruno Bensasson, CEO of EDF Renewables, said that his company had “a strong and close relationship with the UAE, providing the country with cutting-edge technology and supporting its energy policies for the long term”, noting that “the project will use the latest in crystalline, bifacial solar technology delivering electricity to the highest efficiency and at a world record-low tariff in such irradiation conditions.”
Charles Bai, president of Jinko Power international business, commented: “Jinko is once again privileged to be a partner in developing the new contender for largest PV generation plant in the world, following our successful partnership in building the current largest single-site solar project, Noor Abu Dhabi...” The UAE is an “attractive environment for investors” and Jinko’s strategy is to continue investing there, while the Al Dhafra Solar PV project “raises the bar” for the renewable energy sector as a whole, he said.
The Al Dhafra plant will be the first PV installation of such scale to deploy Jinko’s bifacial module technology, which means both sides of the PV modules capture light to yield higher generation (eg reflected from the sand surface below the module).
Jinko has also recently signed a contract with Shanghai Electric to supply 1 GW of bifacial solar modules to Phase V of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) solar park. The DEWA project is located in Dubai, and is part of the government’s plans to support the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 with the goal of providing 75% of Dubai’s total power output from clean energy sources by 2050.
JinkoSolar says it will supply its high efficiency Swan series modules, which will meet the requirements of Dubai’s “scorching temperatures” and highly competitive levelised cost of energy (LCOE) targets. “The innovative, bifacial design and low operating temperature of the modules were chosen to help achieve high power gain, effectively reduce LCOE and improve ROI for the project”, the company says.
JinkoSolar and Shanghai Electric envisage long-term co-operation in PV under a strategic partnership agreement. They say they “intend to fully co-operate in the development, bidding, investment and construction of overseas solar projects by leveraging their respective strengths and jointly contribute to the development of the global solar market.”
Min Cao, president of Shanghai Electric Power Generation Group, acknowledged support from JinkoSolar in addressing “challenges in raw material procurement and delayed delivery times caused by the global pandemic.”