Solar power in the United Arab Emirates

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Solar potential in the United Arab Emirates

Solar power in the United Arab Emirates has the potential to provide most of the country's electricity demand.[citation needed] While being a major oil producing country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken steps to introduce solar power on a large scale. However, solar power still accounts for a small share of energy production in the country. The country was the 6th top carbon dioxide emitter per capita in the world in 2009, with 40.31 tonnes,[1] but is planning to generate half of its electrical energy by 2050 from solar and nuclear sources, targeting 44% renewables, 38% gas, 12% coal, and 6% nuclear energy sources.[2]

By region[edit]

Abu Dhabi[edit]

In 2013, the Shams solar power station, a 100-megawatt (MW) concentrated solar power (CSP) plant near Abu Dhabi became operational. The US$600 million Shams 1 is the largest CSP plant outside the United States and Spain and is expected to be followed by two more stations, Shams 2 and Shams 3.[3]

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi was designed to be the most environmentally sustainable city in the world. Power is generated by a 10 MW solar PV power plant located on site and 1 MW of rooftop solar panels. Originally planned to have all rooftop panels, it was found easier to clean the sand off ground mounted panels at a single location.It Is located on Abu Dhabi.[4]

In 2020 the 2 GW Al Dhafra Solar project was announced by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. A consortium led by France's EDF and China's Jinko Solar will build the 20 square kilometres (7.7 sq mi) PV plant in the Al Dhafra region, about 35km south of Abu Dhabi City, using bifacial (dual-sided) crystalline technology. It will offer the lowest solar energy tariff in the world - AED4.97 fils/kWh (US1.35 cents/kWh). It is due to be commissioned in 2022.[5][6][2]


The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy aims to provide 7 per cent of Dubai's energy from clean energy sources by 2020. It will increase this target to 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050.[7] Due to a variety of factors, a Saudi-backed consortium had a low bid to build the solar farm in Dubai for only 3¢/kWh.[8]

The first phase of the proposed 1,000 MW Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, in Seih Al-Dahal, about 50 kilometers south of the city of Dubai, was the 13-megawatt (DC) solar farm (DEWA 13) that had been constructed by First Solar in 2013.[9] It uses 152,880 FS-385 black CdTe modules and generates about 24 gigawatt-hours per year.[10][11]

The second phase is a 200 MWAC (260 MWp[12]) photovoltaic plant built at a cost of US$320 million by a consortium led by ACWA Power and Spanish company TSK. The second phase was scheduled to be commissioned by April 2017.[13] It was completed ahead of time, and commissioned on 22 March 2017. TSK served as the primary contractor for the project, while ACWA Power will operate the plant. The phase includes 2.3 million photovoltaic solar panels spread over an area of 4.5 km2. ACWA Power secured a 27-year debt financing loan worth $344 million from the First Gulf Bank, the National Commercial Bank and the Samba Financial Group.[14] The plant uses First Solar's CdTe modules.[15]

In April 2015, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) publicly announced the third phase of 800 MW, along with Dubai's revised target to increase the share of renewables on the energy mix to 7% by 2020.[16]

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is one of the world's largest renewable projects based on an independent power producer (IPP) model. Besides the three phases that consist of solar farms using PV technology, the long-term project will also include concentrating solar power (CSP). The total capacity of the entire project is planned to reach 3,000 MW.[16]

The 200-megawatt second phase of the project caused worldwide attention, as the winning bid of the tender set a new record-low tariff of only US ¢5.89 per kilowatt-hour. This is about 20% lower than any previous, unsubsidized power purchase agreement (PPA) the world has seen before. The PPA is set to a 25-year time frame.[12][17]

In parallel to the utility-scale projects of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, in March 2015 DEWA also launched a net metering scheme to encourage companies and private individuals to install solar power on their roofs.[18] While the scheme is currently voluntary, solar panels are to be made mandatory for all buildings in Dubai by 2030.[19]

Ras Al Khaimah[edit]

In 2016, UTICO, a private Emirati desalination and power company, proposed building two photovoltaic system plants in Ras Al Khaimah: a 120 MW farm and a 20 MW farm.[20] American University of Ras Al Khaimah conducts research on solar power and runs a solar/diesel hybrid mini-grids.[21]

Ras Al Khaimah has revealed a strategy in January 2019 of building a 1.2GW solar project consisting of 600MW of rooftop solar and 600MW of utility-scale projects called Barjeel as part of the emirate's strategy in achieving 30% energy efficiency improvements, 20% water savings and 20% renewable energy generation by 2040.[22]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Interview on YouTube – Michael Liebreich, "Cheapest Solar in World", about the record-low 5.84 US cents/kWh PPA in Dubai
  • Solar Energy in Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, DEWA, Government of Dubai


  1. ^ World carbon dioxide emissions data by country: China speeds ahead of the rest Guardian 31 January 2011
  2. ^ a b "UAE's clean energy goals are not limited to solar, says energy minister". World Nuclear News. 23 September 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  3. ^ Shames-website
  4. ^ Masdar: the shifting goalposts of Abu Dhabi's ambitious eco-city, Wired, 17 December 2013
  5. ^ "EDF, Jinko Power consortium submits lowest bid for Abu Dhabi's 2GW Al-Dhafra Solar PV project". SaudiGulf Projects. 28 April 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Al Dhafra Solar Project, Abu Dhabi". Powertechnology. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Beyond Climate Confusion: Why Both Energy Innovation and Deployment Matter Varun Sivaram Council on Foreign Relations May 4, 2016
  9. ^ STATE OF REPORT: Dubai 2014, United Nations Development Programme, ISBN 978-9948-20-456-5 (Note: In the original document, the ISBN is printed as "5-456-20-9948-978", which reads right to left.)
  10. ^ DEWA 13 Solar Plant, First Solar
  11. ^ FirstSolar Factsheet, PDF
  12. ^ a b ACWA Power wins 200 megawatts (260MWp) phase II Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, 17 January 2015
  13. ^ Dubai Doubles Power-Plant Size to Make Cheapest Solar Energy, Bloomberg, Anthony DiPaola, January 15, 2015
  14. ^ "UAE PM inaugurates second phase of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar plant". Power Technology. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
  15. ^ "First Solar Modules to Power Landmark 200MW Solar Photovoltaic Project in Dubai". MarketWatch. 23 June 2015.
  16. ^ a b DEWA announces 800 MW third Phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park Archived 2015-07-11 at the Wayback Machine, 21 April 2015
  17. ^ Craig Morris (27 November 2014). "Solar in Dubai reaches record low price".
  18. ^ "DEWA announces Shams Dubai to regulate generation of solar energy in buildings and connection to its grid". WAM Emirates New Agency. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  19. ^ "Solar panels on all Dubai roofs by 2030". Khaleej Times. 29 November 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  20. ^ Utico to build new desalination plant in RAK, Gulf Energy News, August 1, 2016
  21. ^ Solar Mini Grid, American University of Ras Al Khaimah, RAK Research and Innovation Center
  22. ^ "Emirate reveals 1.2GW solar ambitions as it launches sustainable building code". 30 January 2019.