In October 2022, the UAE launched its strategic initiative for net-zero emissions by 2050, to become the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to undertake such a strategic initiative. Dubai also launched the Net Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy 2050 to provide 100% of Dubai’s total power capacity from clean energy sources by 2050. One of the most extensive clean and renewable energy projects that Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is implementing to achieve this target is the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world. It has a planned capacity of 5,000MW by 2030 with investments up to AED 50 billion. When completed, the solar park will reduce over 6.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA, said that the regulatory frameworks in Dubai, which enable the private sector to take part in energy production projects in Dubai, have encouraged international investors and developers to participate in the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park’s projects, which DEWA is implementing using the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model. He noted that DEWA has attracted investments of around AED 40 billion through this model in public-private partnerships. DEWA received the lowest solar energy prices (Levelised Cost of Energy) globally five consecutive times, making Dubai a global benchmark for solar power prices..
“At DEWA, we work in line with the vision and directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to promote sustainability and innovation and transform into a sustainable green economy. This is achieved by increasing the share of clean and renewable energy in line with the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Net Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy to provide 100% of Dubai’s total power capacity from clean energy sources by 2050.
“The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world, is our biggest project to achieve this vision. It has a planned capacity of 5,000MW by 2030. The current capacity at the solar park is 1,527MW using photovoltaic solar panels. DEWA is implementing more projects with a total capacity of 1,333MW using solar photovoltaic and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) in addition to future phases to reach 5,000MW by 2030. The clean energy capacity share is currently around 11.4% of Dubai’s energy mix, and is expected to reach around 14% by the end of 2022,” added Al Tayer.
The 13MW first phase became operational on 22 October 2013, comprising around 152,000 photovoltaic cells, connected to 13 transformers in inverter buildings. The output is transformed to 33 kilovolts (kV), and generates nearly 28 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually. The first phase contributes to an annual reduction of about 15,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
On 20 March 2017, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the 200MW photovoltaic second phase of the solar park, which is the largest and first project of its kind in the region, based on the IPP model. DEWA implemented the project in partnership with a consortium led by ACWA Power from Saudi Arabia as the main developer, and Spain’s TSK as the main contractor, with an investment of AED 1.2 billion. The efforts of Shuaa Energy 1, which was established by DEWA and the consortium led by ACWA Power and TSK, were vital in completing the work efficiently and professionally, with over 1.5 million Safe Man Hours without Lost Time Injury.
This second phase of the solar park provides clean energy to around 50,000 residences in the Emirate, reducing 214,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. This phase installed 2.3 million photovoltaic solar panels over an area of 4.5 square kilometers.
In November 2020, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum inaugurated the 800MW third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park using photovoltaic solar panels. DEWA implemented the third phase using the IPP model in partnership with a consortium led by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) and EDF Group, through its subsidiary EDF Énergies Nouvelles at an investment of AED3.47 billion. The third phase provides clean energy for over 240,000 residences in Dubai. The facility is the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa region to use single-axis solar tracking to increase energy generation. It also uses other innovative technologies, including cleaning robots for photovoltaic panels to increase the plant’s efficiency.
The 950MW fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park has investments totaling AED15.78 billion based on the IPP model. It is the largest single-site investment project that combines CSP and photovoltaic technology. It will use 700MW of CSP (600MW from a parabolic basin complex and 100MW from the solar power tower) and 250MW from photovoltaic solar panels. On its completion, the project will have the largest thermal storage capacity in the world of 15 hours, allowing for energy availability round the clock. The 4th phase will provide clean energy for around 320,000 residences and reduce 1.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year.
In November 2019, DEWA announced the consortium led by ACWA Power and Gulf Investment Corporation as the preferred bidder to build and operate the 900MW 5th phase of the Solar Park, using photovoltaic solar panels based on the IPP model. DEWA achieved a world record by receiving the lowest bid of USD 1.6953 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for this phase. It uses the latest solar photovoltaic bifacial technologies with Single Axis Tracking to increase energy production. It will provide clean energy for more than 270,000 residences in Dubai and reduce 1.18 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
Innovation and R&D
The solar park hosts two pioneering projects: The Innovation Center and the R&D Centre. The Innovation Center supports DEWA’s efforts to support innovation and creativity in clean and renewable energy and raise awareness on sustainability in addition to strengthening national capabilities and enhancing business competitiveness.
The Innovation Center provides visitors with a unique experience to explore the latest innovations in clean energy technologies. The exhibition area on the first floor focuses on DEWA’s journey, key historical inventions and innovations in electricity, and the latest developments in renewable and sustainable energy. The area includes over 30 interactive exhibits designed to introduce visitors to developments in renewable energy. The site also houses the DEWA Museum, water desalination plants, and a visual space that explains the properties of light and solar radiation. The Center also features an exhibition on critical components of photovoltaic solar cells and related technologies, including Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and the Solar Power Tower. It also showcases DEWA’s renewable energy journey, Smart DEWA, solar cell applications in spacecraft and satellites, and the development of DEWA’s sustainable buildings.
The R&D Center supports DEWA’s efforts to anticipate the future, develop proactive, long-term plans to keep pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution by developing disruptive technologies. The Centre’s research areas include solar power, smart grid integration, energy efficiency, and water. It also focuses on space technologies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution applications such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing. These are some of the innovative solutions being used to produce spare parts for DEWA’s generation, transmission, and distribution divisions.
The R&D Center has various internal labs and outdoor labs to study the performance and reliability of photovoltaic solar panels. Key internal labs include the Electrical Characterization Lab, the Mechanical Characterization Lab, the Materials Characterization Lab, the Solar Simulator Lab, and the Accelerated Aging Lab. The outdoor labs include testing different solar panel technologies and performance, as well as the Robotic and Drone laboratory, which contributed to DEWA achieving a Guinness World Records title for the first 3D-printed lab in the world. The R&D Center is the only Center in the UAE that focuses on renewable energy, smart grid technologies and energy efficiency. It has the largest and most comprehensive solar testing and certification facility in the UAE. It operates the longest continuous testing of photovoltaic panels in the UAE in desert climate conditions.