The world’s largest single-site solar power plant, 35 km from Abu Dhabi city, has been inaugurated, ahead of the UN climate change conference, COP28 in the UAE.
Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company – Masdar, and its partners Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA), EDF Renewables and JinkoPower, together with procurer Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC), have set up this plant.
TAQA owns 40% of the project, Masdar owns 20% while the remaining partners, EDF Renewables and Jinko Power, own a 20% stake each. The plant will supply power to the procurer EWEC – following the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed in 2020 – and will raise Abu Dhabi’s solar power production capacity to 3.2GW.
The landmark solar plant was built in a single phase and generates enough electricity to power almost 200,000 homes, displacing 2.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year.
Al Dhafra Solar PV spans more than 20 sq km of desert and created 4,500 jobs during the peak of the construction phase. It uses almost 4 million solar panels which deploy innovative bi-facial technology, ensuring sunlight is captured on both sides of the panels to maximise yield.
The 2GW Al Dhafra Solar PV project was inaugurated by HH Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Ruler of Abu Dhabi, in the presence of HH Lt General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.
HH Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan reaffirmed that the UAE, under the leadership of HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, is making major strides in its strategic plans to enhance its energy security by implementing a diverse range of flexible energy generation that is contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions, while also advancing the economy.
HH Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said: “As the UAE prepares to host COP28, this pioneering project reflects the country’s ongoing commitment to raising its share of clean energy, reducing its carbon emissions and supporting the global efforts on climate action.
“We are witnessing, day after day, project after project, that the UAE is at the global forefront of developing and adopting innovative clean energy solutions. We are achieving energy security, while also contributing to building a bright future for future generations to come.”
In less than 15 years, the UAE has become a global leader in solar energy. In 2009, Masdar switched on the country’s first solar project at 10MW – today, Al Dhafra Solar PV represents a plant that is 200 times that size.
As the countdown to COP28 in the UAE begins, this mega project initially achieved the world’s lowest tariff at financial close, and demonstrates the country’s longstanding commitment to decarbonization, at home and around the world.
The UAE is also a world leader in solar energy use, according to the latest data from The Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy, ranking second globally in terms of per capita solar energy consumption. In under a decade, the country has surpassed leading nations by installing solar energy, as part of the country’s energy diversification.
Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Chairman of Masdar and COP28 President-Designate, said: "Al Dhafra is part of a long and proud history of energy innovation, made possible thanks to the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE. This world-leading solar project demonstrates remarkable progress in solar power efficiency, innovation and cost competitiveness - setting a new record-low tariff. To create Al Dhafra, Masdar brought together three partners from around the world: TAQA, EDF of France and JinkoPower of China. With just days to go before the start of COP28, I will be asking the world to unite and deliver the energy transition by tripling renewables capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030. Al Dhafra is an example of the scale of the ambition needed around the world.”
The delivery of the project was made possible after global energy leaders formed a strategic partnership and harnessed their combined expertise. Al Dhafra Solar PV, planned and procured by EWEC, has broken records in terms of cost for utility-scale solar projects. Initially the project led to one of the most competitive tariffs for solar power set at AED 4.97 fils/kWh (USD 1.35 cents/kWh), which upon financial close, was further improved to AED 4.85 fils/kWh (USD 1.32 cents/kWh).
Engineer Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, Chairman of the Department of Energy in Abu Dhabi, affirmed that the inauguration of Al Dhafra Solar Photovoltaic marks a new and strategic step that enhances the United Arab Emirates’ and Abu Dhabi’s position in the clean and renewable energy sector.
“The project contributes to creating opportunities for sustainable economic and social growth, while simultaneously achieving a balance between sustainable development and mitigating the impacts of climate change. It will also promote the creation of a knowledge-based economy, harness clean technology, and create a diversified mix of energy sources.”
Jasim Husain Thabet, TAQA’s Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, said: “TAQA is very proud to have played a central role with our partners in delivering the world’s largest single-site solar PV plant, our second major solar plant in the UAE. With COP28 fast approaching, the 2GW Al Dhafra PV project shows the world what can be achieved through a commitment to partnership and technological progress.”
Othman Al Ali, Chief Executive Officer of EWEC, said: “EWEC is the leading entity in the region transitioning energy production to renewable and clean energy sources, and today’s inauguration of Al Dhafra Solar PV, the new world’s largest single-site solar power plant, is a key step on this important journey. Alongside Noor Abu Dhabi, Al Dhafra Solar PV raises EWEC’s solar energy production capacity while also significantly decreasing carbon emissions associated with electricity production. We have also recently commissioned the development of two additional solar power projects of the same size and scale as Al Dhafra Solar PV, which will proudly make Abu Dhabi home to four of the largest solar power plants in the world.”
Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar, said: “Today’s inauguration is a proud moment for Masdar, the UAE and our strategic partners, who have been instrumental in our shared success. Developing the world’s largest single-site solar power plant is a milestone achievement that required vision, partnership and a pioneering spirit.”
Bruno Bensasson, EDF Group Senior Executive Vice-President Renewable Energies and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EDF Renewables, said: “EDF is convinced that to build a carbon neutral future while preserving economic development and social prosperity the world needs to, progressively but faster, develop towards a mix of low CO2 emissions solutions. This mix of solutions should include renewable energies of course but also energy efficiency, nuclear energy, carbon capture and storage as well as clean H2. This way we will combine the need of energy producers and energy consumers, of richer and poorer countries, of economy and ecology.”
Charles Bai, President of Jinko Power International Business, said: “Jinko Power is proud of delivering another world’s record-breaking solar power project to the Emirate after our successful delivery of Noor Abu Dhabi project despite tremendous challenging circumstances arising from global pandemic. The inauguration today demonstrates once again the robust auction programmes designed and executed by the Government of Abu Dhabi. We remain fully committed to continue our contribution to the goal of carbon neutrality to Abu Dhabi and the world.”