The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has unveiled the world’s largest single-site solar power plant ahead of the UAE hosting the UN climate change conference, COP28.
The 2 gigawatt (GW) Al Dhafra Solar Photovoltaic Independent Power Project is jointly owned by clean energy firm Masdar, Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA), EDF Renewables from France, and JinkoPower from China, as well as electricity procurer Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC).
It was inaugurated by HH Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Ruler of Abu Dhabi. He said the power plant is already supplying clean, emission-free electricity to the UAE’s national grid.
Located 22 miles (35 km) from Abu Dhabi city, this massive solar plant spans more than 20 square kilometers of desert land and boasts four million JinkoPower bifacial solar panels, ensuring sunlight is captured on both sides of the panels to maximize yield. The clean electricity generated by this solar plant will power 200,000 homes and eliminate over 2.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
During the peak of the construction phase, this project created around 4,500 jobs, significantly boosting the local economy. The solar panels were installed at an average rate of 10 megawatts (MW) a day during construction.
TAQA holds a 40% stake in the project, and Masdar, EDF Renewables, and JinkoPower each hold a 20% stake. 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, said HH Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Al Dhafra has started operating and will now supply power to Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC) as per the 2020 power purchase agreement. With Al Dhafra going online, the UAE’s solar power production capacity has now reached 3.2 GW.
According to the statement, 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).
“The announcement of the Plant’s inauguration is of special significance as it coincides with the country’s preparations to host the global climate event, the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28),” said HE Engineer Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, Chairman of the Department of Energy in Abu Dhabi. “This further strengthens the national efforts aimed at producing photovoltaic solar energy at a competitive cost, providing substantial support for Abu Dhabi’s commitment to diversify clean and renewable energy sources, as well as the strategies and policies of the Department of Energy in this regard.”
EWEC also recently commissioned the development of two additional solar power projects of the same size and scale as Al Dhafra Solar PV, which will make Abu Dhabi home to four of the largest solar power plants in the world. In addition, they plan to develop an additional 1GW of new solar power energy projects in Abu Dhabi every year for the next ten years as a part of their strategic plan to rapidly accelerate the decarbonization of energy production. The UAE plans to triple the contribution of renewable energy to its power mix over the next seven years.