Solar power in the UAE has the capability to outdo US and European
targets of producing 20 to 30 per cent of energy from renewable sources
by 2020, thanks largely to abundant revenues from oil, trade, tourism,
and real estate to boost it, the world’s largest solar panel
manufacturer has said.
The Middle East’s first 10-megawatt solar park at Masdar City in Abu
Dhabi was connected to Abu Dhabi’s electrical grid at the end of May
this year, and is using power to finish the zero-waste, zero-carbon
city’s remaining construction phases.
Half of the solar park’s 87,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels are thin-film
variety supplied by US-based First Solar, while the other half are
crystalline panels manufactured by China’s Suntech. The solar farm is
the Middle East’s first grid-connected PV generation plant, and will
supply Masdar City with 17,500 megawatt-hours each year.
However, renewable energy like solar will have competition from the
existing highly-subsidised grid electricity for energy-intensive
industries like desalination for example, and the UAE needs to bridge
the large gap in the short term with a feed-in-tariff or rebates, said
Nader Jandaghi, Middle East director of Suntech Power, the largest
manufacturer of solar panels in the world.
“Solar-powered water desalination is a great solution for remote
off-grid applications … However, close to big-population centres like
the city of Dubai, access to subsidised cheap grid electricity makes it
more amenable to have traditional-powered desalination plants.
“The price of electricity from the grid in the UAE is subsidised to the
point of being up to four-times cheaper than comparative prices in
Europe and the USA,” he said.
Yet with Abu Dhabi’s commitment to sourcing seven per cent of its
energy from renewable sources by 2020, this will create a market for
renewables in the capital worth approximately $8 billion (Dh29.39
billion) in the next decade.
“A Renewable Portfolio Standard [RPS] of seven per cent renewables by
2020 is a modest start, even if it is at just one of the emirates.
“By comparison, the European Union has committed to an RPS of 20 per
cent by 2020, and the drive in USA is led by California which already
has a 20 per cent by 2010 goal and trying to amend to 30 per cent by
2020,” Jandaghi said.
“The UAE is blessed with not only abundant sunshine, but also abundant
revenues from oil, trade, tourism, and real estate. Given these
advantages, the UAE should put in place goals that meet or even exceed
the Europeans’ and the USA,” he said.
Experts worldwide agreed sunshine and space are the UAE’s biggest
assets in terms of developing solar power as renewable energy however,
this should be developed as a mix of remote desert solar farms, and
rooftop and façade installations on residences and businesses that all
contribute to the overall production of solar energy, Jandaghi added.