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Pouring sun on energy mix: UAE kick off its first $35mn solar plant

Published time: October 22, 2013 13:33
Reuters/Jose Manuel Ribeiro

Reuters/Jose Manuel Ribeiro

Dubai has switched on its first solar plant which is also the largest in the Middle East and North Africa. It is an attempt by the OPEC member to diversify away from the conventional energy mix.

The 13-megawatt photovoltaic plant was built by the biggest US solar-panel manufacturer First Solar Inc. (FSLR), with the facility cost estimated at between $33 million to $35 million, officials said.

“This is the first part of Dubai’s plan to develop a solar park with 1,000 megawatts of power by 2030,” as Reuters quoted  Saeed Al Tayer, chief executive officer of Dubai Electricity & Water Authority.

The move comes at a time when the country with 6 percent of global oil reserves is seeking to diversify away from natural gas as a fuel for power stations, as well as boost generating capacity to meet a 5 percent growth in Dubai electricity demand.

Under the Dubai diversification plan, the country should be generating 5 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030, with 12 percent coming from coal. Another 12 percent will be coming from nuclear reactors planned in neighboring Abu Dhabi, with the remaining 71 percent coming from gas.

In six months Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) also plans to invite bids for a private partner in its next solar project, a 100-megawatt plant in which it will hold a 51 percent stake. DEWA expects to complete its second solar plant in three years.

The UAE is the fourth-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, with Abu Dhabi holding most of its crude reserves.