How the power of the sun will bring jobs and clean energy to the UAE

A planned solar array in the Dubai desert that will deliver electricity at some of the cheapest rates in the world marks a shift in the way energy is supplied.
This week, Masdar, the Abu Dhabi energy company, was appointed to lead a consortium to deliver the first phase of DEWA’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
Masdar and two Spanish firms won the bid after stating they could build a plant that could produce energy for as little as 2.99 cents a kilowatt-hour. This would be the cheapest solar energy ever produced, about 15 per cent lower than a previous record in Mexico in April.
Here, we take a look at how much energy will be generated and what it means for residents in the UAE.
How much of the plant has been built already?
Phase one was built and finished in 2013 at a cost of Dhs50 billion and is about the size of 33 football pitches. It comprises an array of photovoltaic panels shimmering in the desert sun off the Al Ain Road that produce 13 megawatts of solar energy per month. This powers 600 homes and benefits the environment to the equivalent of taking 2,000 cars off the road.
What will happen next?
The second phase for a 200 megawatt extension will be completed by April 2017 and the third phase, by Masdar, will be an 800 MW extension that aims to be finished by 2020, CEO of DEWA Mohammed Al Tayer said at the Masdar announcement on Monday. “The 200 megawatt solar park phase is going to be commissioned next year. So in Dubai we are not just speaking but we are actually implementing projects,” he said. The park will eventually produce 5,000 megawatts by 2030.
Why solar?
As fossil fuel sources decline and the UAE diversifies its economy, there is a renewed need for clean and renewable sources of energy. The boom is also expected to create thousands of jobs.
Will the solar power plant make our electricity bills cheaper?
Eventually, yes, DEWA says, although it’s not clear by how much. DEWA says that by 2020, when 7 per cent of our energy mix comes from solar, the economic impact will be small, but when renewables provide 75 per cent of energy by 2050, it will be greater.
Will solar eventually power the city?
That’s the plan. The park will have a total capacity of 10,000 megawatts by 2050. By way of comparison, DEWA’s current capacity for the city is 8,000 megawatts.
Is the Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Plant the first project of its kind in Dubai?
Earlier this month DEWA launched a scheme that will allow homeowners to invest in solar panels and connect their homes. This scheme can be more directly linked to lower bills. Oryx, one of the firms connecting solar-powered homes to the grid, said owners can save between 15-50 per cent on bills. Prices start from about Dhs20,000. Outside of Dubai, Masdar also developed the 100 megawatt Shams 1 solar project in the Abu Dhabi desert at a cost of $600 million.
Who has solar panels on their roofs so far?
Not many at this stage. Villas in the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation housing project have been connected to the grid and developments such as Sustainable City are already pressing ahead with their own solar initiatives.
Will solar panels on roofs meet all of our energy needs?
No, we’ll need some other sources too. But as more and more buildings and residences are added to the DEWA grid, more energy will be stored in the grid when it is not being used.
Will the solar boom bring job opportunities?
Many. The UAE is on track to create 160,000 “green collar” jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2030, boosting the nation’s GDP by 4 to 5 per cent in the process, according to Al Tayer, so a lot of us could be looking for new opportunities in the future.


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