Kahramaa announces first solar power facility to open next year
In line with Qatar’s target of generating 20 percent of its domestic energy needs from renewable energy sources by 2030, the state-run Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa) recently announced that its first solar power facility will be operational by 2016.
The solar power station, with a generation capacity of 10 megawatts (MW) to 15MW, will go ahead on a 100,000 square metre (sqm) site at Duhail, and will ultimately be able to generate 200MW of solar power by 2020 – two percent of Qatar’s total domestic energy requirements – according to the firm.
The development is a cornerstone of the first phase of the government’s plan – reiterated recently by the Energy and Industry Minister, HE Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh Al Sada – to produce an initial extra 200MW of solar energy, with a target of 1.8 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed by 2020. Over the next two years or so, first phase new capacity is due to come from a number of small-scale plants generating five to 10MW each, installed on under-utilised land, and at a cost of around USD30 million (QAR109 million) per year, according to Al Sada.
Qatar, of course, is ideally placed to pursue such a strategy successfully, given that every square kilometre of land in the country yearly receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of crude oil, according to industry figures. It is also in need of extra power generation capacity, with the Economist Intelligence Unit forecasting that the Gulf Cooperation Council’s electricity needs will increase on average by seven to eight percent per year until 2020, and even faster within the faster growing economies like Qatar.
Providing at least part of this from a solar solution dovetails with the country’s National Vision 2030 aims of promoting sustainability and environmental awareness and reducing dependence on fossil fuels, highlights Roger Nightingale, CEO of global economics consultancy, RN Associates, in London. In this vein, in addition to the scheduling of a number of large-scale solar power plants, solar desalination projects, and solar panel manufacturing plants, Qatar Foundation (QF) has undertaken and completed the Solar-Smart Grid project, which is the first commercial photovoltaic (PV) project to be granted approval for grid connection from Kahramaa.
According to industry estimates, these solar energy smart-grid-enabled systems are already generating up to 85 percent of Qatar’s total solar energy output. An adjunct to this was recently announced by the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute with plans to set up a solar map by next year, which will help identify specific locations across the country that receive a particularly high-intensity of solar radiation in order for solar cells to be installed at such locations.
A key issue that Qatar has also made considerable strides towards addressing is that of price competitiveness in the area of the photovoltaic (PV) cells required in the solar energy process. Perhaps the pivotal point in this regard was last year’s signing by Qatar Solar Energy (QSE) – a private initiative supported by the Qatar government – of a landmark agreement with Kazakhstan-based energy company, Kazatomprom, which will supply QSE with the raw materials used in the production of solar panels.
This partnership allows QSE, and consequently the Qatar government, to secure the entire value chain in solar energy production from raw material to smart-grid development and provides a sturdy foundation from which QSE will further expand its production capacity (to 2.5GW, according to a statement at the time from QSE’s chief executive officer, Salim Abbassi).
As highlighted by The Edge last October, the agreement with Kazatomprom means that QSE will be supplied with solar grade silicon, the raw material used to make solar panels, at a competitive fixed cost for the next 10 years, securing Qatar’s position at the forefront of the Middle East and North Africa solar energy market, given that demand for raw poly-silicon is projected to increase exponentially, in line with the global move towards utilising more renewable energy as part of the global energy mix.