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UAE Switches On Largest Solar Farm

The United Arab Emirates have launched the largest single solar power farm in the world, the 1.18-GW Noor Abu Dhabi, Endgadget reports citing a tweet by the Abu Dhabi government.

The facility, which dwarfs the largest solar farm in the United States—the 569-MW Solar Star—is only comparable to solar parks, which combine several separate solar farms. It can supply electricity to 90,000 people, according to official information, from as many as 3.2 million solar panels. As a result, it would offset emissions amounting to 1 million metric tons, which is the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars from the road.

True to its reputation as being a large spender on various cutting-edge projects, the UAE is not stopping at Noor Abu Dhabi. Earlier this year, the Abu Dhabi Minister of Climate Change and Environment announced another, bigger, solar project. It would have a capacity of 2 GW, the official said without going into any further detail. The only project that would be bigger than this one, is Saudi Arabia’s 2.6-GW planned facility in Mecca.

While the Middle East is hardly the first location that springs to mind when one thinks about solar power and other renewable energy sources, the region has been changing, slowly but surely. The International Renewable Energy Agency released a report in February saying the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council alone had plans to install as much as 7 GW in renewable power generation capacity by the early 2020s.

An earlier report from IRENA said GCC could save some 354 million barrels of oil equivalent by switching to renewables for domestic consumption by 2030. That would constitute a 23-percent decline in domestic oil and gas consumption with more of the commodities going for exports: Saudi Arabia is pursuing this strategy of reducing domestic consumption of fossil fuels with a view to boosting exports.

Among the members of the GCC, the UAE is by far the best performer: it is home to almost 79 percent of the total installed solar capacity in the group. It even boasts renewable energy projects that do not require subsidies to be competitive.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on July 01 2019 said:
    The UAE is leading the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in the diversification of the economy and also in pursuing ground-breaking renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes. Therefore, the launching of the largest single solar power farm in the world, the 1.18-GW Noor Abu Dhabi, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

    In 2015 the UAE ratified the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Convention on Climate Change, becoming one of the first major oil-producing countries to do so. Moreover, the Abu Dhabi government has also established one of the world’s most comprehensive clean energy initiatives.

    Diversification for UAE and other GCC countries is not a luxury but a necessity. A major aspect of diversification is intensive investment in solar and nuclear energy for electricity generation and also for replacing oil with solar power in water desalination plants throughout the Gulf region. Such measures have economic and environmental benefits in prolonging the longevity of the oil wealth and also being friendly to the environment.

    Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030 and Dubai Strategic Plan are leading the drive towards diversification. The strategy is to increase investment in industrial and other export-oriented sectors, including heavy industry, transport, petrochemicals, tourism, information technology, telecommunications, renewable energy, aviation and space, and oil and gas services. Much has already been achieved in these fields, especially in satellite and telecommunications, the aviation sector and in renewable energy.

    As part of its diversification policy, the UAE has also made great progress in installing new, sustainable methods of generating electricity. This is evidenced by various solar energy initiatives at Masdar City and by other renewable energy developments around the country.

    The UAE’s largest Emirate, Abu Dhabi, has committed more than $15 billion in renewable energy programmes. The Masdar Initiative underscores twin commitments to the global environment and diversification of the UAE economy. It focuses on the development and commercialization of technologies in renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon management, water usage and desalination.

    Rising from the desert outside the capital Abu Dhabi, Masdar city is laying the groundwork for when the UAE’s oil wells run dry. Driverless electric cars shuttle between energy-saving buildings topped with arrays of solar panels. On the edge of the complex, a 10-megawatt solar farm lined with photovoltaic panels provides clean energy.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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