Energy

Abu Dhabi throws the switch on world's largest single-site solar project

Abu Dhabi throws the switch on...
The Noor Abu Dhabi single-site solar plant, which is claimed to be the largest in the world  with a production capacity of nearly 1.2 GW
The Noor Abu Dhabi single-site solar plant, which is claimed to be the largest in the world  with a production capacity of nearly 1.2 GW
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The Noor Abu Dhabi single-site solar plant, which is claimed to be the largest in the world  with a production capacity of nearly 1.2 GW
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The Noor Abu Dhabi single-site solar plant, which is claimed to be the largest in the world  with a production capacity of nearly 1.2 GW
There are 3.2 million solar panels used in the Noor Abu Dhabi solar plant, manufactured by China's JinkoSolar
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There are 3.2 million solar panels used in the Noor Abu Dhabi solar plant, manufactured by China's JinkoSolar

Abu Dhabi is claiming the title of the world's largest single-site solar project, having hit the go-button on the Noor Abu Dhabi project this week, with a reported capacity of 1.177 gigawatts, eclipsing Dubai's Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park – for now at least. The United Arab Emirates doesn't have a great record when it comes to per-capita carbon footprint, but projects like this show that it's serious about addressing the issue head-on.

Rivalry between nation states can often be a driver of progress, and this is particularly evident when observing Abu Dhabi and Dubai's efforts to trump each other in the field of solar power. By kicking the world's largest single-site solar project into full commercial operation this week, Abu Dhabi looks to have scored a decisive goal against its neighbor.

Firstly, it's important to differentiate between a single-site solar project such as this, and what's generally understood to be the definition of a solar park. Solar parks are areas that have been dedicated to solar production, with grid connections in place, where an assortment of business or government interests are able to set up their own, independent solar projects, while taking advantage of shared infrastructure.

Single-site solar projects are just that – one project covering the entire site, and this is why the title of world's largest single-site solar project is justified, even though there are a number of solar parks that are larger in India and China. That being said, many observers get bogged down in the finer details of solar energy, from scale to measures of output and capacity. The important thing here is simply that it's big – 3.2 million solar panels – and it has a huge output. That has to be good news no matter how you slice it up.

There are 3.2 million solar panels used in the Noor Abu Dhabi solar plant, manufactured by China's JinkoSolar
There are 3.2 million solar panels used in the Noor Abu Dhabi solar plant, manufactured by China's JinkoSolar

Noor Abu Dhabi is located in Sweihan, around 100 km (62 mi) from Abu Dhabi and is a joint project between the Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC), Japan's Marubeni Corporation, and Shanghai-based JinkoSolar, the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels. According to the Abu Dhabi media office, the project has sufficient capacity to supply 90,000 people and is expected to reduce Abu Dhabi's CO2 emissions by one million metric tons, or the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars from the road.

"The completion of the project marks a significant milestone in the UAE's Energy Strategy 2050, launched in 2017, to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2050 while reducing the carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent," says Mohammad Hassan Al Suwaidi, Chairman of EWEC. "This is in line with the sectors transformation strategy by providing alternative sources of energy that can help us improve the sustainability of the water and electricity sector."

At the time of bid submission, the AED3.2-billion (US$871-million) project also attracted the world's most competitive tariff of 2.42 cents per kilowatt hour.

Titles such as "world's biggest" don't last long these days – especially in the UAE, with Dubai predicting that its Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will reach a production capacity of 1,000 megawatts by 2020 and 5,000 megawatts by 2030. This is one battle at least where the outcome is good news for everyone.

Source: JinkoSolar via PR Newswire

12 comments
Aross
This will certainly help reduce carbon emissions. I wonder though if all that black will not inadvertently increase the heat in the area.
Gene Preston
How are those panels cleaned when they get dust on them?
Colt12
They sure have the land and most importantly the sun to support a project of that size.
gmoser2000@hotmail.com
Sounds pretty competitive cost-wise with nuclear powerplants without the much higher risks.
ljaques
More solar? Cool. Way to go, Abu Dhabi. I wonder what the lifetime of a sandblasted solar panel is. And will they walk past the rows carrying compressed air jets or vacuums to remove dust once or twice a week? It would be interesting to find out what controllers and inverters they use for systems that size, too, just for kicks.
Bruce Warren
I live about an hour from the South Texas Nuclear Plant that went online 30 years ago. It has two units, each produces about 1.2 gigawatts, same as the Abu Dhabi solar field does when the sun is shining bright. Solar panels produce full power for about 8 hours a day. So, on any given day, the STP nuclear plant produces about 6 times the energy as the world's biggest solar plant. And delivers that electricity all night long with zero carbon emmissions.
Ichabod Ebenezer
Too bad. They just missed the 1.21 gigawatts it takes to power a DeLorean.
Grunchy
So what's wrong with solar freakin roadways? Do they not work, or what?
Daishi
I agree @Ichabod Ebenezer why stop at "1.177 gigawatts" when they are SO close to 1.21. Maybe the next slightly larger install will capitalize on the opportunity. @Grunchy Solar freakin roadways were always a really bad idea. They took in tons of money and fell on their face for many of the reasons people predicted and a few new ones they didn't. thunderf00t on youtube spent a great deal of time debunking the idea and following the project if it's something you are curious about he has about 20 videos documenting how badly it failed and why. In short it makes way more sense to cover roads and parking lots with a solar roof than it does to try to drive on top of solar panels as a road surface.
Troublesh00ter
I'd be curious to know whether that much area is better used by photovoltaic cells or with the kind of thermal "solar power tower" I've seen stories about recently in the US. Certainly, as solar cell efficiency improves, advantages will shift, but I seem to recall some pretty high power densities from thermal power stations, to this date.