What is set to be the world's largest single-site solar park is getting a little larger, with the government of Dubai approving a 700-MW extension to the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The new addition will give the facility a capacity of 5,000 MW by 2030, with a 260-m (853-ft) solar tower to take center stage.

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park sits around 50 km (31 mi) south of Dubai and its first phase was inaugurated back in 2013. It has since expanded to include 2.3 million photovoltaic solar panels and a capacity of 200 MW. The planned capacity is expected to grow to 5,000 MW by 2030, with the park eventually covering 214 sq km (83 sq mi) and reducing carbon emissions by 6.5 million tons per year.

The contract for a 700-MW extension built around what will be the world's tallest solar tower at 260 meters was awarded to a consortium consisting of Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power and China's Shanghai Electric, who bid a Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) of 7.3 US cents per kW/h. This is described by the CEO of Dubai's electricity and water authority as the lowest LCOE in the world.

With construction to kick off in 2020, the extension will actually form the world's largest single-site concentrated solar power (CSP) project. These facilities generate solar power by using lenses and reflectors to concentrate sunlight and use it to heat fluids, which can in turn produce steam to drive a turbine.

One advantage of this approach is that the system can store some of the energy as heat and dispatch it as needed, making for a more flexible option than typical photovoltaic solar plants. One downside is that the energy is more expensive, though the newly announced agreement appears a step in the right direction.

"Our focus on renewable energy generation has led to a drop in prices worldwide and has lowered the price of solar power bids in Europe and the Middle East," said HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, Managing Director and CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). "This was evident today when we received the lowest CSP project cost in the world."